Packard was an American luxury automobile marque built by the Packard Motor Car Company of Detroit, Michigan, and later by the Studebaker-Packard Corporation of South Bend, Indiana. The first Packard automobiles were produced in 1899, and the last in 1958.
Packard was founded by James Ward Packard, his brother William Doud Packard and their partner, George Lewis Weiss, in the city of Warren, Ohio where 400 Packard automobiles were built at their Packard factory on Dana Street Northeast, from 1899 to 1903. Being a mechanical engineer, James Ward Packard believed they could build a better horseless carriage than the Winton cars owned by Weiss, an important Winton stockholder.
In September, 1900, the Ohio Automobile Company was founded to produce “Packard” autos. Since these automobiles quickly gained an excellent reputation, the name was changed on October 13, 1902 to the Packard Motor Car Company.
All Packards had a single-cylinder engine until 1903. From the very beginning, Packard featured innovations, including the modern steering wheel and, years later, the first production 12-cylinder engine and air-conditioning in a passenger car.
Four-cylinder cars were added to the line in 1903, but it was a single-cylinder car that bettered Winton’s coast-to-coast record in that year, with driver Tom Fetch carving two days off the record in “Old Pacific.” Other Packard competition included the Vanderbilt Cup races and sand racing at Ormond Beach in Florida, where chief engineer Charles Schmidt set a world record in January 1904. With the launch of the Model 30 in 1907, Packard became a well-established builder of luxury cars, comprising, with Peerless and Pierce-Arrow, the “Three Ps” of prestige American automobile manufacturing. Packard was the only member of the Three Ps to survive the Depression, but only because it diversified into medium-priced cars. Still, Packard continued to lead the American luxury segment after World War II and was outsold by Cadillac only once before 1950.
Packard’s first six, a massive 525-cubic inch T-head, debuted in April 1911. Designated Model 48 for its rated horsepower, it developed a full 74 bhp at 1,720 rpm, and Packard advertised that it would reach “60 miles per hour in 30 seconds from a standing start.” A Bosch dual ignition system was used, along with Packard’s unique float-feed carburetor with automatic mixture control. Prices started at $5,000 and ranged upward to $6,550. Thirteen body styles were offered on wheelbases from 121.5 to 139 inches. The new car immediately became popular, with nearly 1,350 sold in the first year of production and a lengthy list of anxious customers awaiting delivery.
In the summer of 1912, the new 1913 Model 2-48 was introduced, with eight more brake horsepower, improved lubrication and electric headlamps. The fuel tank was moved to the rear, its place under the driver’s seat taken by the battery and tool box previously on the running boards. Early in 1913, the Model 3-48, sometimes called “New 48” and in some company documents “1448,” arrived, with it left-hand drive and a combination starter-generator.
In February 1914 came the fourth iteration of the 48 called, appropriately, 4-48. Its wheelbase extended to 144 inches, but the big news was under the hood. Although the engine displacement remained the same, instead of three blocks of two cylinders it had two blocks of three and seven main bearings and was of L-head configuration. Prices ranged from $4,750 to $6,510, and 441 were built during its five months of production, through June 1914.