With the collaboration of Christian Falkensteiner
The letter "W" provides
just enough car brands represented in small scale to warrant a separate article
of its own. This means that there
will be one more article wrapping up the alphabet in one month's time. After
that we intend to compile another final article to cover a few car brands
which got omitted inadvertently throughout the two-year run of this series
of articles. Hints concerning such omitted brands are still gratefully accepted
by the authors!
WANDERER (GE) 1912-1942
Johann Winklhofer and Richard Jaenicke founded a bicycle factory in the town of Chemnitz in 1885 and sold their products under the name Wanderer. Machine tools were also produced, and motorcycles were added in 1902, but in spite of some experimental prototypes the company did not venture into car production for another ten years. Eventually a small two-seater was put into production, which became very successful and well-known under the nickname "Puppchen" ("little doll"). This small car remained the basis of Wanderer's passenger car lineup until the late 1920s, but in the meantime some larger, more conventional cars were added. The economy crisis of 1929 left the company in severe trouble, and it was merged with DKW, Horch and Audi to form the Auto Union in 1932. In this group Wanderer assumed the role of providing conventional mid-sized cars, between the smaller DKWs and larger Horchs and alongside the more progressive Audis. After WW II the factory was nationalized and concentrated on machine tool production. Car production was never resumed.
Brekina has made some variations of a 1930s Wanderer W 240 in H0 scale plastic.
WARSZAWA (PL) 1951-1973
The Warszawa was a licensed copy of the Russian GAZ M 20 Pobeda made at the FSO factory in Warsaw. It was the most important Polish passenger car until the same factory introduced the Polski Fiat 125p in 1968. That and other licensed Fiat products eventually put an end to Warszawa production. FSO went on to introduce an independently developed car called Polonez in 1978, which was still made when the company was taken over by Daewoo of South Korea in 1996 and is even still made nowadays alongside certain Daewoo models.
H0 scale resin models of the Warszawa are available from the Polish company Tololoko.
WARTBURG (GE/GDR) 1899-1904, 1955-1991
The car factory of Eisenach, Thuringia, was one of the first to produce passenger cars in considerable quantities in Germany. Its products were originally called Wartburg but were renamed Dixi in 1904. In 1928 the company was purchased by BMW, which was forced to give up the Eisenach factory after WW II. The factory was then nationalized by the new East German government. The BMW-based products still made there were subsequently called EMW and were replaced by a new design in 1955. This was a sedan fitted with a two-stroke engine of DKW origin, and for this car the Wartburg name was resurrected. The Wartburg 311/312 was replaced by a new model called 353 in 1966, but from then on any further development was stopped for political reasons. Similar to the Trabant, the Wartburg could not compete against other manufacturers' products after the end of the GDR. The factory was taken over by General Motors and turned into an Opel factory.
H0 scale diecast models of the Wartburg 311 are offered under the Bub brand (designed in Germany but made in China), and plastic Wartburgs have been made by several German companies including Brekina.
WILLYS (US and other countries) 1909, 1916-1918, 1930-1963
In 1907 John North Willys, a prominent car dealer purchased the Overland Co in Indianapolis IN. This firm had previously traded as the Standard Wheel Co and originated in Terre Haute IN in 1903. Most of the early cars produced by Willys continued to use the Overland badge. He did attach his name for a short time to one of his products in 1909. This was a 45 hp six cylinder vehicle. Following 1910, Willys continued to sell and distribute the Marion car. In 1914 he featured the Knight double sleeve valve 4 cylinder engine on a new car he called the Willys-Knight. Production on this car ceased in 1932. The Knight was introduced as a companion marque to the then successful Overland. It was the successor to the former Edwards-Knight firm that Willys had acquired. By 1920, the parent firm had become the Willys-Overland Co and a branch was formed in England, called Willys Overland Crossley Ltd to assemble cars for the UK market by Crossley Motors Ltd. In 1926, a less expensive Overland marque was introduced as the Whippet. In 1928 Willys Overland also reportedly began manufacturing the Stearns- Knight and Falcon- Knight cars. In 1930 the Overland marque was replaced with the Willys badge. In 1933 the company entered into financial receivership but was able to recover in 1936. The Overland marque was resurrected in 1939 for that year only. And in 1941 the Americar was introduced by Willys. Due to the onset of WWII , all passenger car production was discontinued until 1946. However Willys was given the US Government contract , along with Ford to produce the recently designed Jeep which had originally been inspired by American Bantam Car Co in Butler PA. Following the war, Willys continued to produce a civilian version of this vehicle which is still in production at present; only under different ownership. Licenses for Jeep production were then sold to various manufacturers throughout the world including Hotchkiss in France and Mitsubishi in Japan. In 1952 the company again began producing a civilian passenger car called the Aero-Willys . In 1953 Willys-Overland was purchased by Kaiser Corp and Aero production was discontinued in 1956 in the US. However, car production continued in the Willys-Overland factory in Sao Paulo Brazil. This subsidiary had begun operations in 1954 to produce Jeeps under license . The first cars appeared in 1958 when the Station Wagon was offered as the Rural-Willys. The Aero-Willys was added to the line in 1960. Renault cars were also built under license beginning in 1959. In 1961 the Willys Interlagos was introduced which was actually a rebadged Alpine-Renault. In 1963, the US Jeep Division of Kaiser officially became the Kaiser Jeep Corp in the US. But back in Brazil, the remnants of Willys were merged with Ford do Brazil . Ford continued to produce Willys vehicles until 1971 in Brazil.
Models of Willys have been made by Johnny Lightning, Matchbox and Racing Champions. An Interlagos model was also issued by Roly Toys of Brazil. The Jeeps will be reviewed separately as a submarque below.
WILLYS JEEP ( US and other countries) 1941-1963
This vehicle is being considered as a submarque for purposes of this summary. As noted above, it originated as a wartime product produced in conjunction with Ford Motor Co from a suggested design submitted to the US Government by American Bantam Car Co . This was a last ditch effort by American Bantam to remain solvent. And as a result this firm closed soon after the contract was awarded to Willys and Ford. The excuse given was that it was doubtful that American Bantam could produce a large volume due to their small size. The Jeep was recognized to have made a big contribution in winning the War. Some people theorize that the Jeep is a verbal abbreviation for General Purpose Vehicle or GP. After the War, Willys elected to continue manufacture of this 4x4 utility vehicle for civilian use. In 1948 it was joined for a short time by a companion vehicle which was more like a car. It was called the Jeepster. The appearance was that of a sporty car with Jeep design features. In 1963, following acquisition by Kaiser Corp, a few years earlier, Willys Jeep became the Kaiser Jeep Corp. Later Kaiser Jeep was sold to American Motors (AMC) and in turn AMC was acquired by Chrysler Corp in 1987. Now it is part of the merger of Chrysler and Mercedes-Benz, now identified as DaimlerChrysler.
Models of Willys Jeeps have been made by many companies including Johnny Lightning, Matchbox, Hot Wheels and Maisto . Maisto also made a Ford Jeep and Tootsietoy made a model of the Jeepster. Mini-Lindy also made a plastic model of the Jeepster car but it represents a resurrected design produced later by Kaiser Jeep. We recognize that there are probably other toy manufacturers that have produced the Willys version of the Jeep . But until fairly recently, the design of this vehicle has not changed very much. Due to the many manufacturers of this vehicle, it is difficult to identify only the products representing Willys.