Willys Overland Knight Registry

Stephens History

    Around 35,000 Stephens car were manufactured in Freeport, Illinois, USA by the Stephens Motor Branch of the Moline Plow Company in the years 1916 to 1924.  Moline Plow, the parent company, had been established in 1866 and had been very successful as a farm machinery and buggy manufacturer.  The name "Stephens" can be traced back to Moline Plow's first vice-president George W. Stephens who had become both president and controlling owner by 1882.  The Stephens Motor Branch was organised in late in 1915 with G. A. Stephens, son of the George W. Stephens as president.
At first there were just 3 employees and a manager working from a one-room office in Detroit, Michigan.
They were:

    They certainly worked well together because by February, 1916 two chassis had been built in another part of Detroit to their plans and specifications !   By March 1916, the Detroit operations had been closed and announcements made of a five passenger touring car priced at $1,075 to be built at Freeport, Illinois.
The first complete Stephens did not have a touring body, but instead a roadster body, and was delivered to a Freeport physician by the name of Dr. C. L. Best in early May of 1916.
    In August of 1917 the Continental Model 7W engine was discontinued and replaced by a new  overhead-valve unit called the Salient Six.  The company appeared to be going well but a sudden drop in sales in the Autumn of 1920 left the Stephens Branch with surplus stock.  Prices were reduced, but still sales were slow.

    Perhaps if J.N. Willys had forseen this he would have had second thoughts about buying into Moline Plow.  In September of 1918 he had obtained 51 per cent of their stock and made Willys-Overland vice president and general manager, Frank G. Allen, the new president and general manager of Moline Plow.
During 1923 efforts were made to organize and administer the Stephens Motor Car Company as an independent company but finally in 1924, the Moline Plow Company made the announcement that they were ceasing car manufacture.
    The closing announcement stated, "This course of action is adopted on account of the policy of the company to
concentrate on implement manufacture."
Thus ended the production of a quality vehicle from a dedicated team of highly skilled and hardworking employees that was intended to compete with the likes of Buick, yet somehow never reached that sales rollercoaster that makes auto companies viable for the long term.

Return to WOKR Photo Gallery