The Wills Sainte Claire Auto Museum has the largest collection of Wills autos anywhere in the world. Currently there are 10 Wills cars on display, from a 1922 Coupe to a 1926 7-Passenger Sedan to a 1926 Wills Roadster. The Museum also has many photographs of the factory and the community of Marysville, which C. Harold Wills called the “City of Contented Living”. Original black & white ads, color ads, original literature and owners manuals, and much, much more.
The Wills Museum building, located at 2408 Wills Street in Marysville, Michigan, was previously a Dow Chemical munitions factory built during WWII. The building’s unique feature is that it is concrete construction with wooden trusses and roof. It was designed so that if the building were to explode, the roof would blow off without serious damage to the walls. The roof could quickly be rebuilt and war production could resume.
The Richard and Patricia Donahey Foundation of Belleville, Michigan graciously donated the building. The Donaheys are antique auto enthusiasts who enjoy showing and touring in their vintage automobiles. They wish to share their joy of old cars with other members of the hobby. Thus, they have given the Wills Sainte Claire Museum this building to help promote the antique car hobby and educate the public about the history of C. Harold Wills and the Wills Sainte Claire automobile. The Wills Club thanks the Donahey Foundation for their generosity, and also thanks all of the car club members and others who have devoted their time, talent and donations in order to make the Wills Sainte Claire Museum possible. The Wills Sainte Claire Museum is a 501c3, non-profit organization.
C. HAROLD WILLS
C. Harold Wills (1878-1940) worked closely with Henry Ford early in both men’s careers, beginning as Ford’s draftsman in 1902. Wills is credited with many engineering components of the Ford Model “T”. When the Ford Motor Company was organized in 1903, Wills was their chief designer and metallurgist. In fact, Wills designed the Ford script logo that is still in use today. By 1919, Wills had become restless in his job. He desperately wanted to update the Model “T”, but Ford refused. Wills decided to leave Ford Motor Company and, with his $1.5 million dollar severance pay, announced that he would build a car in Marysville, Michigan, along the banks of the Sainte Claire River.
In 1921, the C.H. Wills Company produced their first overhead-cam V-8 (model A-68) Wills Sainte Claire. Wills autos were lightweight and strong thanks to the use of Molybdenum steel, though for a luxury car it was considered small. Many different types of bodies were available including roadsters, touring, and five- and seven-passenger sedans. On August 17, 1921, to prove the Wills quality, C. Harold Wills made a record run from Detroit to New York City of 689 miles in 20 hours, 26 minutes. On June 5, 1922, a company record of 80 cars were assembled. By November of 1922, the C. H. Wills Company entered into friendly receivership due to nationwide poor economic conditions and being $8 million dollars in debt.
In July 1923, the C. H. Wills Company was reorganized, with the help of Boston bankers, into Wills Sainte Claire, Inc. In 1925, Wills introduced the revolutionary six-cylinder overhead cam engine called the T-6. On August 28, 1926, driver L.B. Miller set a transcontinental record from San Francisco to New York City of 83 hours, 12 minutes using a stock T-6 Roadster. However, endurance records were not enough to keep the company in business, and on November 23, 1926, after producing more than 12,000 cars, auto production was halted and the company was liquidated. In 1933, C. Harold Wills joined Chrysler as a metallurgical consultant, and in August of the same year, Chrysler purchased the former Wills Sainte Claire factory. On December 30, 1940, C. Harold Wills, auto engineer and visionary passed away.