Among the more than 5,000 nameplates of automobiles that have come and gone in America over more than a century, one of the lesser known – except to its fans – is that of the Wills Sainte Claire. The make’s symbol on its radiator face as well as its nickname was a grey goose.
The Wills was a luxury car produced from 1921 through 1926 in Marysville, Michigan, on the Sainte Claire River some 50 miles northeast of Detroit. When the brand flopped, like many of the other also-rans unable to sell enough units to make a profit, its founder, C. Harold Wills, was wiped out financially, similar to the fate of William C. (Billy) Durant, the one-time buggy king who “invented” General Motors.
But Durant doesn’t have a museum–unless it is the former GM Building on Detroit’s Grand Boulevard–while the Wills car does. The Wills St. Claire (WSC) Museum, on the southern outskirts of Marysville, huddles modestly among a group of more-or-less modern automotive supplier factories. For example, a Mueller Brass plant is across the street.
The huge factory complex erected in the 1920s by Wills to make his car lies a mile or so to the north, not quite on the banks of the Sainte Claire River separating Michigan from Ontario. Chrysler bought the Wills factory in the mid-1930s to centralize manufacture of boat engines, and a relatively new facility on the same space now is Chrysler Group’s Mopar National Parts Depot.