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Packard was an Americanmarker luxury automobile marque built by the Packard Motor Car Company of Detroit, Michiganmarker, and later by the Studebaker-Packard Corporation of South Bend, Indianamarker. The first Packard automobiles were produced in 1899 and the last in 1958.



Packard was founded by James Ward Packard (Lehigh Universitymarker Class of 1884), William Doud Packard and their partner, George Lewis Weiss, in the city of Warren, Ohiomarker. James Ward believed that they could build a better horseless carriage than the Winton cars owned by Weiss (an important Winton stockholder) and, being himself a mechanical engineer, had some ideas for improvement on the designs of current automobiles. The story goes:

Packard was not completely satisfied with the Winton car he had recently purchased. He wrote Alexander Winton with his complaints and suggestions; however Mr. Winton, offended by Packard's criticism, challenged Packard to build a better car. Packard responded by doing so, his marque outlasting Winton's by many decades.

In September, 1900, the Ohio Automobile Company was founded as the manufacturer of their cars while their cars itself always were sold as Packards. Since these automobiles quickly gained an excellent reputation, and there were more automobile makers that produced - or at least planned to - under the label "Ohio", the name was changed soon: On October 13th, 1902, it became the Packard Motor Car Company.

From the very beginning, Packard automobiles introduced a number of innovations in its designs, including the modern steering wheel and, years later, the first production 12-cylinder engine.

While the Cole 30marker and Colt Runabout were US$1,500, the high-volume Oldsmobile Runabout went for $650, Western's Gale Model A roadster was $500, and the Black went as low as $375, the Packards concentrated on cars with prices starting at $2,600. Packard automobiles developed a following among wealthy purchasers both in the United States and abroad.

Henry Bourne Joy, a member of one of Detroitmarker's oldest and wealthiest families, bought a Packard. Impressed by its reliability, he visited the Packards and soon enlisted a group of investors—including Truman Handy Newberry and Russell A. Alger Jr. On October 2, 1902, this group refinanced and renamed the New York and Ohio Automobile Company as "Packard Motor Car Company", with James as president. Alger later served as vice-president. Packard moved its automobile operation to Detroit soon after, and Joy became general manager, later to be chairman of the board. An original Packard, reputedly the first manufactured, was donated by a grateful James Packard to his alma mater, Lehigh Universitymarker, and is preserved there in the Packard Laboratory. Another is on display at the Packard Museum in Warren, Ohio.

The Packard plant on East Grand Boulevard in Detroit was located on over of land. It was designed by Albert Kahn, and included the first use of reinforced concrete for industrial construction in Detroit. When opened in 1903, it was considered the most modern automobile manufacturing facility in the world, and its skilled craftsmen practised over eighty trades. The dilapidated plant still stands, despite repeated fires. Architect Kahn also designed the Packard Proving Grounds at Utica, Michiganmarker.


From this beginning, through and beyond the 1930s, Packard-built vehicles were perceived as very competitive in the class of high-priced luxury American automobiles. The company was commonly referred to as being one of the "Three P's" of American motordom royalty, along with Pierce-Arrow of Buffalo, New Yorkmarker and Peerless of Cleveland, Ohiomarker. For most of its history Packard was guided by its President and General Manager Alvan Macauley who also served as President of the National Automobile Manufactures Association.Inducted into the Automobile Hall of Fame, Macauley took Packard to the number one designer and producer of luxury automobiles in the United States and was highly competitive abroad, with markets in sixty-one countries and gross income of $21,889,000 in 1928. Macauley was responsible for the iconic Packard slogan, "Ask the Man Who Owns One."

Packard built trucks as well as excellent luxury cars. In 1912, a Packard truck, carrying a three-ton load, drove from New York Citymarker to San Franciscomarker between 8 July and 24 August. The same year, Packard had Service Depots in 104 cities. The Packard Motor Car Showroom and Storage Facilitymarker at Buffalo, New Yorkmarker and designed by Albert Kahn in about 1926, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2006.


