The Velie is another example of a US make that no longer exists today. The company was based in Moline, Illinois, and was established by Willard Lamb Velie in 1902 to build horse carriages. Velie had seen his first car in 1901, but he knew that the US rural mid-west was not ready to accept cars, so he built horse buggies until the market was ready for the Velie car.
The right time came in 1908, and the Velie Motor Vehicle Company was incorporated on the 2nd of July. Velie had no trouble raising the capital for the company – his mother was Emma Deere, who was the daughter of John Deere, of tractor and farm machinery fame.
The inaugral model was the Velie 30, and featured a 4-cylinder engine of either 30 or 35 hp. and was a five-passenger touring car with a 110-inch wheelbase. The car sold for $1750, and 1,000 of the sturdily built cars were sold in the first year of production. A Lycoming engine was used for the Velie 40 the next year, and a year later, 1911, it used its own engine.
One advantage that the Velie had over other manufacturers was that through Willard Velie’s connection with Deere, the car was marketed in John Deere Plow Company catalogues and sold through John Deere farm equipment dealers up to 1914. The company also used motor racing to publicise the car, with a Velie finishing 17th in the inaugral Indianapolis 500 in 1911.
The company was reorganised into the Velie Motors Corporation, and was awarded several US government vehicle contracts during World War 1. Velie production was approximately 4,000 in the early 1920’s, but in 1924 Willard Velie became seriously ill. Control of the company was taken over by one Edwin McEwen, with morale suffering under his leadership. When Willard Velie returned to proper health in 1927, he sacked McEwen and installed his son Willard Velie Jnr as vice-president and general manager.
Just as it appeared that the Velie Motors Corporation was on an even keel, on the 24th of October 1928 Willard Velie Snr died suddenly of an embolism, followed by Willard Velie Jnr dying of a heart attack on the 20th of March 1929. With the two major principals of the company dead, the car company was dead as well. The factory was taken over by the John Deere Company for the manufacturing of tractors and farm equipment. The company probably wouldn’t have lasted much longer, as the October 1929 stock market crash was just around the corner.
Despite producing only 3-4,000 cars a year, Velies were exported to other countries, including Australia. The advertisment at the top of this blog entry was taken from the Sydney Sunday Times of the 18th of December 1927, and shows a Model 77 Club Phaeton. The Model 77 was the middle model of the Velie range for 1928, fitting in between the smaller Model 66 and the larger 8-cylinder Model 88. I have been unable to locate the name of the Sydney dealer for the Velie. Based on other dealers in Sydney in the late 1920’s, the company involved would not have sold just Velies – instead having a range of different makes in different sizes and price ranges.
One interesting piece of trivia regarding the Velie is that a small town near Shreveport, Louisiana had so many happy owners of Velie cars that they changed the name of the town to Velie, Louisiana. Approximately 180 running and restored Velies exist today, located in countries as widespread as South Africa, Sweden, Germany, New Zealand, Norway and Australia.