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Searching for the Elusive Whippet

Updated: Sep 23, 2023

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Mr. and Mrs. Ellis Trabant, a very amiable couple from Vincennes. They came into the Daviess County Museum with a question, “Do you have anything on the Whippet?” and I responded with a question, “What’s a Whippet?” They informed me that a Whippet is an automobile, and they are the proud owners of one manufactured in 1928.

1926 Overland Whippet 1928 two-door sedan Hood ornament

The Whippet automobile was manufactured by Willys-Overland, Inc. in Toledo, Ohio from 1926 to 1931. It got its name from the British dog breed which closely resembles the Greyhound. The 1926 Model 96 Whippet had a four-cylinder engine. It came in three body styles which included a five-seater touring car, a two-seater coupe, and a five-seater sedan. In 1927, a six-cylinder version with a longer wheelbase came out. The body styles remained the same as the 1926 model. By 1930 the line offered light delivery to 1 ½ ton trucks, pick-up trucks, coupes, and four passenger vehicles.

Whippets were less expensive than many other autos. In 1926, a Whippet sedan sold for $695 which is about $11,524 in 2023. This price made them affordable and popular; however, it left a low margin of profit for the dealer. This, along with the Great Depression, contributed greatly to the Whippet being discontinued in 1931.The four-cylinder motor that powered the Whippet was later used as the basis for the engine used in the Willys Jeep.

Wash. Herald 12/01/1926 Wash. Herald 12/06/1926

The citizens of Washington had their very own Whippet dealership owned by Charles Rhodes. Mr. Rhodes’ business was located at 7 West Main Street and then 312 East Van Trees Street. Charles Rhodes was born in Greene County, Indiana April 11, 1879, and relocated to Washington around 1921. He, his wife Lucy (Ruppert) Rhodes, and their daughter Mary resided at 201 West Walnut Street.

There was nothing in the Museum’s collection about the elusive Whippet or the dealership. That oversight has been resolved thanks to old issues of the Washington Herald, Census Records, Google, and the nice couple from Knox County.

This article was compiled by Jeannie S. Eaton. She is a volunteer at the Daviess County Museum and a minion on the Daviess County Historian Team.

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