Willys History: John Willys bought the Overland Automotive Division of the Standard Wheel Company in 1908 and renamed it the Willys-Overland Motor Company in 1912. In 1913 Willys continued to build his empire by buying the Edwards Motor Car Company, followed by the Electric Auto-Lite Company in 1914, the Russell Motor Car Company in 1916, New Process Gear in 1917, the Duesenberg Motors Company in 1919 and the F.B. Stearns Company in 1920 (among others).
Between 1912 and 1918 the Willys Overland was second in U.S. production to Ford and in 1926 the line was replaced by the Whippet.
In 1913 Willys bought the rights the Charles Knight sleeve valve engine and used the Edwards Motor Car Company to build the Willys-Knight. Willys-Knight automobiles were built from 1913 to 1233 and in their heyday, the mid 1920s, the company produced over 50,000 cars per year.
The recession in the 1920s was more than Willys could handle and his backers put Walter P. Chrysler in charge. Chrysler developed the 'Chrysler Six' but it was not enough to save the company and much of it was auctioned off. The last Whippet was produced in 1931 and the Willys-Knight division closed its doors in 1933.
After the Great Depression Willys started over with the Willys '77' but did not have enough capital to make it work, then World War II turned things around. During the war Willys-Overland Motors built over 350,000 Jeeps, which became the CJ-2A for the civilian market. However the civilian market had only modest interest in this utility vehicle, even after four-wheel drive was added. In 1946 Willys-Overland introduced the Willys Jeep Utility Wagon and the Jeep utility truck the following year.
In 1953 Kaiser Motors bought the Willys-Overland Company and changed the name to Willys Motor Company. In 1963 the name was changed to the Kaiser-Jeep Corporation, who removed the Willys name in 1965 and then sold the company to American Motors Corporation (AMC) in 1970. In 1980 Renault partnered with Kaiser-Jeep to build the CJ Jeep series until 1986. And then in 1987 Chrysler bought American Motors.
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