Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Shrunken 1933-36 Willys 77

Willys-Overland cars were among the best-sellers in the USA during the late 1920s.  But the Great Depression of the 1930s hit the company particularly hard, its sales rank dropping to near the bottom.  A brief history of Willys is here.

While sales were collapsing, the company developed a new, much-smaller car introduced for the 1933 model year as the Willys 77.  The 77 helped keep Willys alive, though production levels remained far below the 1920s peak and the company flirted with bankruptcy.

Financial matters were finally stabilized and restyled, renamed 77s appeared for 1937 and later model years.  What eventually saved Willys was World War 2 and its production of Jeeps.


Advertisement for Willys 77 - February 1933

1933 Willys 77
The 77 was smaller than most American cars, but from the cowl to the rear, its styling was in line with the times.  The front end was another matter.  Aside from the curved fronts on 1934 DeSoto and Chrysler Airflows, most 1930s American cars featured horizontal rather than plunging hood lines as on the 77.  Headlamp housings integral to the fenders was an advanced feature.  The back-leaning grille, on the other hand, was also found on 1933 Fords, Grahams, Hupmobiles, Plymouths and some other brands' cars.

1935 Willys 77

1935 Willys 77 - brochure item
Willys facelifted the 77 for 1935/36.  The main change was raising the hood line to the horizontal.  This required a different grille along with valances tying the fenders to the restyled parts.

1935 Chevrolet model line
Chevrolet was General Motors' low-price brand and therefore competition for Willys.  Chevrolet Standards had carryover bodies from 1934, whereas the higher-price Master DeLuxe series was new for 1935.  Click on the image to enlarge.  Willys styling was competitive with 1935 Standards, but for 1936 the Standard series also got the restyled body, making the 77 seem dated.  So Willys cut prices to stay in the game.

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