he Honorat is a 1951 Willys Jeep built to honor veterans and first responders. I have built a few “shiny” cars, but wanted to learn welding and figured the best way would be building a rat rod. I found this Jeep on Craigslist that had been started by James Sasser, and being an Army Veteran, fell in love with the idea of building a Jeep to pay tribute to our armed forces.
Joel & Bobbi Lewison
1951 Willys Jeep
After several welding classes, 100’s of hours of staring and thinking about what to do next, many late nights, and every available weekend the Jeep was completed (mostly) in March 2018 after 3 years. While attending the first car show with the Jeep my wife Bobbi had the idea that we should let veterans sign it, and shortly after we came up with the name Honorat. It is now covered in 100’s of signatures of realworld heroes, which is the best part of the vehicle by far.
Honorat is sitting on a 1986. ton Suburban chassis that was shortened about 2 ft and maintains the Suburban powertrain including a Chevy 454, Turbo 400HD transmission, and 14 bolt rear end. The engine was built by Randy DiRocco at Phoenix Engine and was installed by Rudy Romero of Street Life Performance, who also did all the electrical. Kelley Wolfe of Insane Innovations then built the headers, and together these people have made the engine become the “jewel” of the Jeep. The Jeep is sitting on airbags, has a first aid kit fuse box, grenade shifter, bullets, guns, ammo boxes, and actual barn wood from a big hole we cut out of an old barn on our farm in S Dakota.
Shortly after completing the Jeep, we decided to continue the project by building a matching trailer and motorcycle, which took another year. The trailer is a 1968 Bantam ammo trailer also on-air bags so it will drop to the ground for easy loading and unloading. The motorcycle was primarily built by my brother Jason Lewison at Precision Cycle and was his last build before passing away in October 2019. It was built around a 1996 Sportster 1200 engine but is otherwise all new parts made to look old and is titled as a 2020 Custom.
Building the Honorat was a time-consuming family activity and along with my wife Bobbi, all of my children Tyler, Jacob, Trevor, and Ashley participated in the build at some point. It was built on jack stands in our 2-car garage, which usually meant moving stuff in and out of the garage to make room every time work was done.
This has been my most satisfying build and my favorite car I have ever owned. It is low-geared and overpowered. It is sketchy, loud, obnoxious, and fun. Every time I drive Honorat I am not sure whether to laugh with joy, or kiss the ground and thank God I’m still alive. By far though, the greatest satisfaction will always be meeting the great people that it attracts, listening to the stories of other veterans, and seeing their satisfaction in getting to sign it and be part of this little adventure.
— Joel Lewison
The Image Gallery
Photos by Rod Loveless