A Collector’s Dream / The 1936 Packard Twelve

Featured in this article is the 1936 Packard Twelve Roadster. Packard built some fine looking automobiles and many of them are coveted by today’s car collectors.

1936 packard twelve
1936 Packard Twelve

Packard was founded by brothers James Ward Packard , William Doud Packard and his partner George Lewis Weiss in the city of Warren, OH. James Ward believed that they could build a better horseless carriage that the Winton cars owned by Weiss (An important Winton stockholder) and James Ward, himself a mechanical engineer, had some of his own ideas of how to improve on the designs of current automakers.

By 1899, they were in the automobile building business. The company, which they called the Ohio Automobile Company, quickly introduced a number of innovations in its designs. This included the modern steering wheel (as opposed to a tiller) and a few decades later the first production 12-cylinder engine.

The Packard Motor Car Company was well known for producing quality automobiles with excellent engineering. While Ford was producing cars that sold for $440, the Packard concentrated on more upscale automobiles that started in the $2,600 range.

packard twelve
Packard Twelve Roadster

Packard’s Growth

Building higher priced automobiles Packard needed more capital to grow. The answer came in an investment by a very prominent Detroiter by the name of Henry Joy. Joy came from one of Detroit’s oldest families.

This largely came about when Joy bought a Packard and was quite impressed by the car’s reliability. Henry Joy set up an appointment with the Packards and went out and put together an investor group which included his brother-in-law, Truman Newberry.

packard roadster
Packard Twelve

This spurred a name change in 1902 from the Ohio Automobile Company to the Packard Motor Car Company.  Packard then moved its automobile operation from Warren Ohio to Detroit soon after and Henry Joy became general manager and later chairman of the board.

The Packard’s factory on East Grand Boulevard in Detroit was a historic first in itself. Designed by Albert Kahn, the building represented the first use of reinforced concrete for industrial construction in Detroit.

The Auto Market of the 1930’s

In the 1930’s auto buyers were demanding quieter smoother riding cars and they were expecting cars with lighter steering and better brakes. Even wheels began to shrink¬† from 20 inches to 17 inches. Fenders took on skirting to hide the space caused by the smaller wheels.

These mechanical changes came quickly and Packard struggled to adapt the whole cars to these changes. Up to 1934 the bodies were basically designed for the earlier 1930-32 era cars and the fenders and noses were changed to blend the two. In 1935 a new line of bodies and fenders fit better on the smaller wheels and lower frames. The 1935 radiator shell design was not a big styling winner but that was taken care of in 1936 with a swept back shell.

packard twelve hubcap
Packard Twelve Wheel

The Packard Twelve

The Packard 12 is a legendary car, most likely the finest car Packard ever produced and probably one of the best cars of all time. Steady and smooth with incredible stability, the Packard 12 was way ahead of its time.

For 1936 everything came together perfectly. A new beautifully designed nose as mentioned above and much better proportioned bodies mated to fenders with stylish lines and a handsome curved lower edge. All of these traits combined into a package that automobile buyers would have expected to see on cars with names like LeBaron or Dietrich. Much of this flair is credited to the excellent in-house coach works Packard enjoyed.

The Packard Twelves came in several body styles. There were ten different models that ranged in price from about $4,000 to $6,000.

The resulting cars have a feel of overall perfection that the 9th series had in 1932 but on a chassis that performed worlds ahead of its predecessors. The steering is was light but positive, the hydraulic brakes were excellent, the transmission shifted fine and the legendary Twelve motor delivers excellent power, smoothness and with notable silence.

packard twelve interior
Packard Twelve interior and dashboard

1936 Packard Twelve Specifications

The Packard Twelve had a very powerful 473 cubic inch V-12 engine. This engine was also referred to as the “Twin Six” and delivered 175 horsepower. Packard discontinued the twelve cylinder engine in 1939.

An interesting note is that during World War Two Packard had modified these engines to adapt them to marine use in PT boats.

The twelve cylinder engine was of course quite large and required changes to the suspension and chassis but was exceeded by Cadillac with it’s sixteen cylinder power plant.

Transmission was a three speed manual.

Brakes were four wheel vacuum assisted with the front being disc and the rear drum.

Front suspension independent and rear live axle. Car weight was about 6,000 lbs.

The 1936 Packard Twelve had a 139.0 inch wheelbase.

See the AutoMuseumOnline articles on the links below…

1955 Packard 400

1936 Cord 810 Cabriolet

VIN Plates and Stamps on Vintage Vehicles

A Finely Restored 1936 Ford Woody Wagon


A good book on the subject of Packard automobiles is Packard Automobiles 1920-1958: A Brooklands Portfolio by author R.M. Clarke.

packard twelve dashboard
Another view of the 1936 Packard Twelve dashboard

The 1936 Packard Twelve Collector Car

The 1936 Packard Twelve is a rare automobile. These cars were produced during the Great Depression and the Packard Motor Company relied on the lesser costly cars to pay the bills.

Auction asking prices for 1936 Packard Twelve’s are strong. As an example of pristine condition models, a 1936 Model 1407 Opera Coupe has an asking price of $195,000. A 1936 Packard Twelve Series 1407 Convertible Victoria sold for $385,000. A 1936 Packard Twelve Dual Cowl Model 1407 Phaeton sold for $594,000. We show that another 36 Packard Twelve Phaeton sold for $176,000.

(Article and photos copyright 2014 AutoMuseumOnline)