1928 Willys-Knight Truck

Bill Richardson found Transport World’s classic Willys-Knight truck on a farm in Christchurch, where it had been all its life. It had been supplied by South Island Motors, Willys Knight Distributors.

Willys-Knight began with the meeting of two men: John N. Willys and Charles Y. Knight. John N. Willys was the head of Willys-Overland Company in Toledo, USA. He was visiting England in 1913 when he met Charles Y. Knight, who convinced John that the sleeve valve engine was way better than the noisy, weak, inefficient poppet valve engine.

John tried out a Daimler with a Knight engine and covered 4,500 miles of idyllic English and Scottish countryside in 15 days – a great feat in those days. John was sold. On his return to America he bought the Edwards Motor Company of New York (which had a licence to build Knight motors) and went to work.

The finished product was the Willys-Knight, which was produced in various models between 1914 and 1933.

Its cab was built by a Christchurch company, Steel Bros. Transport World’s truck has the Knight sleeve valve 6 motor with 228 cu in capacity. The paint is peeling, but you can still read ‘Kaiapoi – The best that grows into Kaiapoi goes’.

The Kaiapoi Woollen Mill was at once one of the most important industrial businesses in the colony of New Zealand. In 1928, that mill bought their Willys-Knight to cart wool and products. 1928 was the Kaiapoi Woollen Mill’s jubilee year and the mill was working at full capacity again after a downturn in the early 1920s. The profitable year and celebrations probably prompted the purchase of this brand new truck.

It was unfortunately downhill for a bit afterwards as the Great Depression hit New Zealand. It is unknown when the truck was sold, but we can guess it was sometime during the Great Depression.

The truck was sold to a Mr Moore, a farmer from Kaiapoi, for £10. It passed from him to a relation, Ansell Moore, who sold it to Bill Richardson. 

Now you can find it in the Les Kennedy Shed of Bill Richardson Transport World in Invercargill.

Check out the collection below