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Willys-Knight – Series 66, 66A, 66B

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So I just found out that a guy I know is an all around Sleeve Valve guru.  I've always thought the Stearns was cool,  but he was talking up the Willys Knight.

 

Does anybody on here own one of the big sixes that are considered Classics by the CCCA?   Would love some first hand experiences.    

 

Also,  I need some to explain the differences between the 66, 66A and 66B.

 

They seem to have come with some pretty attractive bodies.

 

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7 hours ago, John_Mereness said:

Cool you started this post - neat cars !!!

 

we need to attract someone that has actually owned  a car to comment.

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Never owned one or driven/ridden in one, but saw quite a few of them at at WOKR meets and always attracted to the few I see out at Concours events. 

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A.J.

 

Prior to 1925, W-K were four cylinder, lower-middle-priced cars..  In an effort to capitalize on the rising apparent prosperity, they added the six cylinder 236.4 ci Model 66 126" wb priced around $2K.  This held through the 1927 66A even as the prices rose.  For 1928-'29, it was designated Great Six 66A, the bore increased for 255 ci. and a 135" wb model added.  These were competition for Studebaker President FA/FB, Auburn 88/115, Graham-Paige 629/827, Kissel 8-80, Hupmobile E-3/Century 125, Gardner 8-90/8-90, basically all those heretofore medium-priced makes taking a run at the entry-level 'luxury' segment.

 

For 1930-'31, it became Model 66B, reduced only to a five body style 120" wb line, priced uniformly at $1,895.  Best of all, it received that elegant styling by Amos Northup of Murray Corporation, which didn't last long.  W-O was experiencing the affects of the Depression, restyled it into the 66D during '31, carried through '32 and petered out as a 66E sedan only for 1933.  Like all small producers, W-O was generating new model lines during 1931'32 like mad to try and capture more sales.  Even went so far as to offer the Continental-engine Willys 8-80 as a bid for eight cylinder buyers.

 

W-O had acquired Stearns-Knight in late 1925 as its prestige line.   Turned out Stearns-Knight was an archaic, terribly inefficient operation, a money pit for W-O to keep alive.  In addition to their six, the Model G-8 sleeve-valve straight eight was added for 1928, becoming the Model H 137" wb and Model J 145" wb in the $5,500 range.  But, among the most obscure of the obscure are the 1929 M-6-80, 126" wb  and N-6-80, 134" wb, 255 ci six, sound familiar?  At $2,500-$2,900, these were not much more than badge-engineered, restyled 66A, maybe with nicer appointment.  It was all for naught, Stearns-Knight shut down at the end of 1929.

 

This is my analysis from reading the spec's and Standard Catalog of American Cars 180-1942, edited by Kimes and Clark.   A great Stearns-Knight article by Dr. Robert Ebert in the Automotive History Review by the Society of Automotive Historians informs this synopsis.

 

Steve   

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The W-K build quality on the large cars was way above average. The eight was very very well done. Rare is an understatement, and it’s one of the weird CCCA platforms I have never driven or serviced. I have a friend who has one of the famous W-K eights, and he has a very diverse collection of great cars. He said it’s under powered. 

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2 hours ago, edinmass said:

I have a friend who has one of the famous W-K eights, and he has a very diverse collection of great cars. He said it’s under powered. 


It is a Continental, right?   WK didn't make an eight as far as I can tell.   The only sleeve valve eight was the Stearns and Minerva.   Maybe Voisin too?   And how come the later didn't have to be called Minerva-Knight?   I thought that was part of the patent license deal.

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Posted (edited)

AJ, not sure about the eight, as I have never seen one in person that I am aware of. I have seen a Sterns eight, but just in a museum, behind the rope. They basically don’t exist out side of museums.

 

 

PS- After forty years I was able to check off one of the final legendary platforms that I had never driven or played with. A Alfa supercharged with a one off body, very cool. Fast and nimble, but as far as SOME of the workmanship was so-so.

Edited by edinmass (see edit history)

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The sleeve-valve straight eight Stearns-Knight was their own manufacture.  The Willys 8-80 engine was a Continental Model 14W 245,4 ci. L-head, poppet-valve straight eight powering the Willys 1931-'32 8-80, 8-80D, & 1932-'33 8-88, 8-88A.  One appeared on the Hershey show field during that rain-off year, iirc 2005.  The short-lived '29 Stearns-Knight M-6-80 & N-6-80 were simply W-K 66A wearing a S-K radiator and trim for a premium price.

 

Love the most obscure of the obscure!

 

Steve 

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