Big Willy Jeep builder, Burner, and Flat Fender enthusiast, Ian Liljeblad on Episode 51


Big Willy Jeep builder, Burner, and flatfender enthusiast Ian Liljeblad shares life in Arizona and how one gets started building a 2:1 rig. Caution: serious fab skills are involved! From a history of learning from the best, Ian has built some cool rigs.

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4:12 – early influences

7:54 – the Impala from beginning to end

14:34– really happy I’m a Jeep guy, not a Scout guy

17:31 –met these guys in Phoenix in this Jeep Think Tank

19:01 – started at FST, Fly-N-Hi’s fab shop,  with Ellis and Geiser

24:08 – first chassis for myself, 2×4 tube CJ7

26:52 – inspired by the Big Rig Jig

28:25 – Burning Man changed my life

31:28 – building a mutant vehicle/art car

36:34 – falling in love with flatfenders

37:25 – the influence of Walter Productions

39:25 – I built Big Willy in seven months

47:48 – The Burning Man DMV accepted it as is

53:22 – the Go Devil run

1:02:10 – Big Willy Jeep, replacement parts for flat fenders


We want to thank our sponsors Maxxis Tires and 4Low Magazine.


[00:01:20.370] – Big Rich Klein

On today’s episode of Conversations with Big Rich, we have Ian Liljeblad and I f***ed that up. All right, go ahead. And Ian, thank you for coming on board. Thanks. Not having started that one off right away. Bad. Go ahead and pronounce your name again.


For all the listeners, it’s Liljeblad, Liljeblad. OK, yeah, I know I’ve said it right a number of times before I went to do the intro, but I knew as soon as I started the intro I was going to screw it up. But anyway, thank you for coming on board. And you know, we want to talk to you today about about your history and off road. And I guess the best place to start is, you know, where did where did you grow up?

[00:02:08.640] – Ian Liljeblad

Well, I was born in Flint, Michigan, moved to Arizona Phoenix when with my mom when I was about four, so basically grew up my whole life in Phoenix, shortly shortly after moving to Phoenix, my mom met my stepdad and we moved into Scottsdale. So I spent basically my whole childhood in Scottsdale, Arizona.

[00:02:41.380] – Big Rich Klein

Scottsdale is a nice place, it’s over the years, it’s grown quite a bit. I remember when there were no loop highways to get anywhere.


You had to go down Bell or Thunderbird.

[00:02:54.310] – Ian Liljeblad

Yeah. So you’ve spent some time in Arizona then, huh?

[00:02:56.710] – Big Rich Klein

Yeah. My sister moved there in the 80s and still lives in the house that they bought back or had built back then. And yeah, my my nephew niece grew up there but we, we used to go visit when I lived in Cedar City. We we’d go down there for Christmas because it was nice and warm and Cedar City was not right.

[00:03:20.830] – Ian Liljeblad

Yeah. It’s beautiful in the winter here, that’s for sure.

[00:03:22.900] – Big Rich Klein

So growing up in Arizona off road was probably pretty common for you, was that correct? Even if it was bicycles or whatever. I mean, you probably lived right on the edge of the desert.

[00:03:35.260] – Ian Liljeblad

Yeah, we did. We lived in kind of a little rural spot of of Scottsdale. Like I said, my mom married. His name is David Ellis, and his family was one of the first to settle in in Scottsdale. So, yeah, we lived on two and a half acres and I had a couple of stepbrothers. And, you know, it was always. BMX bikes and go carts and motorcycles and that kind of stuff, my my stepdad was he’s not around anymore.


He died in a plane crash, actually, but he was a big influence on my my mechanical skills and fabrication. He was a builder of many things, built fiberglass, flat bottom boats for a while, built the first ever fiberglass water slide. Wow. Yeah. And was a later in life, was a general contractor and built homes in the late 60s. He was on the pit crew for Mario Andretti and built the winning body for Andretti in the nineteen sixty nine Indianapolis 500.

[00:05:03.590] – Big Rich Klein

Wow. There’s a that’s a piece of history right there.

[00:05:08.330] – Ian Liljeblad

Yeah it’s pretty cool. He he came up with the first ever. Attempt at the front wing on the Indy car. Wow. So at that time, it was just too little, too little kind of scoops on the side of the nose that, you know, pushed the front end of the car down just a little bit. And that was enough traction for Andretti to go just a little bit faster than everybody else.


David told me at one time that the next race, I don’t I don’t recall which race that was. But he said the next race, every car in the in the lineup had those little wings on the side.

[00:05:52.920] – Big Rich Klein

There’s there’s no better flattery than being copied.   READ MORE


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