Built by the Willys-Overland Corporation of Toledo, Ohio, the Whippet was aptly named because it was small and swift. The Whippet, which was America’s smallest car at the time, was in production from 1926 until early 1931. The vehicle was very popular, with over 110,000 units sold in 1927, making Willys-Overland third in U.S. sales. But with the onset of the Great Depression, Willys-Overland turned their focus to a single, low-cost car, that would eventually become the Willys 77, and quit making the Whippet. Robert Moore of Falls Church, Virginia, built this 1928 Whippet model 96 by combining two “doodlebugs” (a doodlebug is an auto that has had its body removed to create a homemade truck). Robert bought the first one in 2002 for $250 from a collector in Harrisonburg, Virginia, who had dragged it off a farm near Verona, Virginia. This vehicle had a heavy truck rear-end in it, with a flat belt pulley bolted to the drive shaft, and a governor mounted to the right front fender – the belt was driven by the water pump. The remaining parts and components were fabricated, as needed. Robert bought the second one in 2003 for $300 from a collector in West Hartford, Connecticut. In between those two purchases, he bought a stripped engine, transmission, rear-end, two wheels, and a headlight assembly from John Lawlor in North Carolina. Research yielded an original ad for commercial Whippets and the location of an original “canopy express” in Ohio. Robert visited the vehicle’s owner to take pictures and get lots of measurements for his project. The rebuilding and restoring was a six-year project, beginning in 2005, and finishing up in 2011, when Robert drove the truck to its first show. He noticed that the rear springs were weak and the water pump leaked badly, so he added a leaf to each rear spring and had the water pump re-bushed. When finished, the project cost Robert nearly $7,000 (not counting labor). Of the project, he said, “I was hoping to keep the cost at $5,000, but I am happy with the results.”
John & Shirley Sponholtz have been involved with old trucks for over 20 years. Shirley was editor at Wheels of Time for 12 years before going out on her own and starting Old Time Trucks magazine in 2004. John is an avid photographer who enjoys taking pictures of odd and/or rare trucks (he provides most of the pictures for this article and their magazine). John & Shirley, who are from Richmond, Indiana, have been regular contributors to 10-4 Magazine since 2006.