Counting to Twelve: The Packard Twelve and Twin Six

FRONT-WHEEL-DRIVE RACING

Today, it’s almost impossible to visit an automotive forum without reading endless complaints about now-ubiquitous front-wheel drive, but before about 1970, FWD was considered exotic hardware with a decidedly racy image.

As early as 1904, Walter Christie had created a series of four-cylinder, front-drive race cars, one of which set a speed record of 113 mph (188 km/h), a staggering figure for that time. Despite such performance, FWD failed to make much impression on automakers or race builders and the concept lay fallow for more than a decade. In 1923, racing driver Jimmy Murphy commissioned famed race builder Harry Miller to build him a front-drive version of the successful Miller 122 racer. Murphy died in a crash in 1924, before the new car was finished, but Miller completed it anyway. The results were promising enough that he decided to build several more front-drive 122s as well.

1925 Miller 122 front 3q © 2008 Writegeist (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)
Harry Miller built three front-wheel drive Miller 122 cars, powered by a supercharged 121 cu. in. (1,980 cc) straight eight, designed by Miller, Fred Offenhauser, and Leo Goosen. This is the #2 car, which Bennett Hill drove at the 1925 Indianapolis 500. Packard bought it for evaluation purposes in June 1925, then sold it to Stanley Reed in 1927. It was sold at auction in 2007 for $450,000. The 122 was followed by a modest number of front-drive Miller 91 models, powered by a supercharged 91 cu. in. (1,495 cc) straight eight. (Photo: “1925 Miller 122” © 2008 Writegeist; resized and used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license)

The principal appeal of front-wheel drive for race cars was packaging. Because FWD required no propeller shaft, it allowed the driver to sit lower in the body, which in turn allowed the body to be lower, reducing frontal area (and thus aerodynamic drag) and lowering the center of gravity. As a result, the front-drive Millers were faster and cornered better than most rear-drive competitors of comparable power. Some drivers considered the front-wheel-drive cars more predictable and forgiving to boot, although that was not a universally held opinion.

In 1925, the American Automobile Association (AAA) issued a new formula that limited engine displacement to 91.5 cu. in. (1,500 cc). In response, Harry Miller developed the 91 cu. in. (1,495 cc) Miller 91, which was available in both front- and rear-drive versions. A front-drive Miller came in second in the 1925 Indianapolis 500 and similar cars won it outright in 1928 and 1929. Despite an another AAA formula change, Harry Hartz and Billy Arnold won again in 1930 with a modified front-drive Miller 91 powered by a 150 cu. in. (2,463 cc) engine.

The performance of the front-wheel-drive Millers naturally drew great interest from the auto industry. In 1925, Packard bought the second front-drive Miller 122 for evaluation purposes and in 1927, Auburn president Errett Lobban Cord hired Harry Miller and engineer Cornelius Van Ranst to develop a FWD production car, which became the Cord L-29. By 1930, there were also front-wheel-drive cars from Ruxton and Gardner.

1929 Ruxton front 3q © 2008 dave_7 (used with permission)
A prototype of the front-wheel-drive Ruxton. The Ruxton’s FWD chassis was developed by William Muller of Budd with styling by Budd chief engineer Joseph Ledwinka. Wall Street mogul Archie Andrews, a member of the boards of Budd and Hupp, formed New Era Motors to produce the car, which was named Ruxton in a failed attempt to secure funding from broker William Ruxton. The Ruxton was actually produced by two companies, St. Louis, Missouri-based Moon Motor Car Co. and the Kissel Motor Co. of Hartford, Wisconsin. Launched in 1930, only about 500 were built before financial problems torpedoed the entire venture. (Photo: “1929 Ruxton” 2008 © dave_7; used with permission)

In the late twenties, racing driver Tommy Milton became a consultant for Packard. Milton was well acquainted with both the Miller cars and the work of C.W. Van Ranst, who had also built the front-wheel-drive Detroit Special that Milton drove in the 1927 Indy 500. In June 1930, Milton persuaded Alvan Macauley and Jesse Vincent to hire Van Ranst to develop a FWD car for Packard, powered by a brand-new V-12 engine.