Entering into the 1930s, Packard attempted to beat the stockmarket crash and subsequent Great Depression by manufacturing ever more opulent and expensive cars than it had prior to October 1929. The Packard Twin Six (designed by Jesse Vincent) was introduced for 1932 and renamed the Packard Twelve for the remainder of its run (through 1939). For one year only, 1932, Packard tried fielding an upper-medium-priced car called the Light Eight.

As an independent automaker, Packard did not have the luxury of a larger corporate structure absorbing its losses, as Cadillac did with GM and Lincoln with Ford. However, Packard did have a better cash position than other independent luxury marques. Peerless fell under receivership in 1929 and ceased production in 1932. By 1938, Franklin, Marmon, Ruxton, Stearns-Knight, Stutz, Duesenberg, and Pierce-Arrow had all closed.

Packard also had one other advantage that some other luxury automakers did not: a single production line. By maintaining a single line and interchangeability between models, Packard was able to keep its costs down. Packard did not change cars as often as other manufacturers did at the time. Rather than introducing new models annually, Packard began using its own "Series" formula for differentiating its model changeovers in 1923. New model series did not debut on a strictly annual basis, with some series lasting nearly two years, and others lasting as short a time as seven months. In the long run, though, Packard did average approximately one new series per year. By 1930, Packard automobiles were considered part of its Seventh Series. By 1942, Packard was in its Twentieth Series. The "Thirteenth Series" was omitted.

To address the Depression, Packard started producing more affordable cars in the medium-price range. In 1935, it introduced its first sub-$1,000 car, the Packard 120. Car production more than tripled that year and doubled again in 1936. In order to produce the 120, Packard built and equipped an entirely separate factory. By 1936, Packard's labor force was divided nearly evenly between the high-priced "Senior" lines (Twelve, Super Eight, and Eight) and the medium-priced "Junior" models, although more than ten times more Juniors were produced than Seniors. This was because the 120 models were built using thoroughly modern mass production techniques, while the Senior Packards used a great deal more hand labor and traditional craftsmanship. The Junior models were very fine cars; they were just not in the same quality league as the Seniors. Although Packard most certainly could not have survived the Depression without the highly successful Junior models, the Juniors did have the effect of diminishing the Senior models' stellar and exclusive image among those few who could still afford an expensive luxury car. Adding insult to injury, the 120 models were more modern in basic design than the Senior models. For example, the 1935 Packard 120 featured independent front suspension and hydraulic brakes, both features that would not appear on the Senior Packards until 1937.


1941 Packard One-Eighty Formal sedan
Prior to 1937, Packard was still the premier luxury automobile, even though the lion's share of cars being built were the 120 and Super Eight model ranges. Hoping to catch still more of the market, Packard decided to issue the Packard 115C in 1937, which was powered by Packard's first six-cylinder engine since the Fifth Series cars in 1928. While the move to introduce the Six was at once brilliant—the car arrived just in time for the 1938 recession—it also tagged Packards as something less exclusive than they had been in the public's mind, and in the long run, the Six hurt Packard's reputation of building some of America's finest luxury cars. The Six, designated "110" in 1940–41, continued for three years after the war, with many serving as taxicabs.

During World War II, Packard again built airplane engines, licensing the Merlin engine from Rolls-Royce as the V1650, which powered the famous P-51 Mustang fighter, ironically known as the "Cadillac of the Skies" by GIs in WWII. It was one of the fastest piston-powered fighters ever and could fly higher than many of its contemporaries, allowing pilots a greater degree of survivability in combat situations. They also built 1350-, 1400-, and 1500-hp V-12 marine engines for American PT boat (each boat used three) and some of Britain's patrol boats.


By the end of World War II, Packard was in excellent financial condition but suffered from several management mistakes that became visible as time went on. Like most other U.S. car makers, the firm started production in 1946 with modestly restyled 1942 models. As only tooling for the Clipper was left, concentrating on this design was the only option. There were several engines and chassis available, but basically only two body styles to choose from. The 4 door Touring Sedan looked very similar to the introduction model of 1941 and the 2 door Club Coupe was ageing quickly because of its fastback styling. Industry trend went in another direction: The light and airy looking 2 door Hardtop.

