Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Willys, Emblem, La Habana, Cuba, July 31, 2013

In the past we'd just end the photography when clouds approached, perhaps go home early. This year the approach was different and thus opened up an entirely new arena of images for me. Rather than putting the camera down, we saw the approaching clouds as an opportunity to use subdued, natural light for images of car emblems.

My dear friend Alejandro knew all of the drivers since he himself owns a 1954 Chevrolet, red with a white top. We approached only cars in original condition, at least regarding the emblems and aesthetics. Most of the gasoline engines had been replaced with diesel engines a long time ago, and parts were of course hard to come by regarding maintaining originality.

As advised by Alejandro, almost all of the replacement parts were manufactured on the island, from the hand-carved door handles to the glass windshields. All of the owners had a sincere sense of pride when our camera was set up to photograph their cars. Just like their brethren up north, a serious car culture exists among them.

The image above is of a Willys emblem, one that impressed Alejandro very much. We had seen it a few times before but his friend always needed to carry his passengers elsewhere in a hurry. This time the car was sitting for a few minutes and we took this chance to document its character.

According to Wikipedia:

Willys was the brand name used by Willys-Overland Motors, an American automobile company best known for its design and production of military Jeeps (MBs) and civilian versions (CJs) during the 20th century.
In 1908, John Willys bought the Overland Automotive Division of Standard Wheel Company and in 1912 renamed it Willys-Overland Motor Company. From 1912 to 1918, Willys was the second largest producer of automobiles in the United States after Ford Motor Company.
In 1913, Willys acquired a license to build the Charles Knight's sleeve-valve engine which it used in cars bearing the Willys-Knight nameplate. In the mid-1920s, Willys also acquired the F.B. Stearns Company of Cleveland, Ohio and assumed continued production of the Stearns-Knight luxury car as well.
John Willys acquired the Electric Auto-Lite Company in 1914 and in 1917 formed the Willys Corporation to act as his holding company. In 1916, it acquired the Russell Motor Car Company of TorontoOntarioCanada, by 1917 New Process Gear, and in 1919 acquired the Duesenberg Motors Company plant inElizabeth, New Jersey. The New Jersey plant was replaced by a new, larger facility and was to be the site of production for a new Willys Six, but the 1920 recession brought the Willys Corporation to its knees. The bankers hired Walter P. Chrysler to sort out the mess and the first model to go was the Willys Six, deemed an engineering disaster. Chrysler had auto engineers Owen Skelton, Carl Breer and Fred Zeder begin work on a new car, the Chrysler Six.
In 1917 Ward M. Canaday, who had been doing advertising for the company, became a full-time employee.
In order to raise cash needed to pay off debts, all of the Willys Corporation assets were on the auction block. The Elizabeth plant and the Chrysler Six prototype were sold to William C. Durant, then in the process of building a new, third empire. The plant built Durant's low priced Star, while the Chrysler Six prototype was improved and modified, becoming the 1923 Flint.
Walter Chrysler moved on to Maxwell-Chalmers, where in January 1924 he launched his own version of the six-cylinder Chrysler he had been working on, based partly on elements developed at Willys. (In 1925 the Maxwell car company became the Chrysler Corporation.)

Halim Ina Photography

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