History of the Packard Motor Car Company

The Packard Story begins in 1898, Mr James Ward  Packard and William Doud Packard, with their engineering minds decided to purchase a early Winton automobile, hearing that they were made by a man by the name of Winton. They set out to Cleveland to went to see Mr Winton and purchased a motor carriage. After the purchase of the Winton it is said that James Packard had numerous problems with the vehicle which required numerous repairs. On one occasion when Mr Packard returned to visit Mr Winton he suggested a number of improvements which could be done to improve his line of vehicles. Maybe Mr Winton had a bad day or was sick of the complaints of Mr Packard and responded by saying something down the lines of “ Well, Packard, If your so smart, why don’t you build one yourself.” James Ward took this advise and … that is how the Packard marque began…

Whilst visiting Winton he spoke to Mr G. Weiss and mentioned the conversation between himself and Winton. In April 1899, James Ward Packard contacted George Weiss again suggesting that they start their own automobile company. G.Weiss left Winton and an agreement was reached between the two Packard brothers plus George L. Weiss and W.A. Hatcher. The partnership was named Packard and Weiss.

 James Ward set aside a section of the Packard Electrical Plant and all involved began graphing and designing their new automobile creation. After much hard work and many hours of love and labor, on November 6th 1899 the first Packard known as the model A chugged along the streets of Warren Ohio. Within 1899 there were a total of 5 Packard built.

Packard began producing automobiles under the name of the Ohio Automobile Company.

Spring 1900 Packard introduced its second automobile Model B, there were 49 of these models built. In the following years up to 1903 there were more than 260 vehicle produced by the company

In 1903 the directors of the Ohio Automobile Company decided to more the plant to Detroit. Packard directors also decided to change the name of the company to the “Packard Motor Car Company” to disassociate the company with any geological aspect.

During the early years there were many achievements made by Packard, these include,

In 1900 Packard introduced the first steering wheel to be used on a production vehicle.

In 1901 Packard entered five vehicles in the New York to Buffalo endurance run, although the majority of vehicles entered did not complete the run all five Packard automobiles finished among the leader 

In 1903 A Packard, single cylinder Model F, driven by Mr Tom Fetch Smashed the transcontinental crossing record set by Mr Winton by an amazing 3 days.

These are just some of the many achievements achieved by Packard  

The first major produced Packard was the Packard 1903 Model K, this was the last vehicle to be built at the Ohio factory.  Even so this vehicle did not sell well. The Model K was said to be the first American 4-cyclinder vehicle produced. It was also the first Packard that had 2 headlights standard and used 12-spoke wheels. Unfortunately this vehicle was too expensive to make and sold for a whopping $7,500. The company ended up loosing more than $200 000 getting the car into production and due to the price only 34 models were sold.

The next vehicle to hit the Packard production line was the Model L, this vehicle cost $4,850 ( $2650 cheaper than the model L,) there were 207 of these vehicles sold. A large improvement on the previous model. Even so, the Packard Company was going to almost double its output with the introduction of its next model. The Packard  Model N, it was introduced in November 1904, this was the 9th model that Packard produced, this was the only vehicle available from Packard in 1905 and there were 403 vehicles sold.

Production continued to increase with the introduction of both the Packard 18, 24 and the Packard 30, the vehicles name was based on their horsepower. ex: the Packard 18 delivered 18 horse power. By 1909 Packard sales had made profits of $15 million. Packard was now a major producer of automobiles in America. The Packard Motor Car company became a name that stood for quality and luxury.

In 1911 Packard employment had grown to over 6000 employees and the Packard factory was now covering 33 acres of floor space.

In 1915 Packard introduced the first American 12-cylinder engine which was designed by Alvan Macauley and was known as the twin-six. The Twin-Six was a huge stepping stone for Packard. Sales, profits as well as the companies reputation greatly increased. Sales of the twin-six exceeded 100,000 vehicles for 1916. The Twin-six stood for excellence in engineering. Though in later years the Twin-six was replaced with the straight 8 engine

Through out the nineteen twenties and thirties Packard became the undisputable leader of the luxury automobile market in America, outselling Cadillac 3 to 1 in 1928. During this period there were many beautiful, outstanding vehicles built. Vehicles such as the 1924 Packard Touring car, 1928 Convertible sedans and the 1929 Speedster 626 runabout, as well as those bodies made by such master builders as Dietrich, LeBaron and Murphy just to name a few

The Depression of the 1930’s hit automobile companies hard, and Packard was no exception, the company was loosing sales and in 1934 Packard vehicle production had dropped well below 7000 vehicles, compared to 50,000 sold in 1928. Even with the depression it can be debated that during this period not only Packard but other great automobile companies were producing some of the greatest cars ever.

The following year, 1935, Packard built a low priced automobile known as the 120 series, based on the horsepower produced. This vehicle was the savior of the Packard Automobile Company.  In later years the horse power was incresed to 160 and 180 horse power. Packard tried introducing a lower priced automobile in 1932 known as the light 8, though this cost the company too much to make and was removed from production.

The Packard 120 sales records saved Packard with 10 000 orders before the model hit the sales room floors. The Price of the 120’s ranged from $980 – $1095. A total of 109,518 low priced automobiles were build and sold in the first year of production. Models such as the 120’s became known as the “junior” models.

The Packard Motor Car company liked the sales of the junior Packard’s and was gradually trying to phrase out the senior models and in 1939 Packard saw the last Packard V-12 produced.

By the end of World War II, Packard was in excellent financial condition thanks to the work that had done for the government during the war. Roll’s Royce had employed Packard to build a number of its Roll’s Royce Merlin II engines. After the war, Packard, just like other automotive companies suffered from a shortage of raw materials needed to manufacture automobiles. On October 19th 1946 Packard produced its first post war production vehicle which was the Packard Clipper, this was an eight cylinder Packard. It is said that these vehicles were warmed over 1942 models, even so, they were a ‘new’ car and the public wanted anything new.

 Eventually in 1949 Packard introduced their true first post war designed vehicle. The design chosen was nicknamed the “bathtub” or the “Pregnant Elephant” by the media, even the amount of badmouthing publicity Packard had over the ‘bathtub’ model the Packard company sold in total of 116,955 vehicles.

 By 1952 Packard was in trouble and Mr James Joy Nance was hired from Hotpoints electronics due to his success in turning around companies was elected Packard president and general manager of Packard. Whilst President of Packard, Mr Nance made allot of changes that tried to regain Packard in prestige name. Unfortunately in time bad decisions and bad management played a vital part in the decline of the Packard Motor Car Company and in 1954 the two independent companies Packard and Studebaker merged to form the Studebaker-Packard Motor Company. Elements of engineering from both sides contributed in the 1955 Packards specifications and then turned up in some 1956 Studebakers . Packards post merger of Australian importations of new cars for 1957 where 37 sedans and then again 1958 where 47 sedans , 7 coupes and 1 Packard Hawk were brought in . Interestingly the last Packard vehicles sold were a grouping of about 50 Light Trucks sent to South America . They were obviously badge engineered Studebaker Trucks but they had the Packard nameplate on them .

The last chance for a Packard car was Studebakers proposed importation of between 100 and 120 French Facel Vega’s which were to be “Packardised” ( badge – engineered ) but this option was objected to by Mercedes – Benz who at the time were distributed in America by Studebaker -Packard . So the Packard name itself was officially dropped by 1962 . Some of the existing Mercedes-Benz dealers in America trace their lineage back to this troubled time. The Company which had once stood for quality and luxury had vanished…