In January 1928, Willys Overland introduced its new “Low Priced” Willys Knight Standard Six, or Model 56. Having a “Knight” designation, it of course had a sleeve valve engine, but it may also be considered a “Big Brother” to the Whippet 6 as a fair amount of chassis, mechanical and body panel parts were interchangeable between Whippet 6, Willys Knight 56 and Falcon Knight.
It would appear that the Model 56 was brought out as direct competition
for the similarly priced and sized Falcon Knight. However, since
John North Willys had considerable financial interest in Falcon Knight,
(which seems to have virtually been a division of W-O), there may have
been a “consolidation” motive - perhaps giving taxation advantages.
In an effort to give it a unique identity the closed cars had long, narrow raised panels within the beltline (in line with the door handles). It was also promoted as the Willys Knight Standard Six - as opposed to the Willys Knight Light Six (Models 70, 70B, 87, 95), Willys Knight Special Six (Model 70A) and Willys Knight Great Six (Models 66, 66A, 66B, 66D, 66E).
Advertising for the Model 56 was relatively heavy with speed and
endurance tests widely reported.
Four results from a 1928 Indianapolis test are shown below:
Second Gear Run
250 miles in 6 hours 9 min, (40.56 mph average)
24.5 mpg, 5 gallons in 122.5 miles at 27.5 mph average speed
100 Mile Speed Run
100 miles in 1 hour 38 min, 31 sec (60.6 mph average)
24 Hour Run
1351.5 miles with refuelling stops (59.1 mph average during running)
The Model 56 engine is the same as that used in the Falcon Knight, namely a 6 cylinder sleeve valve unit with 2 15/16 x 3 7/8 inch bore & stroke giving 45 bhp @ 3000 rpm. Compression ratio was 5.5 to 1, and the crankshaft featured 7 main bearings (just like Whippet 98 released in April 1928). Wheelbase was 109 1/2 inches (Same as Whippet Model 98).
Four body styles were initially offered in January 1928:
5 Passenger Sedan $1245
5 Passenger Coach $1145
2 Passenger Coupe $1145
Rumble seat Coupe $1195
In April 1928 three more body styles were added and prices revised;
5 Passenger Sedan $1095 (down $250 or 20%)
5 Passenger Coach $995 (down $150 or 13%)
2 Passenger Coupe $1045 (down $100 or 9%)
Rumble seat Coupe $1045 (down $150 or 13%)
5 Passenger Touring $995
2 Passenger Roadster $995
4 Passenger Roadster $995
By 1929 the prices had been reduced by a further $50 (or 5%) for
each body style.
The Model 56 was virtually unchanged during it’s 2 years of production. The only outward appearance change was the head lights which went from a long bullet type shape to a short bullet type shape at serial number 42952. The earlier long type head lights were painted black while the later short type were painted body color. Cowl lamps, with the nickel plated trim strip at the hood/cowl joint, became available in April 1928. Nickel plating (not chrome) was used on the Model 56 throughout its production.
Around 35,856 Model 56’s were built in Toledo, plus 2075 in Canada.
Serial Numbers by Model Year are:
As always, Model Year should not be confused with calender year as the first of the 1929 cars was actually built around October 1928 and it was only the last 366 Model 56’s that were actually built after 1st Jan 1929 at Toledo. In addition to the serial numbers listed above, Canadian production also included a unique variant called the Model 56A which had serial numbers from C-2001 to C-2375. Unfortunately no information is available to indicate any differences from regular Model 56.
Holden (Australia) body production figures for Willys Knight 56 indicates that 79 Sedan and 185 Touring bodies were built for 1928.
For more information on Willys Knight 56, why not browse through the W.O.K.R. Starter Index ?