View Full Version : 1923 Wills Sainte Claire - chrome moly engine

09-16-2011, 04:26 PM
Two days ago I was in Leadville, Colorado, elevation 10,152 ft http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leadville,_Colorado. I toured the mining museum and saw this car, which I'd not heard of it before. It had the first engine using parts made from chrome-moly. Leadville's Climax Mine was the source of most of the world's molybdenum, so this car was a great booster for the local economy.

At first I thought the Wills Sainte Claire might be Canadian, suggested by the Canada goose hood ornament. In fact, it was made in Michigan. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wills_Sainte_Claire

My grandfather had a 1923 Durant, and no doubt would have been in awe of the Wills, which cost about two or three years of his carpenter's wages.



bob ward
09-16-2011, 07:09 PM
Mr Wills was Henry Ford's metallurgist and did very well out of his research and patents. The top of the range Wills had a V8 engine with gear driven SOHC per bank, which was outrageously complicated (and expensive) for cars of the time. Named after Lake Saint Clair, but with an extra 'e', Wills thought that Claire looked a bit classier.

09-16-2011, 08:56 PM
A very nice car. Odd that the gold leaf decoration on the rear wheel doesn't appear on the front.

09-16-2011, 09:32 PM
It would if the brass post by the front wheel was in the right position :)

09-16-2011, 10:00 PM
Wills figured he'd design a logo for Mr. Ford, resulting in the curlyque 'F' and swoopy do 'o' design which is still in use by Ford, today. The logo was created by Wills using printing blocks from his kid's press and print toy.


09-16-2011, 10:10 PM
It would if the brass post by the front wheel was in the right position :)
No, I'm refering to the gold leaf striping on the rear rim.

09-16-2011, 10:29 PM
That would be the spare mounted on the left front. He limped on into the museum and hasn't had a chance to get it fixed yet. :rolleyes:

09-16-2011, 11:46 PM
The Willys Knight was the first, and probably only American car, to use sleeve-valve technology in it's engine. Though sleeve valves made for a nice quiet, low maintenance engine, they used oil like crazy. Willys never overcame the oil consumption problem. But, the use of sleeve valve cylinders was a popular technology in some British aircraft engines.
I believe it was the Bristol Hercules radial engine used the Burt-McCollum single sleeve valve. Unfortunately, the aircraft engines suffered the same problems with oil consumption as the Knight, Silent Knight, and Willys Knight. Even though both sleeve valves were different in function and operation. The Bantam Car company was the original designer of the famous "jeep" used during the war...but didn't have the manufacturing capacity to produce enough "Jeeps" to meet wartime orders.....So, Ford & Willys got the contract to build most of them. Bantam did contract to build the little two-wheeled trailers "Jeeps" normally pulled, though.
The Willys-Overland Car Company was known for high tech, innovative design features on their cars....until Chrysler got their lunch hooks on them.

09-16-2011, 11:54 PM
The Willys Knight was ....

We're talking about a Wills here, not a Willys. But I understand your confusion.