THE VAN RANST V-12

Since Cadillac had just announced its Sixteen and Twelve a few months before Packard hired Van Ranst, one might assume the project was intended as a sophisticated new Packard flagship. Macauley, however, had other ideas. While Packard was undoubtedly concerned with the Cadillac V-16, Macauley was also looking hungrily at the LaSalle, Cadillac’s companion make. Introduced in 1927, the LaSalle had sold very well in its first few seasons, providing a welcome boost to Cadillac’s volume. Macauley wanted a new Packard that would sell in the $1,700-$2,000 range, which would undercut the LaSalle and make the new model competitive with the senior Buicks. Since Packard had dropped its last six-cylinder model in 1928, this would mean an all-new car.

1930 Cord L29 Phaeton © 2011 Rex Gray (CC BY 2.0 Generic)
Styled by Al Leamy, the front-wheel-drive Cord L-29 was a dazzlingly styled automobile with a suitably lofty price — a 1930 2/4-passenger cabriolet like this cost $3,295. Unfortunately, it was underpowered and unreliable with poor weight distribution, limited traction, and a penchant for excessive tire wear. Released less than two months before the stock market crash in 1929, it was not a great success; 4,429 were built before production ended in 1932. (Photo: “1930 Cord L29 Phaeton – fvr” © 2011 Rex Gray; used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license)

Van Ranst somehow convinced Macauley and the Packard board that a front-wheel-drive, V-12 car could actually be built for less money than a conventional rear-drive chassis with a small six or eight. It must have a remarkable selling job; Macauley, who was by no means a credulous man, was well aware that Harry Miller charged 50% more for his front-drive racers than for their rear-drive counterparts. Van Ranst argued that using FWD would allow the new model to offer as much interior space as Packard’s standard cars on a shorter, simpler chassis that would — at least in theory — offset the extra cost of the FWD transaxle.

As for the V-12, Van Ranst rationalized it as the best way to provide the displacement and power the car would require in a package compact enough to fit the FWD layout while still offering the smoothness expected of a Packard. The fact that a 12-cylinder engine would also provide an obvious competitive advantage in a field dominated by eight-cylinder rivals probably didn’t hurt either. (Interestingly, Buick was thinking along similar lines. Buick engineers experimented with their own V-12 in 1931, although the division’s financial problems during the early thirties meant that nothing came of the project.)

The prototype, developed by Packard engineers Edward and Frank Storey under Van Ranst’s direction, was exceptionally sophisticated, featuring not only front-wheel drive, but also a De Dion front axle (a beam axle with a fixed differential) and hydraulic brakes, which wouldn’t be offered on standard Packards until 1937. The V-12 itself was a relatively compact, high-revving engine with an unusual 67-degree bank angle — wider than the optimal 60 degrees to allow space for zero-lash valve adjusters. Contrary to the normal practice of the period, the V-12 was nearly ‘square,’ with a bore of 3.38 inches (85.7 mm) and a stroke of 3.5 inches (88.9 mm), giving a displacement of 376 cu. in. (6,157 cc). That was smaller than the straight eight in Packard’s contemporary DeLuxe Eight, but bigger than any contemporary Buick or LaSalle engine.

The new V-12 was impressively smooth and quite powerful, producing 150 hp (112 kW) at 3,600 rpm. By comparison, Packard’s 385 cu. in. (6,306 cc) eight mustered only 106 hp (79 kW), the LaSalle’s 353 cu. in. (5,791 cc) V-8 had 115 hp (86 kW), and the 345 cu. in. (5,649 cc) Buick Series 90 engine boasted a mere 104 hp (78 kW). Proving grounds testing found the V-12 prototype capable of more than 110 mph (176 km/h), very hot stuff for any production car of the early thirties.

1937 Packard V12 engine © 2004 Robert Nichols (used with permission)
The engine from a late-model Packard Twelve. The second-generation Packard V-12 engine changed only in detail during its seven-year life, with most of the changes involving the cooling system and carburetor. In 1935, the V-12’s stroke was increased from 4.0 inches (101.2 mm) to 4.25 inches (108 mm) and all Twelves got aluminum heads. Note the small cylinder bores — production engines had a bore of 3.44 inches (87.3 mm), which, as you can see, was about all the bore spacing would allow. (Photo © 2004 Robert Nichols; used with permission)

The Van Ranst car’s Achilles heel was its four-speed transaxle. This had no relationship to the four-speed gearbox standard Packards had used since the 1929 Sixth Series, which had an extra low gear for steep hills; the FWD transaxle was basically a two-speed gearbox and a two-speed differential in a single case, controlled by a common linkage. Although the transaxle benefited from Van Ranst’s experience at Cord — having designed the L-29, Van Ranst was acutely aware of its shortcomings — the unit proved to be unacceptably fragile in ways not simple or cheap to rectify.

