Signs from the Past: WHIPPET WILLYS-KNIGHT

Willys-Overland Motors was an American automobile company best known for its design and production of military Jeeps during WWII. Willys beat out both Ford and Bantam Car Company for the contract with the US Army and produced over 300,000 Jeeps for the military during the 1940’s.

Sometime between 1926 and 1928, Federal Electric Company had the honor of constructing a Whippet Willys-Knight pylon sign that was considered the largest spectacular west of Chicago during the late 20’s and early 30’s. The sign was located at the corner of Twenty-Fifth and Grand Avenue in Kansas City, Missouri, and towered 20 feet high.

The top of the sign, reading PRODUCTS OF WILLYS-OVERLAND, was in three foot letters and illuminated with green neon. Beneath this text were six foot letters that read WHIPPET WILLYS-KNIGHT and were illuminated with double-tube red neon and mounted against a canary yellow background that was back-lit using 3,781 ten-watt clear lamps. Lastly, blue neon was used to border the entire sign. The total amount of neon tubing used in the entire pylon sign was 1,050 feet and required the use of 60 transformers.

The vibrant use of color was enough to stop passersby in their tracks, but the size of the steel framework is what catapulted this sign into “spectacular” status. The steel work measured 65 feet high by 60 feet wide and weighted over 19,000 pounds. When you take into consideration the weight of the neon tubing, clear lamps, and the steel frame work, the total weight of the sign was 46,190 pounds.

The sign no longer stands today, but we are fortunate to have an image on hand in Federal Electric Company’s photo archives. It serves as a reminder that great feats can be accomplished through hard work and the determination to create something wonderful for a valued customer.