Packard and Cadillac are two of the best known names in luxury cars from the USA and in the era around the Great Depression the two were vying against each other in what was really a fight for survival. Both had worked long and hard to establish themselves as respected makers of cars for the wealthiest clientele and as the wealth of that clientele diminished to the extent it almost vanished both Cadillac and Packard were faced with a drop in sales of the order of 80% for their luxury cars compared with their pre stock market crash figures and both were forced reluctantly into creating a cheaper series of cars to keep financially afloat. Yet both Packard and Cadillac kept investing money and effort into their most prestigious cars and the Tenth Series Packard Twelve remains one of the most beautiful pieces of automotive art ever created.
The Tenth Series Packard Twelve was the company’s response to the quite unexpected appearance of the Cadillac V16. There had been something of a “Cylinder Wars” developing which Stutz had sensibly stayed out of. But the development of the Cadillac V16 engine, which had been done in such complete secrecy that the CIA would have been awestruck, was a master stroke by Cadillac. The Packard response was however measured and brilliantly engineered and the Cadillac V16 did not result in the wholesale shifting of the luxury car market to them.
Originally called the Packard Twin Six when introduced in 1932 the engine and car were renamed the Packard Twelve in 1933 to avoid confusion with an older and obsolete Packard engine that had also been called the Twin Six. This new engine with its 67° V12 was created to be smooth and powerful and although it was slightly less powerful than the Cadillac V16 the lighter weight of the Packard ensured it had the better power to weight ratio. The new engine was 445.5 cubic inches in capacity and churned out 160bhp from its old fashioned modified L head design. It gave out a smooth unflinching power in an impressively quiet package. It was also quite a bit cheaper and that of course helped its sales significantly.
Step inside the Packard Twelve and the impression is of impeccable luxury of the same order as Rolls Royce, complete with sumptuous wood paneling and leather the piece de resistance being the engineer’s dashboard reminiscent of the aircraft of the thirties. Packard took seriously their catch phrase about how good their cars were “Ask the man who owns one“.
The gearbox was a three speed fully synchromesh unit and the car’s headlights and driving lights were guaranteed to elicit a “Let there be light” impression as one flicked on the switch. The fact that the car’s chassis design was very conventional and old fashioned really didn’t matter. Beam axles and leaf springs front and rear, with heavy bumpers to help dampen out vibration, this car was built like a tank but that simply gives it a feeling of utter solidness and thus a feeling of substance. It feels like a car that will last a thousand years. Added to that impression was the vacuum assisted clutch and brakes so that although the brakes were mechanical the feeling of power was provided in the stopping as well as in the accelerating. Packard’s V12 ranks along with Cadillac’s V16 as one of the smoothest engines ever designed.
The gorgeous green Packard Twelve Coupé Roadster we are featuring was built at the very end of the 1933 production year and as a result it has a mix of features from both the 1933 and 1934 model variants. It is believed to be the last of the Coupé Roadsters built. Much of the car’s mechanics are from the Eleventh Series including the steering box. As can be appreciated from the photographs this car has undergone a cosmetic restoration of the highest standards and is in beautiful condition.
The car is coming up for sale by RM Sotheby’s at their Motor City auction to be held on 30th July 2016.
You will find the sale page for this car if you click here.
This is a car from a bygone era of grace, poise and impeccable taste. It is a rolling work of art with aesthetics blended with engineering to create something with undefinable qualities. To appreciate a Packard such as this one you might begin by doing what Packard recommended their potential customers to do “Ask the man who owns one“. But then you would need to take the next step and become a man who owns one.
(All pictures courtesy RM Sotheby’s).
Jon Branch is the founder and senior editor of Revivaler and has written a significant number of articles for various publications including official Buying Guides for eBay, classic car articles for Hagerty, magazine articles for both the Australian Shooters Journal and the Australian Shooter, and he’s a long time contributor to Silodrome.
Jon has done radio, television, magazine and newspaper interviews on various issues, and has traveled extensively, having lived in Britain, Australia, China and Hong Kong. His travels have taken him to Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Japan and a number of other countries. He has studied the Japanese sword arts and has a long history of involvement in the shooting sports, which has included authoring submissions to government on various firearms related issues and assisting in the design and establishment of shooting ranges.