View Full Version : Packard Golden Gathering This Weekend

06-29-2006, 07:06 PM
[b](Forwarded by Jeff Rice)

Detroit Free Press

(TONY SWAN is senior editor of Car and Driver magazine. He was Free Press auto critic from 1993 to 2000 and remains a regular contributor.)


Auto news
TONY SWAN: Passionate about Packard
National club to celebrate car company almost 50 years after factory closed its doors in Detroit

June 29, 2006



The city of Warren, Ohio, claims Packard as its own, and with some justification. After all, James Ward Packard established his automotive operation there in 1899 and, together with his brother William, created cars that stood out from the early crowd.
But the Packards had barely assigned their name to their new company before it relocated to Detroit in 1903.

And it was in Detroit that the Packard Motor Car Co. created products that went beyond mere excellence into the realm of legend.

Unfortunately, it was also in Detroit that Packard went into a post-World War II decline that ended in total failure.

It's been a half-century since the shutdown of Packard's operations in the Motor City, an anniversary the national Packard Club will commemorate beginning this weekend.

The Packard brothers' foray into this industry was almost whimsical.

They were already successful businessmen. The New York Ohio Co. was a solidly established maker of electrical equipment -- dynamos and lamps, for example -- and it had no need of an enterprise as uncertain as the horseless carriage.

But James Packard was intrigued by the potential of this new invention, and in 1898 bought himself a brand-new Winton, built in nearby Cleveland.

It cost $1,000 and completed the last part of the 60-mile trip from Winton's factory at the end of a rope. The other end of the rope was secured to a horse.

Packard was not thrilled. And in the ensuing dialogues with Winton, he became less thrilled. Despite various suggested remedies, the car remained balky.

Packard began suggesting design changes. Winton suggested that if Packard thought he could create a better automobile, he was welcome to try.

Packard did just that, and poached two of Winton's key technicians -- chief engineer George Weiss and William Hatcher -- to help him.

The first car was ready to run in November 1899, and in very short order the Packard machines established a reputation for high quality, innovation and above-average performance.

The reputation was so solid, in fact, that James Packard impatiently answered one of a growing pile of potential buyer queries with a terse reply: "Ask the man who owns one." It's an attractive piece of folklore behind one of the great all-time advertising theme lines.

It wasn't long before demand for the new cars began to outstrip the modest production capacity of the firm -- by 1901 it had become the Ohio Automobile Co. -- and the brothers were confronted with the not-entirely-welcome prospect of building a dedicated factory for their automotive operations.

Enter Henry B. Joy.

The 37-year-old scion of a wealthy Detroit family, Joy had investment capital of his own, connections to other willing investors and a fascination with the commercial possibilities of the automobile.

He first encountered Packard and his automobiles at the 1902 New York Auto Show, and the two men developed an immediate rapport.

Later that year, with the blessings of the founders, Joy and his backers acquired a controlling interest in the company, which was renamed the Packard Motor Car Co.

With the ink scarcely dry on the deal, Joy commissioned Albert Kahn to design a brand-new factory on East Grand Boulevard, establishing Packard as a Motor City entity and coincidentally establishing Kahn as one of America's premier industrial architects.

Pricey prestige

That same year marked the establishment of the Ford Motor Co. But unlike Henry Ford, neither James Packard nor Joy ever entertained any notions of buil

06-29-2006, 07:17 PM
really getting off topic here... years ago, I worked in a screw factory in Cleveland that legend has it was "an old car factory" - it was on Ivanhoe near E. 152nd. It seems plausible as there was the remains of an ancient overhead conveyor that looks like it might have been part of a body drop line. I always wondered if that was the location of the Winton factory, because this place was freaking huge - maybe 10-20% of it was actually used by the screw making operation. I've never been able to find a street address for the old Winton factory, anyone know if my guess was correct, or can tell me what actually was there?


55 Commander Starlight
62 Daytona hardtop

06-29-2006, 08:38 PM
Being born and raised in the Youngdton /Warren Ohio area I found this newa writ up very interesting. The reason being if you talk to anyone in WArren Ohio they will tell you the Packard was made there up into the 40's or 50's. GM/Delphi still have a plant there called for many years Packard Electric which still makes a great deal of the GM wiring componets. When GM bought this plant it was call Packard/GM plant and now Delphi/Packard. The packard family has music halls named after them there and many other buildings. There must have been a tie to this area past the 1903 move to Detroit. Maybe the manufactoring of electrical parts just remained there. O'well thanks for sharing the info as I enjoy learning more about my home town.

06-29-2006, 09:00 PM
Thanks for this post. The writer implies that Studebaker and Packard merged in 1956, or later, but I remember the merger as being in October 1954.

Gary L.
1954 Commander Starliner (restomod)
1959 DeLuxe pickup (restomod)

06-30-2006, 07:27 AM
Thanks for sharing the article. I came into an interest in Packards through back door. I was always fascinated by the 1956 Studebaker Golden Hawk with the big Packard V8. It was the fastest thing on the roads in '56 and one overdrive-equipped car in our area outran the Corvettes and Thunderbirds of that era. As far as most Stude fans are concerned, the '56J was the only really healthy child of that marriage of desperation.

Having said that, a local SDC friend has a gorgeous 1957 Packard station wagon with the supercharged 289 that anyone would be proud to own and drive.

I have been an SDC member since around 1963, but only joined the Packard club a few years back to get more access to Packard V8 parts. Now, the Packards are taking over, as I have six Packard V8s under construction, as well as the five Studebaker V8s.

The "Who Killed Studebaker?" debate is ever-popular with SDC members, but over on the Packard side, it is the same. The writer claims Packard lost its focus on luxury. In truth, going down-market was the move which allowed it to survive as long as it did. Going to the V8 in 1949-51 along with Olds, Cad, Stude and Chrysler would have helped keep up momentum for a while longer. However, the sad truth is the US auto industry consolidation was just a way station on the evolution to oblivion. It is not difficult to project a day when there are no major US auto manufacturers. For example, Chrysler Corporation lasted a few decades longer than Studebaker-Packard, but the result was the same. The Chrysler 300/Dodge Magnum is hugely popular and the auto press labels it, "the return of the big American rear-drive sedan." The company is owned by Germans, manufactures the engine in Mexico, the transmission in Europe and the assembly plant is in Canada.

Whether Studebaker-Packard leadership was incompetent, or wisely got out early to beat the rush, the end result would have been the same.

thnx, jv.


06-30-2006, 03:52 PM
"Studebaker produced a few pathetic badge-engineered cars it called Packards, but by 1958, it was all over."
Thats the only statement I don't agree with in an otherwise fine and interesting article.
While the 57-58 Packardbakers may not have been true Packards, I would hardly call them "pathetic". Just ask any Packard Hawk owner if he thinks his car is pathetic,then duck quick.

06-30-2006, 05:20 PM
Hi, Transtar56,

Agree completely. Its all personal preference, but I would much prefer the Packard Hawk. Much more exclusive and to my personal opinion, better looking than the Stude. The '57 Packard wagon I mentioned is a really nice car and I wouldn't trade it straight across for a '57 Nomad.

thnx, jv


06-30-2006, 06:19 PM
All a matter of opinion, I guess. If we're going to talk about Packard/Studebaker "mutts" I would far prefer a 56J to a Packard Hawk. I guess this is why they make different kinds of cars :)


55 Commander Starlight
62 Daytona hardtop

06-30-2006, 06:58 PM
Hi, Nate,

I was just limiting the discussion to cars badged 'Packard' - if I have to choose one, that is why I have three '56Js and no Packard Hawks.

thnx, jv.