The transaxle problems served to cement Macauley’s growing realization that the FWD car’s original price target had been hopelessly unrealistic. By the spring of 1931, it was clear that to break even, the new model would have to sell in the same price range as the Custom Eight — hardly the cheaper, higher-volume car Packard needed.

1932 Packard Light Eight sedan front 3q © 2006 Stephen Foskett (CC BY-SA 2.5 Generic)
Introduced at the same time as the Twin Six, the Light Eight was the cheaper Packard the FWD V-12 car was originally intended to be. The Light Eight married a new chassis with a 127.8-inch (3,245mm) wheelbase with the 319 cu. in. (5.231 cc) straight eight from the Standard Eight and a rakish “snowplow” grille. A sedan like this had a base price of $1,750, about the same as a Buick Series 90 and some $200 cheaper than a Chrysler Imperial CH. Despite the attractive price, the Light Eight was a commercial flop, although the same concept continued the following year, now called simply Eight and sporting a conventional Packard nose. (Photo: “1932 Packard 900 sedan” © 2006 Stephen Foskett; resized and used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 Generic license)

The Packard board decided enough was enough and authorized the development of a simpler alternative, the Light Eight, with a smaller but still basically conventional rear-drive chassis. Van Ranst’s prototype was eventually shelved and was nearly scrapped in 1935, but it narrowly escaped the crusher and is now in private hands. (It still survives today.)

Although the FWD project was dead, that October, Macauley paid Milton and Van Ranst $10,000 for all rights to the V-12 engine. This was not simply a termination or severance fee; the V-12 had been in most respects the most successful and least troublesome aspect of the FWD project and Macauley saw no reason to discard it when other uses could be found for it.

26 Comments

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  1. Thankyou for including pictures of the motor you have chosen to highlight this week. Now if you could only publish those pictures of all those automatic transmissions you wrote about a few weeks ago.

  2. It is fascinating how determined some folks are to “sell the story” that the Packard Twelve and Super Eight “shared the same chassis”.

    What possible advantage is there to trying to re-structure history, meaning “fake it”?

    First of all, while Packard CALLED the 1937-1939 Packard “senior” eight cylinder cars “Super Eights”, of course they were not; the “REAL” 384 cu. in. motor was discarded in place of the smaller, cheaper, and much less powerful “Standard Eight”.

    To suggest that there wasn’t much performance difference between the standard 320. cu. in “L” head eight, and the 473 “wedge-shaped combustion chamber” Twelve, with its vastly more modern, more sophisticated, and larger “breathing” capability, tells us more about the writer’s objectives, than it does about the two cars.

    In fact, the much more powerful Twelves required heavier brakes, suspension components, and wheels. True, the “seniors” all used the same exterior sheet metal, but underneath were quite different automobiles, with significant performance differences.

    Oh well – i guess if you have to sell used cars, any silly story will do if it gets the iron off the lot….!

    1. The use of the term “chassis” on p. 4 of the story was perhaps misleading; “wheelbase” is more correct, and the text has been amended accordingly. Yes, the Twelve had heavier components to deal with its greater weight and performance — only a small portion of the weight difference between it and the Super Eight was attributable to the engine itself.

      I don’t dispute that the Twelve was significantly more powerful and more sophisticated than the contemporary eights. However, against that greater power was balanced the much greater weights of the Twelve, which according to Packard’s own figures exceeded the Super Eight by 700 lb or more, body for body. If there were figures available for comparable acceleration times and top speeds, I would happily include them here, but the sort of track testing that became ubiquitous later was not yet common at the time, so there are not vast sets of road test figures to consult. However, the power-to-weight ratios are not as different as the power outputs.

      Much of the information on the body and chassis changes to the Twelve came from A. Leslie, Jr., “Cloaking the Ultimate in Conveyances: Twin Six and Twelve Coachwork, The Ninth through the Seventeenth Series 1932-1939,” in Kimes. If you can provide reputable alternate sources, I would be happy to consult them and revise the text as needed.

      The author has no “objective” other than to recount the history of these cars in a reasonably accurate fashion, and is puzzled by the allegation that he would somehow benefit from misrepresenting the facts.

  3. Both the 120 and the Twelve are impressive cars. The problem with preferring one over the other is that, in the end, Packard needed both types of vehicle to survive.

    The 120 was an impressive car in its own right, but it was the “Senior” Packards – especially the custom-body Twelves – that gave it prestige.

