Childe Harold Wills was an automotive pioneer, who contributed greatly to the early success of the Ford Motor Co. as well as original ideas for his own automobile. While Ford disdained usage of titles, Wills was considered the chief engineer and manufacturing manager for 16 years. He was a major contributor to every Ford automobile designed between 1903 and 1919. Wills is credited with the Model T's planetary transmission, an idea that he conceived one morning as he lay soaking in a hot tub of water.
After conceiving these ideas for Ford, Wills was a multi-millionaire, bursting with concepts that he wanted to implement in his own automobile designs. In March 1919, key executives Norval Hawkins and John R. Lee left Ford along with Wills. Together, they established C.H. Wills & Company in Marysville, Michigan. Wills originally had planned to be in production by August 1, 1920 and projected a production of 10,000 cars selling in the $2,000 price bracket.
Wills' search for perfection and problems with prototypes postponed marketing of the Wills Sainte Claire automobile until March 1921. By the end of the year, only 500 cars had been produced and the price had rose $1,000. In late 1922, with millions of dollars in debt, the company was forced into receivership. However, the firm was reorganized as the Wills Ste. Claire Co. on July 30, 1923.
Myron Perley illustrated the advertising for Wills Sainte Claire automobiles. The vibrant artwork showcased features such as overhead cam V-8 engines along with a de-clutching fan for maximum power. Another attention in Wills advertising was a unique courtesy light that was placed on the left side of the cowl. It illuminated the car while on the road, reducing the effects of the headlight glare and enabling the driver of an approaching car to see exactly how much room they had for passing. The light also assisted passengers, lighting the curb to leave the vehicle. The Wills Sainte Claire remained in active production through the 1926 model year and into the early part of 1927 but it's production numbers began to wane.
C. H. Wills stated that there were two fundamental reasons for his failure as an independent automobile producer. His company was insufficiently established to compete with other companies in order to handle to subsequent recessions. Secondly, he was exploring so many ideas during the production of his automobile that he needed associates that were able to provide him with technical direction to keep him on schedule. Today, a few Wills Sainte Claire models exist making them very scarce.