Looking back at the early Packards

Packards versatility shown throughout the years in photos
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Auto historians and collectors expect to see stately Packards on concours fields, shows, tours and auctions, but to point out the versatility of Packards, one must dig deeper. With a distinguished history of car manufacturing from 1899 up to the marque’s conclusion for model year 1958, let’s span a good many of those years with some visual enticements.

Showing women enjoying a ride in a 1903 Packard was pure gold for promotional purposes.

Showing women enjoying a ride in a 1903 Packard was pure gold for promotional purposes.

Women were early in Packard picture

Packards weren’t just for men. In 1903, the company proudly showed not one woman but five in a 1903 model. Some collectors may not recognize the car as a Packard since the venerably distinguishable ox-yoke radiator did not appear until 1904. But, truth be told, Packard’s one-cylinder models designated as A, B and C versions offered a fine cut above the sales banter and road worthy performance of contemporaries from inception through 1903. The first two Packard models were steered by tiller. The C offered a steering wheel, thus setting an early standard in the industry.

Showing a car full of fashionably dressed ladies in a one-cylinder Model C Packard proved several points. First, the Packard was able to be operated by a woman, implying that the prepping for operation and the cranking to start were handily done by feminine hands. Second, that driving was ably handled by the same. Third, Packards were not prone to breakdowns. Fourth, that these ladies — regardless of their ages — were affordably in modern step with their times by taking to the streets in a mechanical conveyance rather than a horse-drawn buggy. And fifth, that there was plenty of room, even for the fashionably well dressed. Notice, however, that the front seat passenger is seated at a somewhat uncomfortable angle for the photographer to augment the spaciousness for driver and passenger, a trick of the photographic trade that bode well for advertisements. Still, the picture conveyed a womanly pride of operation that most lesser cars of the era did not advantageously promote. Interestingly, early literature often talked of passengers riding on a car rather than in it since it was so open with few safety restraints.

Production of the Model C was under 100 for its time, yet this was quite an achievement, even at that. The Model C’s engine had a displacement of nearly 184 cubic inches with 9 braking horsepower and a wheelbase of 76 in.

Chances are good that whenever milady or the mister drove their Packard, they made certain in those early days of motoring that mechanical help was a short distance away — unless they had a driver, and he was capably willing to “get out and get under” to bring renewed life to the vehicle, when necessary.

Packard trucks seem as rare as prehistoric relics and are equally as compelling for collectors

Packard trucks seem as rare as prehistoric relics and are equally as compelling for collectors

Picture a Packard truck

The rise of personalized passenger conveyance in a motorcar neatly coincided with the need to have vehicles that transported goods. Hence, trucking was advanced. Packard, like other competitors, seemingly experimented with the conversion of cars into small trucks for factory usage, then rolled this concept out to the broader business public.

Once again, the use of Packard trucks implied reliability in service to the buyer. No one wished to base the survival of their business on a truck that would break down or that was dangerous to handle. Packard scored well in the production of trucks until the idea bowed farewell for 1923 in favor of solely producing passenger cars. What is rare today and even uncommon for the period back then was the multiplicity of special bodies used on Packard trucks. Some were made in very small batches. Others were one-of-a-kind. Therefore, those that survive or remain in depictions are scarce pieces of that nearly lost puzzle of Packard production. As shown here, most of the truck bodies offered little solid protection against the blast of wintry weather.

1915 Packard 2-ton truck

1915 Packard 2-ton truck

Recent Packard collectors take pride in ownership. They own more than a car. They are conveyors of an illustrious past put forth by a once-noble car company that dominated the luxury car field for most of its decades-long existence. So picture this in your mind: Some years ago, the memorable Packard factory in Detroit allowed its inner reaches to display Packards when a national Packard car meet came calling. By special arrangement, those plans were set years after the Packard facilities no longer were operated. Being an industrial wonder in its day for the massive use of steel-reinforced concrete construction, the facility seemed to be a proper setting for many Packards made prior to 1957, when the plant was still churning out new cars.

Packards on display at the Packard factory.

Packards on display at the Packard factory.

Pictures of Packards from long ago still send a message that the brand is not forgotten for all the glory it promoted and implied. Simply stated, ask any person who owns one now or in the gloried past.

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