Willys was a brand name used by Willys–Overland Motors, an American automobile company best known for its design and production of military Jeeps (MBs) and civilian versions (CJs) during the 20th century.
In 1908, John Willys bought the Overland Automotive Division of Standard Wheel Company and in 1912 renamed it Willys–Overland Motor Company. From 1912 to 1918, Willys was the second-largest producer of automobiles in the United States after Ford Motor Company.
In 1913, Willys acquired a license to build the Charles Knight's sleeve-valve engine which it used in cars bearing the Willys–Knight nameplate.
In the 1920s, Willys also acquired the F.B. Stearns Company of Cleveland and assumed continued production of the Stearns-Knight luxury car, as well.
Willys Overland Whippet (1926-1931)
In 1926, Willys–Overland introduced a new line of small cars named Willys–Overland Whippet. In the economic depression of the 1930s, a number of Willys automotive brands faltered. Stearns-Knight was liquidated in 1929. Whippet production ended in 1931; its models were replaced by the Willys Six and Eight. Production of the Willys-Knight ended in 1933.
In 1936, the Willys–Overland Motor Company was reorganized as Willys–Overland Motors.
Willys Overland (1937-1939)
In 1937, Willys Overland Motors introduced a redesigned 4 cylinder which was paired with a more streamlined body, one-piece rounded hood and fender-embedded headlamps, shortly after which Joseph Frazer joined Willys from Chrysler as chief executive. Under Frazer’s new leadership, the company began to focus efforts on strengthening the 4-cylinder engine for more rigorous use.
Willys Overland (1939)
For 1939, the Model 39 featured Lockheed hydraulic brakes, a two-inch increase in wheelbase to 102 inches and an improved 134 DID four-cylinder engine with power increased from 48 to 61 hp. The Model 39 was marketed as an Overland and as a Willys–Overland rather than as a Willys.
The Willys Americar was a line of automobiles produced by Willys-Overland Motors from 1937 to 1942, either as a sedan, coupe, station wagon or pickup truck. The coupe version is a very popular hot rod choice, either as a donor car or as a fiberglass model.
Willys Jeeps 1942-1950
Jeeps were utilized by every U.S. military branch. An average of 145 were provided to each Army infantry regiment. Jeeps were utilized for many purposes, including laying cable, saw milling, tractors, firefighting pumpers, field ambulances, and, with appropriate wheels, would even run on railroad tracks. An amphibious jeep, the model GPA, or "seap" for (Sea Jeep) was manufactured by Ford in modest numbers yet it couldn't be viewed as an enormous achievement—it was neither a good off-road 4x4 nor a decent vessel. As a major aspect of the war exertion, almost 30% of all Jeep production was provided to Great Britain along with the Soviet Red Army.
Willys Aero (1952-1955)
The Willys Aero was a line of passenger cars manufactured first by Willys-Overland and later by Kaiser-Willys Corporation from 1952 through 1955. The father of the Aero was Clyde Paton, former engineer for Packard Motor Car Company. The
Aero Eagle and Aero Lark models were built from 1952 to 1954. A Wing model was available only in 1952, a Falcon model in 1953, and a taxicab in very limited production in 1953 and 1954. The
Aero Ace was the only model built through all U. S. production. 1955 saw two new models, the two- and four-door Ace sedans (renamed Custom shortly into the production run) and two-door hardtop Bermuda. Production in the U.S.A. ended that year as Henry J. Kaiser decided to give up the Kaiser and Willys Aero lines and concentrate solely on Jeeps. A total of 91,377 Aeros were built in Toledo.
In 1953 Kaiser bought the ailing Willys-Overland company for US $63,381,175 and merged the Kaiser and Willys operations under the name Kaiser-Willys Corporation. The decision was then made to exit the passenger car market, which was accomplished at the end of the 1955 model year.
Willys Motors (1956-1955)
In 1955, Kaiser phased out both the Kaiser and Willys passenger car lines, and shipped the dies to Argentina where the joint venture with the Argentina Government owned Industrias Kaiser Argentina (IKA) continued to build cars through 1977 when Renault took over.
Under the name "Willys Motors", the Jeep-based truck line continued in the United States including the CJ (Civilian Jeep) Series, all steel Willys Jeep Wagon (station wagon) and Jeep Forward Control FC-150 and FC-170 models that were introduced in 1957.
By 1956, Willys Motors built only utility vehicles, many for export, and was turning a healthy profit.
In 1962, Willys introduced the Jeep Wagoneer as a 1963 model to replace the 1940s-style Jeep station wagons. Designed by industrial designer Brooks Stevens, the Wagoneer (later known as the Grand Wagoneer) would remain in production with the major architecture totally unchanged until 1991, and is credited with being the first true American sport utility vehicle (SUV). Also, in 1962, The original Jeep Gladiator Full-sized pickup truck was introduced to replace the old Willys Jeep Truck.
In 1970, the Kaiser Jeep Corporation, as the company had been renamed in 1963, was sold to American Motors Corporation.