John North Willys was president of the corporation until his death in 1935. Prior to Willys he had been president of the Overland Company. A six cylinder of the sleeve valve design powered the various models of Willys-Knight. Although other engines were used in many models the sleeve valve was the motor of choice of Mr. Willys. The company built many models, among them, Willys Six and Whippet. The acquisition of Stearns-Knight of Cleveland introduced the Falcon-Knight and Stearns-Knight models in 1925. The Willys 77's were developed to help bolster the sagging sales in 1933 and all other models were dropped. The 77 was designed as an economy car to compete wîth the American Austin. The 77 was renamed Overland in 1939 and later to become the Americar in 1941 and was produced until 1942.
During World War II, Willys and Ford Motors produced the Jeep. They are still being produced by Chrysler-Daimler Motors.Source - Frick Car Museum
Sold for $264,000 at 2014 RM Auctions
Willys-Knight automobiles were produced between 1914 and 1933 model years by the Willys-Overland Company of Toledo, Ohio. These expensive cars were known for their sleeve-valve engines in four- and six-cylinder designs, though they also had a V-8 from 1917 to 1919. This engine design allowed for better breathing at higher RPMs but used more oil and seized easily if improperly lubricated.
In 1913 the Willys-Overland was the number two selling automobile in America just behind Ford. That same year, John North Willys was told by his doctor that he had been working far too hard and should either go abroad or to a sanitarium. Not surprisingly, Willys choose Europe, but couldn't stay far from his work. While there, he met Charles Yale Knight. Knight had invented an engine with sleeve valves rather than the unusual poppet valves. Willys wasn't a mechanic or engineer by any means, but he was a great salesman and immediately realized the sleeve valve's novelty and promotional possibilities. The sleeve valves were much quieter operating, though they had a propensity to burn more oil. Ultimately poppet valves won out though, beginning in 1914, Willys-Overland produced more Knight-engined cars than virtually all other manufacturers in the world combined.
Although the Willys-Knight was middle-market range, Willys couldn't resist giving his namesake car an upscale edition. Introduced at the 1929 New York Automobile Show, the car was styled by designer Amos Northup, better known for styling the REO Royale. It was Northup who gave the car its distinctive grid work on the doors which the New York press labeled 'Plaidside' - and the name stuck! Wearing coachwork by Griswold of Detroit, the 66B is powered by a 280 cubic-inch 87 horsepower sleeve-valve six. This example is one of about 400 produced which eleven are known to survive.
Griswold of Detroit built the body. It is believed to have been Willys-Overland's actual show car for the 1929 new York Auto Show at Madison Square Garden where it garnered a 1st place award. It was restored in the late 1950s by Melvin 'Sleeve-Valve' Bailey but then languished in a leaky barn after his death in 1968. The current owner rescued and restored it, finishing in 2012.