- 1927 was the first year of production for the Whippet.
- The Whippet was promoted as America’s first European-type small economy car.
- Whippet developed more horsepower per cubic inch of displacement than any of its competitors.
- It was advertised for its economy, claiming 30 mpg at a top speed of 55 mph.
By 1907, John North Willys was already a five-year veteran in the automobile business. He was a successful dealer in Elmira, New York, who numbered among his agencies Pierce, Rambler, American Underslung and Overland. The Overland Automobile Company of Indianapolis, Indiana, however, had not been delivering cars as promised. Willys traveled to Indiana only to find a bankrupt company. He promptly assumed personal control and gave it a new name, Willys-Overland Company. By building small, economical, low-priced, 4-cylinder cars, Willys-Overland climbed to third place in 1911, behind Ford and Studebaker-EMF, and from 1912 to 1918, the company held second place consistently.
The Overland “Whippet” was introduced in mid-1926 as a 1927 model. Promoted as America’s first European-type small economy car, the Whippet developed more horsepower per cubic inch of displacement than any of its competitors. Four-wheel brakes and balloon tires were standard equipment, both firsts in the Whippet price field. Whippet advertisements stressed economy of operation, claiming 30 miles to the gallon of gas and an advertised top speed of 55 mph. In 1928 Willys-Overland sales were second only to Chevrolet, but sales began to plummet by mid-1929. The combination of Ford’s Model A, Chrysler’s introduction of the Plymouth, and the stock market crash all took their toll on the Whippet.
Although Whippet production ceased early in 1931, the Willys-Overland Company continued production through 1952. In 1953, Willys and Kaiser merged and the company name changed to Willys Motors. The merged company maintained its headquarters for all Kaiser and Willys automotive operations in Toledo, Ohio. Willys ceased production of passenger cars in 1955 in order to concentrate on its more profitable lines, notably building Jeeps and light trucks. The Willys name disappeared in 1963, when the company became Kaiser-Jeep Corporation.