The Packard Motor Car Company was one of America’s luxury automobile manufacturers. Packard, as an independent automaker, stayed in business much longer than many of it’s peers. To give you an idea of just how old this car company was, the first Packard car was produced in 1899.
The Packard Motor Car Company, headquartered in Detroit Michigan, was founded by two brothers and their partner. James Ward Packard, William Doud Packard and George Weiss. These were the original three partners. The name of the company at first was the Ohio Automobile Company but was soon changed to the Packard Motor Car Company. The partners received an infusion of cash from a wealthy Detroit investor thus the move to Detroit Michigan. The investor was Henry Bourne Joy who today has a busy Detroit road named after him, Joy Road on the city’s west side.
The Packard Motor Car Company plant on East Grand Blvd in Detroit in 1903 was huge. The plant measured some 3,500,000 square feet. At that time it was considered the largest and most modernized plant in the world.
Selling Luxury Automobiles During the Great Depression
The Packard car featured in this article was built during the Great Depression. The 1935 Packard 12 Convertible was a luxury automobile. Packard found itself, like several other automakers, selling luxury automobiles in the midst of the Depression. Packard was an independent car company and didn’t have the ability of a larger parent company like Ford or General Motors to absorb losses. Many independent automakers did indeed go out of business during the Great Depression years. This included names such as Stutz, Pierce-Arrow and Dusenberg among others.
How did Packard Motors survive? The Packard Motor Car Company was set up with one production line which could produce more than one model of car. This was important. Most automakers couldn’t do that and it saved Packard a lot of money. Packard also didn’t change models as often as many other automakers and introduced cars in series instead. This also kept costs under control. Like many of it’s competitors, the Packard Motor Car Company did have to address the realities of the Depression and offered cars at lower prices than prior to the economic turmoil. In 1935, the same year as the car in this article, Packard unveiled the 120 Model which sold for under $1,000.
This particular Packard Motors car was given it’s model name because it’s wheelbase was 120 inches. Sales of the Packard 120 was such a success, the company built it’s second factory. The Packard 120 was a small, eight-cylinder car whose sale hit 24,995. It proved to be the most popular Packard series available for 1935.
The lower priced Packard Motor Car Model 120′s sold so well during the Depression that they outsold the more costly Packard Senior Models like the one shown here by some ten to one. Most think it was highly doubtful that the Packard Motor Car Company could have survived the 1930′s without the stellar sales of the 120 Model. In fact, the sales figures of the Packard 120 helped the company into the 1940′s and later during the first half of the 1950′s.
Also on AutoMuseumOnline see photos and history of the
The 1935 Packard Twelve
The 1935 Packard 12 was a twelve cylinder luxury car. Interestingly enough, Packard was known to call their twelve cylinder car engine the “Twin Six” during the 1920′s. This was prior to the V-8. During the 1930′s the engine was referred to as the “Packard Twelve“. The Packard 12 had excellent power displacing 445 cubic inches and designed with hydraulic valve lifters. The car was big and so was the engine. The adding of aluminum heads and increased stroke (4.25-inches), helped the engine achieve it’s 175 HP.
Packard championed the V-12 engine and produced it up until 1939. Unfortunately for Packard, when the V-12 engine was discontinued in it’s auto line, the company lost a bit of it’s well earned prestige. As a side note, the Packard 12 cylinder engine, although removed from auto manufacture, was used for military boats and aircraft during World War Two.
Specifications for the 1935 Packard Twelve
Specifications for this car included a powerful 445 cubic inch, 175 HP engine. The car’s weight was about 6,000 lbs. The transmission was 3 speed Manual Selective Synchromesh. The car’s price in 1935 ranged from about $3,800 to $6,400 depending on options, etc.
Packard Reaches the End of the Road
Packard bought Studebaker in 1954 in a hope to increase market share. At the time Packard was competing directly with Ford, General Motors and Chrysler. The merger didn’t achieve the results hoped for and Packard remained in production until the summer of 1956.
Exhibits of Packard automobiles can be enjoyed at the National Packard Museum located at 1899 Mahoning Ave N.W., Warren, Ohio. The 1935 packard shown in this article was on display at the Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum in Hood River Washington. Hood River is about 64 miles east of Portland Oregon along the scenic Columbia River Gorge.
(Photos are from author’s private collection)