The History of Packard

In 1920, Custom Packard bodies were made by some of the finest coachbuilders in the world such as America-Dietrich, Waterhouse, Fernandez and Darrin,Murphy and Fleetwood. The Single Six, Model 116, became the most influential Packard car in the company's history. The Single Six was the prototype for every Packard straight engine made up to 1940. Saleswere slow at first, but by 1923, 26,500 Single Six models had been produced.

In 1922, the Single Six was lengthened to 126 inches and renamed the 126. This car featured a rounder body with more curves.The Packard Single-Eight, was launched in 1923.This was the first American car with four-wheel brakes. The name was changed to the Packard Eight by the end of the year. The Packard Eight was produced for 31 years. The Second Series Six was introduced in 1923 and underwent a name change to the Packard Six. These models were followed by the Third Series Six and the Second Series Eight. The price tag for the Six was lowered and sales began to increase once again.

In 1925, Packard set a new record for profits. Ray Dietrich, a coachbuilder and designer for LeBaron became a consultant to Packard. He waseventually hired by Packard when they opened a custom body shop in1928.

From 1926 to 1927 Packard released the Fourth Series Six, the Third Series Eight, followed by the Fifth Series Six and the Custom Eight. By 1928, 50,000 Packards werebeing produced each year to keep up with customer demand. The Goddessof Speed radiator cap was added to all models in 1926 and became thelongest lasting radiator cap design in American automotive history. It disappeared from cars in 1950.

Packard introduced the Hypoid Differential in 1927. This made it possible to lower the car body and greatly improve styling. Raymond B.Birge was hired to develop a new line of Packard made custom bodies. Hebrought on Werner Gubitz, who had worked for Dietrich. Gubitz producedsome stunning cars and later became chief of design in the 1930s.

1929 Packards featured some unique styling. Small doors were added tothe hood to replace louvers. Taillights had three lenses including one that was a backup light. The Model 443 could be ordered in all kinds offabrics, colors, and combinations. Many cars were built with three and four color combinations. Mechanical changes included a four-speedtransmission. Also in 1929 the new Packard Proving Grounds were opened.Leon Duray set a world record at 148.7 mph. The Packard Testing Groundtrack was hailed as the "World's Fastest Speedway". The record and title weren't beaten until 1952 at a new track in Monza, Italy. The authentic Packard family crest was adopted by the company as itsemblem and appeared for the first time on the 1929 Sixth Series cars.The central figure in the emblem was a Pelican. A cormorant was accidentally used in an advertisement in 1953.

On August 28, 1929 the stock market took a hefty dive. Billions of dollars were lost and all custom auto body makers felt the effects. Packard sales held for a short time, but by December, sales had dropped to 1537 cars. For the year, Packard did well. Net sales for 1929 were more than $107,000,000.

1930 saw the 734 Speedster. This car was a collaboration between Dietrich, Gubitz and Birge. The auto wascalled as a boat-tail speedster. Packard also made a Runabout, Phaeton, Victoria, and Sedan model. The Speedster, despite it's unique design, was not a popular seller.

In 1931, the Packard board hired Cornelius Willett Van Ranst to design a front wheel drive car. Van Ranst was one of the most sought afterengine designers in the world. The prototype front wheel drive car was never meant to be sold, but somehow, it left the factory. The car had several design problems and a faulty transmission. Packard believed the car had been scrapped and even denied it ever existed. Today, it is avaluable piece in the Harrah Automobile Collection. Van Ranst left Packard when his front wheel drive project was axed.

In 1932, Packard dropped all custom body makers for the Eight Series, except for Dietrich. The new Twin Six was a very limited production model called the Packard V-12. The hood line on this car extended up to the windshield and made the hood seem longer than it was. The first radio was available as a Packard accessory at a cost of $89.50 installed. In 1933 Packard introduced the Tenth Series Eight 1001 and 1002, theTenth Series Super Eight 1003 and 1004. The modified Dietrich Style 3182 Packard won highest honors and was described as "theultimate expression of personal transportation that mankind has beenable to produce." In August, the Eleventh Series, Eleventh Series Eight, Eleventh Super Eight, Eleventh Series Twelve, and the Eleventh Series Speedsters and Sport Phaetons were introduced. The Speedsters and Sport Phaetons were priced at $7,800.

In 1934, the Depression took its toll on Packard. Sales reached a low of 6,100, with a loss of $7.3 million. Packard introduced the 120 12th Series Packard priced from $980 to $1100 in 1935. The design was completely new for Packard cars and featured advanced engineering. Orders for the low priced 120 totaled nearly 10,000 and helped save the Packard Motor Car Company from going belly up.

Please continued to page two where Packard rolls through the Depression and into the 40s, 50s and 60s with new styles and lower prices.

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