Although the postwar Packards sold well, the ability to distinguish expensive models from lower-priced models disappeared as all Packards became virtually alike. Further, amidst a booming seller's market, management had decided to direct the company more to middle class models, thus concentrating on selling lower priced cars instead of more expensive - and more profitable - models. Worse, they also tried to enter massively the taxi cab and fleet car market. The idea was to gain volume for the years ahead, but that target was missed: Packard simply was not big enough to offer a real challenge to the Big Three...

Instead, Packard's image as a luxury brand was further diluting. So, Packard lost buyers of expensive cars and couldn't find enough prospects for the lesser models to compensate. Of course, the shortage of raw materials immediately after the war - and that was felt by all manufacturers - hurt Packard more with its volume business than it would have when it had given more attention to the luxury car market.

The Clipper, although a graceful automoile became outdated. So, in 1948, Packard presented its first postwar body - prior to its competition from the major firms (Cadillac, Lincoln, and Chrysler). In fact, these cars were heavily facelifted Clippers. The design chosen was of the "bathtub" style, predicted during the war as the destined future of automobiles. Six cylinder cars were dropped for the home market, and a convertible was added.

The new design cleverly hid its relationship to the Clipper. Even that name was dropped - for a while. But it looked bulky, and a bulky nickname it got: The "pregnant elephant". When a new body style was added, Packard made the mistake to introduce a Station Wagon instead of a 2 door Hardtop as buyers requested.

Packard left the luxury car market silently through the back door. Although its former glamour shined again in the mighty Custom Clippers and Custom Eights, built in its old tradition with excellent craftmanship and only the best materials, Cadillac now set the "Standard of the World".

When Packard's president George T. Christopher announced that the bathtub" would get another facelift for 1951, influental parts of the management revolted. Christopher was forced to resign and loyal Packard treasurer Hugh Ferry became president.


1958 Packard
In 1957 and 1958, a Studebaker President-based car bearing the Packard Clipper nameplate appeared on the market, but sales were slow. These badge-engineered Studebakers were derided as Packardbakers by competitors and the press, and failed to sell in sufficient numbers to keep the marque afloat.

While the 1957 Packard Clipper was less Packard than it was a very good Studebaker, the cars sold in limited numbers, which was attributed to Packard dealers dropping the franchises and consumers fearful of buying a car that could soon be an orphaned make.

The 1958 models were launched with no series name, simply as "Packard." These cars were the last gasp of what, thirty years earlier, had been the biggest-selling luxury car marque in the United States.

The end

Studebaker-Packard pulled the Packard nameplate from the marketplace in 1959 to focus on its compact Lark.

In the early 1960s, Studebaker-Packard was approached by French car maker Facel-Vega about the possibility of rebadging the company's Facel-Vega Excellence sedan as a "Packard" for sale in North America. The proposition was rejected when Daimler-Benz threatened to pull out of its 1958 marketing and distribution agreement, which would have cost Studebaker-Packard more in revenue than they could have made from the badge-engineered Packard.

Packard automobile engines

Packard's engineering staff designed and built excellent, reliable engines. Packard offered a twelve-cylinder engine—the "Twin Six"—as well as a low-compression straight eight, but never a sixteen-cylinder engine. After WWII, Packard continued with their successful straight-eight cylinder flathead engines. While as fast as the new GM and Chrysler OHV8s, they were perceived as obsolete by buyers. By waiting until 1955, Packard was the last U.S. automaker to introduce a high-compression V8 engine. The design was physically large and entirely conventional, copying many of the first generation Cadillac, Oldsmobile, and Studebaker Kettering features. It was produced in and displacements. The Caribbean version had two 4-bbl carburetors and produced . For 1956, a 374" version was used in the senior cars and the Caribbean 2x4bbl produced .

