Gray Goose Special
Chassis Num: 06916
Engine Num: 07984
Sold for $57,200 at 2015 RM Sothebys
The Wills St. Claire Company was introduced in 1919 but their experience with automobiles began many years before. Engineer C. Harold Wills was an expert metallurgist who had introduced Henry Ford to vanadium steel, which added to the Model T's legendary durability. Wills also designed the famous Ford script logo. In 1919, Wills left Ford and began building his own automobile. He used the $1.5 million he'd received in severance from Henry Ford to help capitalize on his new car. His new car was dubbed the Wills Sainte Claire, after himself and the river that ran near his new Marysville, Michigan factory. The Canada grey goose was portrayed on the new car's radiator ornament.
The engine was a 265 cubic-inch monobloc V8 with two overhead camshafts. It was designed in similar fashion to the Hispano-Suiza World War I aircraft engines. Precise bevel drive gears improved upon the noisy straight gears of the Hispano design, making the Wills' V8 much quieter. The engine breathed through a dual throat carburetor and offered exceptional performance.
Wills used castings of molybdenum steel to help keep their 121-inch wheelbase Wills Sainte Claire light and nimble. Beginning in 1925, the company offered a SOHC 6-cylinder engine along with the V8.
Between 1922 and 1927, more than 12,000 examples of the Wills Sainte Claire were produced. Though the cars were well engineered, the business model was not as fine-tuned. Wills often shut down the production line so he could make improvements. The V-8 engine was very expensive to produce and the low output of the company would never yield a profit.
This Wills Sainte Claire B-68 Gray Goose Special has a history that begins with A.C. Bigelow, a salesman at the Wills showroom at 57th and Broadway in New York City. Mr. Bigelow sold the car to William Jay Schieffelin Jr., a descendant of John Jay and 'Commodore' Cornelius Vanderbilt, whose family firm, Schieffelin & Company, was one of the oldest distributors of wines and spirits in the United States. Mr. Schieffelin initially kept the Wills at his home at 170 William Street, later relocating with it to 5 East 66th Street. The car was later acquired by his son-in-law, Cameron Bradley, of Winter Harbor, Maine, who performed some restoration work during the 1950s, including rebuilding the engine.
When Mr. Bradley passed away in 1998, his estate sold it to Richard Roy who brought it to his home in Branchville, New Jersey, where it has remained hidden away since.
This Wills Sainte Claire is powered by a dual overhead cam V8 engine displacing 265.5 cubic-inches and offering nearly 70 horsepower. There is a three-speed manual transmission and rear-wheel mechanical drum brakes.By Daniel Vaughan | Nov 2015