    When the 120 debuted, it was a huge success, but a big part of the reason was that upper-middle income people were excited about being able to buy a car with a very prestigious name. That image had been forged by the luxurious, very well built, and superbly engineered, Twelves and Eights.

    Imagine today if Rolls-Royce came out with a very well-made and well-engineered car that cost $50-55,000 and featured the traditional grille and hood ornament. People would be lining up around the block to buy one, even in this rotten economy.

    The problem was that once the Twelves were gone, and the 120 became the company’s bread-and-butter, Packard’s survival depended on selling cars to a different type of customer. Traditional Packard customers were ultra-conservative when it came to new styling and engineering features. The 120 competed against the Buick, and those buyers expected flashy performance and up-to-the-minute styling (not to mention relatively frequent facelifts and body changes).

    Packard wanted to sell lots of medium-price cars, but wanted to do it the old-fashioned way, using approaches to styling and engineering that had worked for the “Senior” cars. That wasn’t going to work anymore, especially during the postwar years, when GM wowed the public with new engines, body styles and styling features.

    An ultra-luxurious, “utlimate” Packard in the vein of the prewar Twelve would have at least reminded people about what the Packard name once meant.

  4. Even if the bar for refinement was lower in 1906, I’d think this would be unacceptably rough. Perhaps it was offset by low rotational speed?

    1. I heard it running, and while it was obviously no Lexus, it didn’t strike me as any rougher than, say, a diesel bus engine. I don’t think its peak speed was more than about 2,000 rpm, so that probably helped, and it was obviously meticulously built.

  5. Just came upon the article. Nicely written and appreciated.

    Curious about a comment made that the actual weight difference between the Twelve and the Super Eight engines were small. My impression (for lack of hard numbers other than gross vehicle weight) is that they were significant and that the Twelve’s upsized chassis components comprised the lesser weight increase. Does anyone know the actual engine weights?

    Really liked the comment about the Rolls-Royce analogy and need for a strong Senior line-up. Points well taken.

    Regarding the argument that Packard customers were conservative when it came to new styling, I think the evidence is murkier. The advertisements of the 20s and 30s extolled the sleek, long and proportionally low bodies. They wouldn’t have done that if Packard’s customers weren’t persuaded. Packard’s Seniors went through a styling evolution from 1924 to 1936 that reflected a strong desire on Macauley’s part to master the automotive form, even if it necessitated an occasional revolution. The 1932 grill was a prime example – very gutsy for its day and understandably requiring Board approval. Where Macauley & Co. seemed to run low on creative gas was in the late 30s when styling had expanded beyond grills, fenders, hoods and ornamentation to include the entire body, particularly the greenhouse. In this respect it was the GM that got out in front with the Cadillac 60 Special and from that point forward Packard seemed to increasingly struggle with design. The evidence is pretty clear that they never elevated it to the same level of corporate importance that GM had until the mid-50s, when it was too late.

    1. I found no figures for the weight of the latter-day V-12, but estimates I’ve heard for the big straight eight generally fall in the 900-1,000 lb range. I could see the V-12 being around 1,200-1,300 lb, but it’s hard to envision it being much heavier than that. The usual estimate for the earlier Cadillac V-16 was around 1,300 lb, and I’d be surprised if Packard’s Twelve weighed vastly more than Cadillac’s Sixteen. (I refer here specifically to the 1930s V-12; I’ve no idea how much the old Twin Six engine weighed.)

      Still, even smaller differences in engine weight can require substantial beefing of mounts, transmission, driveline, cooling system, etc. As a point of comparison, in the late sixties, adding Ford’s big FE engine (390/427) to a Mustang or Fairlane would add something like 300 lb to the curb weight, compared to the small block V8. The Ford 289/302 weighed around 485 lb dry, and I’ve never seen an estimate for the FE that was more than about 650 lb, so only about half the weight penalty was the extra mass of the engine itself.

      As the article sidebar mentions, obviously the younger Macauley had no direct involvement with Packard styling in the late twenties, which was before he joined the company. The real responsibility for that evolution, particularly before about the Ninth Series, lay, by most accounts, with Werner Gubitz, who was able to synthesize both the disparate ideas (Macauley’s and those of Packard’s outside consultants and contractors) and the general trend in unification of form that was taking place in that era.