In-house designed and built, their "Ultramatic" automatic transmission featured a lockup torque converter with two speeds. The early Ultramatics normally operated only in "high" with "low" having to be selected manually. Beginning with late 1954, the transmission could be set to operate only in "high" or to start in "low" and automatically shift into "high". Packard's last major development was the Hudson derived "Torsion-Level" suspension, an electronically controlled four-wheel torsion-bar suspension that balanced the car's height front to rear and side to side, having electric motors to compensate each spring independently. Contemporary American competitors had serious difficulties with this suspension concept, trying to accomplish the same with air-bag springs before dropping the idea.

Packard also made large aeronautical and marine engines. Chief engineer Jesse Vincent developed a V-12 airplane engine called the "Liberty engine" that was used widely in entente air corps during World War I. It also gave basical knowledge for his "Twin Six" automobile engine. Packard powered boats and airplanes set several records during the 1920s. For Packard's production of military and navy engines, see the Merlin engine and PT Boats which contributed to the Allied victory in World War II. Packard also developed a jet propulsion engine for the USAF, one of the reasons of the Curtiss-Wright take-over in 1956, as they wanted to sell their own jet

Failed resurrection of Packard name

In 1995, former Phoenix residents Roy and Barbara Gullickson purchased the rights to the Packard name and assembled a new V12-powered luxury sedan design, hoping to attract support for short-run manufacturing. The enterprise has been promoted on a website which details the prototype featuring an overhead-valve, fuel-injected V12 engine. The car was shown at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance in 2003 and came up for auction on Ebay in June 2009.

Mr Gullickson, who now lives in Canada, has abandoned the project and announced that he is seeking to sell his interest in the project at an asking price of $1.5 million. But the secretary-treasurer of the Packard International Motor Car Club has commented: "They should just leave the Packard name alone and let people enjoy how they used to be built. . . I wouldn't buy a new one."

