Willys-Knight Classic Cars for Sale
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Produced between 1914 and 1933 by the Willys-Overland Company in Ohio, the Willys-Knight automobile successfully used a sleeve valve engine in its vehicles, giving improved reliability over poppet valve engined automobiles and allowing the company to prosper over the next 15 years.
Willys-Knight early days
In 1913 whilst visiting England, US businessman John North Willys met Charles Y Knight, a sleeve valve manufacturer. Subsequently Willys hired a Daimler car fitted with the Knight sleeve valve and travelled some 4500 miles in 15 days in the car. Convinced of the Knight sleeve valve engine's superiority over poppet valve engines, Willys planned to manufacture his own vehicles making use of the superior Knight sleeve valve engine. To realise this ambition Willys subsequently bought the Edwards Motor Company of New York (who held a Knight engine manufacturing license). Moving the company from New York to Ohio, Willys-Knight automobile production under the name of the Willys Overland Company began.
Investment in design
Willys Overland invested heavily in redesigning the sleeve valve engine, reducing manufacturing costs whilst producing high quality, high tolerance engines. Willys could then sell his vehicles at a competitive price on the market.
Willys-Knight Model production begins
Willys-Knight automobile production began with a 4-cylinder model priced at $2750, and on the back of regular sales, the company prospered. Between 1914 and 1933 almost half a million vehicles were sold. Four and six cylinder models dominated the model range although 1917-1919 saw the production of a V8 8-cylinder Willys-Knight model.
Willys-Knight luxury car expansion
A move into the luxury car market followed when Willys took control of the luxury car manufacturer FJ Stearns, who also used a sleeve valve engine design. The Willys-Knight Light 6 model was subsequently released and the eye catching Willys-Knight Great 6 Roadster. Willys Overland maintained a successful share of the automobile market, producing an average of 50000 vehicles a year from 1922 until the Great Depression struck. The final model released was the Willys-Knight Great 6 Model 66E also known as the Streamline 6 for its sloping wind shield.
The Great Depression and the decline of the Willys Overland Company
With the advent of the Great Depression, the fortunes of the Willys Overland Company declined. The cost of machining the high tolerance engines and the royalty fee still being paid to Knight, meant production costs of the sleeve valved vehicles were high. The Willys-Knight models struggled to compete with the cheaper-to-produce poppet valve engined cars. The company declared bankruptcy and went into receivership in 1933.
The Willys-Knight emblem is that of a knight in armour holding a lance, providing a suitably grand brand image to rival other automobile manufacturers logo's of the time.