      There is no doubt that the Sixty Special caught Packard off guard in 1938. In fact, Maurice Hendry’s Cadillac marque history excerpts a letter from someone in the Packard engineering department to George Christopher in 1944 that explicitly acknowledges the Clipper as continuing a trend GM had started. It’s worth noting, however, that the Sixty Special was less a triumph of GM’s corporate foresight and more of the determination of Harley Earl. Both Nick Dreystadt, Cadillac’s general manager, and Don Ahrens, the general sales manager, were exceedingly nervous about the Sixty Special, which they thought would be a little too much for their customer base. Had they put their foot down (as happened with Earl’s initial efforts to push for headlights integrated into the fenders), it might very well not have happened at all. Earl did not become a corporate vice president until 1940, so before that, he didn’t have a lot of real authority within the corporation, other than his personal charisma and his relationship with Alfred Sloan. I would call the Sixty Special a very near thing, and without it (or if it had been the abject flop Don Ahrens feared) the story might have been quite different.

      I suspect the failure of the Light Eight had less to do with aesthetics than with brand image. The point of an entry-level car (even one in the $1,900 range, which was hardly inexpensive) is to reach aspirational buyers who can’t afford the senior models; the point is defeated if the entry-level model doesn’t look very much like the senior cars. Conversely, the One Twenty and Six succeeded in large part because they DID look like the senior models. The stylistic virtues of those cars was less significant than the fact that Packard still connoted respectability, and the junior cars were still very recognizably Packards.

      If the Light Eight had been a hit, thought, it would have put Packard in a different awkward spot. Trying to have styling ‘trickle up’ from junior to senior cars is a perilous endeavor (witness Virgil Exner’s efforts to apply the themes of the Valiant to the bigger and more expensive Chryslers). In that sense, they would probably have had more luck if they’d positioned the Light Eight as a more expensive style leader, like the Sixty Special or the early Clipper, rather than as an entry-level car.

    2. I’ve lifted both with my engine hoist and it’s a noticable difference to the hydraulics! The 320 and 384 eights (standard and super/deluxe) had aluminum crank cases with bolt on cast iron cylinder blocks while the twin six/twelve of 32-39 was a monoblock casting, all cast iron. It really is a big chunk of metal! Believe it or not the chassis differences weren’t huge from 32-36 at least. 37 abandonded the big eight and moved the 320 to the Super Eight level.

  6. Thanks for the weight info. For an apples-apples vehicle comparison between the 320, 384 and 473, I think it might be most accurate to use something like the 1936 Dietrich Phaeton because the bodies were probably trimmed similarly between the three. Weights are 4990, 5080 and 5480 lbs, respectively, or a 490 lb increase from the 320 to the 473, and a 400 lb increase from the 384 to the 473. If your figures are a good ball-park for actual engine weights (roughly 300 lb increase from the 384 to the 473?) then it seems that the engine weight difference was perhaps more than a small portion of the total weight increase.

    Agree with your comments about the Light Eight and must apologize for being a bit sloppy with my styling comments in that I meant to say Alvin Macauley rather than his son Ed, and the 1932 “Senior” grill rather than the 1932 Light Eight grill. I think it was Alvin who ultimately drove styling in the Twenties, perhaps even into the Thirties. I say this because it was he who actively solicited input from the design community, actively engaged and encouraged Ray Dietrich and took a special interest in his activities, and often had special customs made for his personal use that pushed the design envelop further than the standard production Packard. Plus, it was he who undoubtedly approved each new design. I always point to the 1936 Seniors as a high point in Packard design and suspect that these were Alvin’s vision of near perfection. “Near” in that he still had had to offer Touring Sedans with max legroom and still had to keep the body engineers happy, both of which resulted in somewhat mundane greenhouses.

    Alfred Sloan was just as involved in GM styling as Alvin was at Packard. It was he who hired Earl, set him up with Art & Color and provided high level support for his major product undertakings like the 60 Special. Regarding the 60 Special itself, it is hard to say what would have happened to GM had it NOT happened, particularly the fate of the 1940 Torpedo Sedans, but it is clear that GM was pushing hard on design (longer, lower, wider), hard on proportions (close coupled 3–box sedans) and beginning to put distance between itself and the competition by the late Thirties. Though Sloan and Earl were more cautious than Cord and Buehrig, they were also more careful and realistic. They didn’t push for things like front wheel drive get the height down but rather did it by widening the bodies to allow for a pronounced trans/driveshaft tunnel, and in the process provided 3 abreast front seating similar to the Airflow.

    1. Keep in mind, I have no idea what the V-12 actually weighed (and I’m not terribly confident about the straight eight figure, either, in part because it’s unclear which straight eight it might refer to). However, my guess would be that the actual difference in engine weight accounts for half or less than half of the difference, the rest being in engine mounts, etc.