Packard automobile models

Body styles/misc. by tradename


Image:PackardHex.jpg|Packard red-hexagon wheel hub centerImage:Packard 626 4-Door Sedan 1929.jpg|Packard Sixth Series 626 Eight 4-Door Sedan, 1929Image:1929 Packard 4 Door Convertible.JPG|1929 Packard 4-door convertibleImage:Packard 645 De Luxe Eight Dual Cowl Phaeton 1929.jpg|Packard Sixth Series 645 De Luxe Eight Dual Cowl, 1929Image:Packard 726 4-Door Sedan 1930.jpg|Packard Seventh Series 726 Standard Eight 4-Door Sedan, 1930Image:Packard Roadster 1930.jpg|Packard Roadster, 1930Image:Packard Convertible Coupe 1930.jpg|Packard Seventh Series 733 Standard Eight Convertible Coupé, 1930Image:Packard 733 Coupe 1930.jpg|Packard Seventh Series 733 Standard Eight Coupé, 1930Image:Packard 733 Limousine 1930.jpg|Packard Seventh Series 733 Standard Eight Limousine, 1930Image:Packard 833 Convertible Coupe 1931.jpg|Packard Eighth Series 833 Standard Eight Convertible Coupé, 1931Image:Packard 833 Coupe 1931.jpg|Packard Eighth Series 833 Standard Eight Coupé, 1931Image:Packard 4-Door Sedan 193X 2.jpg|Packard 4-Door SedanImage:1934_Packard_Convertible.jpg|Packard Eleventh Series Super Eight Model 1104 Convertible Sedan (1934)Image:Packard Limousine 193X.jpg|Packard Twelfth Series Limousine, 1935Image:Packard 115-C Convertible Coupe 1937.jpg|Packard Fifteenth Series Six 115-C 1089 Convertible Coupé, 1937Image:Packard Six 115C 1082 4-Dörrars Touring Sedan 1937.jpg|Packard Fifteenth Series Six 115-C 1082 4-Door Touring Sedan, 1937Image:Packard Six 1600 Coupe 1938.jpg|Packard Sixteenth Series Six 1600 Coupé, 1938Image:Packard Coupe 2.jpg|Packard Sixteenth Series Six 1600 Coupé, 1938Image:Packard Club Opera Coupe 1938.jpg|Packard Sixteenth Series Six 1600 1185 Club Coupé, 1938Image:Packard Six 1600 Touring Sedan 1938.jpg|Packard Sixteenth Series Six 1600 1182 4-Door Touring Sedan, 1938Image:Packard 1700 Six 1282 Touring Sedan 1939 2.jpg|Packard Seventeenth Series Six 1700 1282 4-Door Touring Sedan, 1939Image:Packard 1700 Six 1282 Touring Sedan 1939.jpg|Packard Seventeenth Series Six 1700 1282 4-Door Touring Sedan, 1939Image:Packard 1700 Six Touring Sedan 1939 2.jpg|Packard Seventeenth Series Six 1700 1282 4-Door Touring Sedan, 1939Image:Packard 1700 Six Touring Sedan 1939.jpg|Packard Seventeenth Series Six 1700 1282 4-Door Touring Sedan, 1939Image:Packard 1701 Eight 1299 Convertible Coupe 1939.jpg|Packard 1701 Eight 1299 Convertible Coupe 1939Image:Packard 1803 160 Convertible Sedan 1940.jpg|Packard Eighteenth Series Super Eight One-Sixty 1803 1374 Convertible Sedan, 1940Image:1941 Packard Swan.jpg|Packard swan hood ornament from a 1941 One-Eighty Formal sedanImage:Packard Convertible Coupe 1941.jpg|Packard Nineteenth Series Convertible Coupé, 1941Image:Packard 4-Door Touring Sedan 1941.jpg|Packard Nineteenth Series
4-Door Touring Sedan, 1941
Image:Packard 1903 One Sixty Convertible Coupe 1941.jpg|Packard Nineteenth Series Super Eight One-Sixty 1903 Convertible Coupé, 1941Image:Packard De Luxe Eight 4-Door Sedan 1949.jpg|Packard De Luxe Eight 4-Door Sedan, 1949Image:50packard.JPG|Packard 23rd Series 4-Door Sedan With Ultramatic Drive, 1950Image:Packard 5479 Convertible 1954.jpg|Packard 5479 Convertible, 1954Image:Packard Clipper Super 1955 Front.jpg|Packard Clipper Super Touring Sedan Model 5542, 1955Image:Packard Clipper Super 1955 Heck.jpg|Packard Clipper Super Touring Sedan Model 5542, 1955Image:Packard Executive Hardtop Model 5677A .jpg|Packard Executive Hardtop Model 5677, 1956Image:1956_Packard_Caribbean_1994_Front.jpg|Packard Caribbean Hardtop Model 5697, 1956Image:1956_Packard_Caribbean_1994_Side.jpg|Packard Caribbean Hardtop Model 5697, 1956Image:1956_Packard_Caribbean_1994_Back.jpg|Packard Caribbean Hardtop Model 5697, 1956

See also


  1. Clymer, Floyd. Treasury of Early American Automobiles, 1877-1925 (New York: Bonanza Books, 1950), p.104.
  2. Clymer, p.63.
  3. Clymer, p.32.
  4. Clymer, p.51.
  5. Clymer, p.61.
  6. The Alger Family in Grosse Pointe Historical Society website
  7. Packard's 100th Anniversary on Lehigh University website
  8. Illustrated at Remarkable Cars Picture Gallery
  9. See photos and Packard historical data at Detroit News, 16 Jan 2000
  10. Abandoned Packard Plant(Flickr pictorial website)
  11. More fires break out at Packard Plant in Detroit
  12. Clymer, p.112.
  13. Georgano, G. N. Cars: Early and Vintage, 1886-1930. (London: Grange-Universal, 1985)
  14. Ward, James A.: The Fall of the Packard Motor Car Company; University Press (September 1, 1995), ISBN 0804724571
  15. Packard Motor Car Co. current website


Clymer, Floyd. Treasury of Early American Automobiles, 1877-1925. New York: Bonanza Books, 1950.

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