What’s it like to drive a 500hp 1975 WILLY’S RAT JEEP?

Several years ago, I met my friend Vladi on a photo shoot. Now, I’ve met a lot of Italians in my day, but he was the most Italian dude I’d ever met. His passion for cars only rivaled the best pasta money could buy. 

So when I showed up in a $5 million classic Ferrari Barchetta, he went ballistic.

About six years later and Delsoglio calls me up to tell me he’s just built something insane. And knowing what “real” automotive insanity is, I began to wonder. And that, my fine-feathered floor slammers, is why his Jeep from Hell is the Ride of the Week. 

As creative director for Social Reality, Delsoglio works in the creative world. Every single day, he’s challenged to design something up-to-date, beautiful, unique and with a great message. 

“It can be stressful sometimes, however,” Delsoglio said. “I can’t imagine doing something different in my life. Design is everything and all of what you see built by human hands was designed first.” Thus, Delsoglio’s goal was to create a beast for himself.

Enter his 1975 Jeep Willys Testabassa SR. A slammed, tweaked, twisted, contorted and bulged bruiser with a small-block V8 engine pumping 420 horsepower. It’s a completely customized “clean” Rat Rod, all the way down to its air bags.

“I bought a Jeep Willys on Craigslist in March 2015 with the idea of starting this crazy project,” Delsoglio said. “Everything began with a 3D design, then the car went in production-mode for one year. I bought all the parts, then gave everything to my builder and he put it together. [The] project was ready in mid-March.”

Delsoglio, who hails from Torino, Italy, said he was born and raised a few blocks from the FIAT Headquarters. When FIAT bought JEEP, he said, he decided to break apart an American icon and rebuild it, keeping the same powerful vibe but into a completely different shape. Thus, the Jeep Testabassa SR was born, he said. 

Every inch makes this car the insane. But Delsoglio had some difficulty picking what he likes the most. 

“When something is so beautiful and rare, it’s extremely difficult to pick ‘a best part,’” Delsoglio said. “Like asking what is the best part of ‘The David’ by Michelangelo. I do like the front grille a lot though. It’s the most recognizable Jeep part. Without it, people wouldn’t know what it was.”  

We took the Jeep from Starbucks on Cross Creek up to the Vintage Car Show at Trancas. It was like driving on four balloons — no seat belts, no speedometer, no creature comforts. Just growl, wind and hellacious fun. 

“It’s a monster, a true beast,” Delsoglio said. “It’s not for everybody. When you drive, it feels like you’re at the gym doing bicep exercises. But at the same time, when I go back home, I want to go out for another ride, another race against the wind and against its brutal force. It feels great to drive and it’s probably the only one in the world. We always look for exclusivity.”

And Vladi’s best story with this brutal green beasty? A run-in with a police officer who pulled him over for not having tail lights, signal lights, a rear mirror or a front licesne plate. The cop ended up talking shop instead of citing him. 

“He took some photos of the car and left without giving me any tickets and with a big smile on his face,” Delsoglio said. 

I’m always grateful when friends come to Malibu with their cool cars. For Delsoglio, it’s the scent, the fog in the early morning, the voice of the ocean, the hills, the canyons and mostly the roads. 

“I feel every time is the first time,” Delsoglio said.  

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