Return To Main Menu


Willys Overland History

Willys Pronunciation


Michael Bethel wrote: In the short time I've been a member of this mail list I've seen several people ask about the various dates for the Willys Company. Most of you may already have this information but for those who do not here is a quick breakdown that I got from

1908 - John North Willys buys the Overland Automotive Division of Standard Wheel Company and in 1912 renames it Willys-Overland Motor Company.

1936 - Coming out of bankruptcy following the Great Depression, the company is reorganized as Willys-Overland Motors,Inc.

1940 - Working from a Bantam Car Company design, Willys contracts to build military Jeeps for the war and produces about 360,000 vehicles by 1945.

1945 - Willys-Overland begins producing the Civilian Jeep (CJ) line, with the introduction of the CJ2A model.

1946 - Production begins on the Willys Jeep Wagon. Over 300,000 are manufactured between 1946 and 1965. CJ3A is introduced, and more than 132,000 are made before the production ends in 1953.

1947 - Production begins on the Willys Jeep Truck. From 1947 to 1965, more than 200,000 are manufactured.

1948 - Production begins on the Willys Jeepster. Only 19,000 vehicles are manufactured from 1948 to 1950.

1952 - Willys' CJ3B Jeeps go into production. By 1968, over 155,000 are sold.

1953 - Kaiser buys Willys-Overland and changes name to Willys Motor Company.

1954 - CJ5 debuts at the start of its three-decade run.

1963 - Company changes name to Kaiser-Jeep Corporation.

1965 - Kaiser-Jeep discontinues production of Willys wagons and trucks, retiring the Willys name with the line.

1970 - American Motors Corporation takes over Kaiser-Jeep.

1987 - American Motors is purchased by Chrysler Corporation.

1998 - Daimler-Benz merges with Chrysler Corporation to form DaimlerChrysler, fifth largest auto maker in the world.

Scott E. McCasland wrote: AMC bough Jeep the year before the 304 replaced the 225 in the CJ-5 1971, I believe. I have it in an old "Off-Road" magazine from fall of 1972.

Return to Menu


Merl wrote: Santa brought me the Jeep history video put out by the History Channel for Christmas, and now I've got a question.

Throughout the video, they continually pronounced the name of the company Willys as will-ees, but I've always thought it was pronounced as will-iss. Have I been wrong all this time? I don't want to take the video completely at face value, 'cause after all they did show a CJ-3B and call it a CJ-5...then there were those Toyotas in there as well.

Ronald L. Cook wrote: Merl--As far as I know, it has always been Will--iss.

Jon Ransom wrote: Willys Works is THE local source for Willys and Jeep hard parts in Southern Arizona--it's pronounced will-ees. I guess it could be a potato-like thing.

David in Ok wrote: I don't know if it's correct or not ....But I prefer Will-ees. I knew a guy by the name of Will-iss and it makes me cringe to compare my Will-ees with him. Please don't make me change!

David Stremmel wrote: I've always heard it pronounces will-ees

Richard Grover wrote: I have it on good authority that John North Willys, the founder of the Willys-Overland Motor Company pronounced his name "Will-iss". So if one is striving for proper diction, and evidences respect to the progenitor of the establishment that produced the vehicles of which we are speaking, one would say, I drive a "Will-iss".

But the workers at the factory always called them "Will-eez", and most people I know call them "Will-eez". Maybe that is because we are all illiterates. Anyhow, "Will-iss" makes for an awkward plural. "Will-iss-ez" sounds stuffy. People who drive Willys are usually a pretty casual bunch. "Will-eez " has a sort of natural sound for either one or several.

Since both pronunciations were used at the company, I'd say both are right. Use whichever you like, or change to suit the circumstances.

As I said on my Willys Story web page, "Since the company is no more, who is to tell me I'm saying their name wrong?"

Ronald L. Cook wrote: Yeah, but have you ever heard of a Will-eez Knight? I have to admit that most people use Will-eez. I prefer Will--is, just say I am different.

Greg wrote: I have always heard it as Will-ees. In the military they called them "chilly willys" the heater are not too good in Europe during the winters in W.W.II.

Note: In high school I did get the spelling "Willys" marked wrong because there has to be spelled "Willy's" according to my teacher. After showing her many books, Photos and ever our jeep she still insisted the company was wrong and she was right.

Glenn Goodman wrote: I think you may have had my 6th grade teacher. The name is Willys, not Willy. Therefore the possessive would be Willys' (for your teacher's information (no wonder Johnny can't read)). I understand the family pronounced it Will-iss and over the years people that did not know better have pronounced it Will-eez, which seems to be the pronunciation that has stuck in the general public's vocabulary. Knowing this I still pronounce it as Will-eez. Old habits from childhood are hard to break. :-)

Michael B wrote: The answer is both.... I use both and I've usually heard the pronunciation Will-iss when referring to the Willys-Overland Company and the term Will-ess when referring to a Willys Jeep. Of course my '60 wagon is called Matilda so it doesn't come into play there. (Yes I named her, my daughters said I had to give her a name which of course also means she is now part of the family and I can't ever get rid of her;)

Return to Menu

This Page Last Updated 18 September, 2000

[Hit Counter]