Luxury Cars – These Packards Prove That The Brand Was the Pinnacle of American Luxury
The United States automotive industry still produces some luxury cars such as Lincoln, Cadillac, and Tesla; for the most part, however, the idea of an American ultra-luxury car is one of the past. In 1899 Packard Motor Car Company built its first automobile and instantly became respected as an American icon. Enthusiasm towards the brand allowed Packard to soldier on through the depression. After introducing innovative luxuries such as in-car climate control and automatic leveling suspension, the Packard name is still one that earns respect to this day, 63 years after the last car baring their name rolled off the assembly line.
Today, the ghost of Packard lives on its abandoned Detroit production facility and in a dedicated group of enthusiasts that ensure the name will continue to live on with respect into the future by preserving the remaining classic cars on the road today.
10 Packard Model S Touring
The Model S was introduced for the 1906 model year and represented Packard’s first foray into the ultra-luxury market. With an aluminum four-cylinder and brass plated components, the Model S Touring was common only on the estates of America’s oil and steel tycoons. At a price of $5,225 (approximately $143,000 today), the car was out of reach of most Americans and represented Packard’s sole offering for the 1906 model year.
With the introduction of the Model S in 1906, Packard gained a solid foothold in the American ultra-luxury car market that it would not lose for decades. The sales success of this automobile paved the way for Packard to develop its even grander cars of the teens and twenties.
9 1916 Packard Twin-Six
Following the success of the Model S, Packard introduced the Twin-Six for the 1916 model year. With a multitude of chassis and body styles available, the most important characteristic was under its long narrow hood. At the time, a gargantuan 424 C.I. V-12 made for the largest engine ever fitted into a production car. Its robust size bested even the most potent contemporary offerings from Duesenberg and Pierce-Arrow, further cementing its status as a favorite among America’s most powerful.
Even at a substantial entry price, sales of the Twin-Six reached 35,000 units before Packard replaced the car in 1923. A healthy number even for much cheaper cars. In such an enviable financial position, Packard went to work reinvesting the majority of their profits back into the company to expand their lineup and push their technology to the edge.
8 1933 Packard Twelve
In 1933 the Great Depression was peaking, and many other American car manufacturers had already fallen victim. A loyal following among the ultra-wealthy had kept Packard solvent, but the company began to see itself in the red. In comparison, other manufacturers were hurrying to cut costs to appeal to broader markets, while Packard did something entirely unexpected to survive. With the cheaper 120 still a few years away in development, Packard focused on the most expensive cars in the lineup. For the first part of the 1930s, Packard catered to the remaining ultra-rich, building only the most expensive automobiles on the market.
Despite production numbers falling dramatically, with pricing reaching up to an obscene $14,000 ($287,000 with inflation), the Packard Motor Car Company managed to keep itself afloat until the 120 arrived in 1935. Still, the elegant and often custom-bodied Packard Twelves of the 1930s further cemented the brand’s status, with many examples serving their millionaire and billionaire owners even well after Packard dissolved in 1958.
7 1940 Packard One-Eighty Super-8
Following the success of the 120 with entry-level luxury buyers, Packard was back in a financially stable position. Packard’s focus turned back to the ultra-luxury market that made them a household name. The 180 was introduced for the 1940 model year and featured options that had never been available in a car before. The Packard 180 became the first car to feature air conditioning and power windows. The 1941 model year brought new luxury updates, including running lights that turned with the car’s wheels, allowing drivers to see into turns, a feature now standard on many luxury cars.
Buyers could find rich leather interiors and delicate instrumentation in both limousine and convertible iterations alike. Packard enjoyed healthy sales of the 180 when the run was cut short in 1942 following the United States entering World War Two. A pause in automobile production until 1946 allowed Packard to obtain several healthy contracts with the U.S. government producing engines for fighter aircraft.
6 1946 Packard Super Clipper
After the conclusion of World War II, Packard switched back to automotive manufacturing with a health check from the U.S. government. With several products in development, such as their own automatic transmission and V-8, Packard hit the ground running. With a more complete redesigned portfolio still two model years away, Packard carefully took its already modern Clipper design before the war and adapted it to become the company’s entire lineup.
Several body styles were available, with the slippery fastback coupe being the most glamorous. Sales of the car were strong, but Packard loyalists were concerned that more affordable Clipper models negatively impacted the brand image. Regardless the stately Clippers were favorites among bankers and business owners alike and allowed more individuals to experience Packard luxury.
5 1948 Packard Station Sedan
For the 1948 model year, designers wholly refreshed Packards’ entire model lineup. Rounded deco streamlining and an imposing grille continued that now long history of statement-making Packards. Among the new lineup was the Station Sedan. Handcrafted wood body panels on the doors and tailgates showcased Packard quality against the otherwise steel body. For the first time, luxury buyers could experience the prestige of a Packard with ample storage space when taking the family and golf clubs to the country club.
A smooth tapered tail finishes off the rear design helping the car stand out amongst stodgier luxury cars of its contemporary. Packard sales totaled a healthy 88,000 units for the 1948 model year, a number the company had not seen since before the depression. 1949 proved to be even more successful after introducing the new Packard-engineered Ultramatic transmission. The smoothest automatic transmission Detroit had built to date. Sales for 1949 totaled a company record 117,000 cars.
4 1951 Packard 250
Packard wanted to begin the 1950s with a completely new lineup following the success of the cars introduced in 1948. The result was the new Packard 200 and 250. The 250 features a 288 C.I. I-8 mated to Packards Ultramatic drive transmission. The combination was slow, but Packard buyers grew fond of the quiet and silk smooth characteristics.
Despite innovative styling and praise from Packard loyalists, Packard quickly lost buyers to Lincoln, Cadillac, and Chrysler, who had already developed in-house V-8’s. By the time the 200 series was in production, it was clear that the V-8 engine would determine what companies would survive in the 1950s. An all-new Packard for 1955 with a true Packard V-8, however, was already in the works.
3 1954 Packard Pacific
With the new 1955 Packard redesign still in development, Packard released the Pacific for the 1954 model year only. While a 250 at its core, the Pacific featured bright two-tone paint options, a more elaborate interior, and extra ornamentation outside. While sales were less than impressive, the car was designed more as a placeholder to stimulate sales until the 1955 cars arrived.
The Packard Pacific, whose name followed the now synonymous nautical Packard theme, was the last Packard to feature the venerable in-line eight-cylinder series engines. With the new Packards just a few months away, Packard Motor Car company was healthy enough to purchase the Studebaker Corporation. This action would eventually lead to their demise.
2 1955 Packard Patrician
After a long wait, Packard entered the 1955 model year with an entire comprehensive redesign. At the top of the new lineup was the flagship, Patrician. Available solely as a sedan, the car was celebrated as a bridge between old-world Packard luxury and modern 1950s engineering. Packards’ newly developed 374 C.I. V-8 was standard equipment and paired with Packards freshly updated Ultramatic transmission. A healthy 290 horsepower pushed the nearly 5,000LB sedan to 60 in a confidence-inspiring 12 seconds. The self-leveling suspension beneath the car would adjust the rear up if consumers added extra cargo and passengers, an industry first.
The public met the introduction of the car with accolades from both the press and Packard consumers. The Patrician enjoyed healthy sales from its 1955-1956 run before production was cut short following the 1956 liquidation of Packards Detroit plant.
1 1956 Packard Caribbean
The Caribbean was introduced for the 1955 model year and received minor updates for 1956. Available in several tri-tone color schemes, the Caribbean’s goal was to attract eyes from other motorists. Reversible seat cushions inside allowed the driver to decide between different fabric choices at any time. The dual-quad 374 C.I. V-8 produced a competitive 310 horsepower.
Its massive size and equally massive engine accomplished what Packards had accomplished for years, conveying wealth and power. A dignified end to the long line of Packards that came before it. Unfortunately, by 1956 Packard was treading water. Studebaker corporation had misrepresented its debts leaving Packard to pay out millions to keep both companies afloat. The last Packard, a black Patrician sedan, rolled off the assembly line in July of 1956 before the company was forced to liquidate its facilities. Though unfortunate, the final Detroit Packards served as a dignified closing chapter to the Packard story.
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Luxury Cars – These Packards Prove That The Brand Was the Pinnacle of American Luxury