      It was actually spelled [i]Alvan[/i] Macauley, not [i]Alvin[/i]. (I kept making that mistake — I had to go back to correct it in the One Twenty article.)

      The GM conservatism was less a reflection of Earl and more the fact that until Sloan made him a vice president in 1940, his power was somewhat limited. In some circumstances, Sloan backed him up, but in others, Earl didn’t get his way. Fender-integral headlights are a prime example: Earl pushed for them early on, but Bill Knudsen put his foot down, saying it wasn’t practical, so Lincoln beat them to the punch. Earl had a better relationship with some divisional managers than others — Buick’s Harlow Curtice went out of his way to befriend him — and since he was not yet an officer of the corporation, he was dependent on those managers to play ball. Sloan had a voice, certainly, but I don’t think he was as involved as Macauley was at Packard; at Packard, the board and senior officers could be more directly involved in styling and product decisions, which wasn’t really the way GM worked at that point.

  7. Thanks for the clarification on the name. I constantly struggle with the last name let alone the first.

    My guess is the engine is the dominant weight. Suspension and mount weights are not of the same magnitude as an engine. Even a beefier frame forward of the A-pillar would not be of the same magnitude. Alas, I could be totally wrong. Often times am. But on this I would need to see data to believe differently.

    I don’t doubt that GM’s brass put the brakes on Earl many times and his “official” status within the company was not as high as his persuasive status. The thing Earl did was get the big one pushed through, the low 3-box close-coupled torpedo sedan. That was THE big style development of the Thirties and its legacy is with us today. What a difference between GM and Packard in those years. One company very much conscious of style and headed by a guy who went so far as to give a studio demo to the execs on the importance of low height by having his team remove a body from a chassis, cut it up to lower it, then place it back on the chassis. Meanwhile over at East Grand it took someone like Darrin to literally crash a dealer party to wake them up to the importance of style and where the trends were headed.

  8. Correction, the now familiar sedan proportion was one of two big styling developments of the Thirties, the other of course being streamlining.

  9. I was trolling for info and photos of the original “Twin Six” on the internert and linked to this article. Being a habitual visitor to this site, I re-read this article. I may have stated this previously but, the accuracy of your articles is astonishing. I am no expert but when I read many other historys of cars i am maddended by the inacuracys that are so evident. Thank you for your accuracy.

  10. which car overshadowed the packard

    1. Cadillac, mainly.

  11. [i]and it never built another V-12[/i]

    Of course, certainly Packard did build another V-12, though it wasn’t intended for cars, and was produced under license from Rolls Royce.

    1. An excellent point. Packard’s marine engines, used in wartime PT boats, were V-12s, also.

  12. “The challenging task of balancing those themes in a manner palatable to conservative Packard buyers fell to Werner Gubitz, a shy German immigrant who had been Packard’s chief in-house designer since 1937.”

    Is this supposed to be 1927?

    1. Oops, you’re quite right. Also, “principal in-house designer” would be more accurate; initially, Packard had only a couple of designers and I don’t know that any of them had much in the way of formal titles.

  13. I enjoyed reading your site on the 1917 Packard. I was interested in it because my grandfather not only built the “twin 6” engines in Elizabeth, N.J, he also flew them in WWI, in his DH-4. He worked for liberty aircraft in 1917.

  14. Packard never had a ‘V-12’.
    Packard had a Twin-Six and a Twelve.
    I would be very interested to see any Packard literature refer to its engines as ‘V-12’. I know there was none in 1937.
    Also, the noted authors, Beverly Rae Kimes and Robert Turnquist never used the term ‘V-12’ in their books.
    It should also be noted that Packard built the Merlin engine under license from Rolls Royce for the P-51 and Lancaster bombers. Packard Merlins had refinements that created more horsepower.

    1. The text draws what I think is a reasonably clear distinction between model designations or trade names — in which case you’re correct — and technical description. Cadillac, too, described its 12-cylinder model as “Twelves,” but that engine was nonetheless a V-12, as was Packard’s.

      There are cases in which it’s reasonable to observe certain fine points of technical distinction (not all horizontally opposed engines are “boxers,” for example), but how exactly would you generically describe a 12-cylinder engine with two banks of six cylinders each arranged in a vee angle of less than 180 degrees on a common crankcase if *not* as a V-12?

      The Merlin was of course a very significant aircraft engine, although its history and development is beyond the scope of Ate Up With Motor.

      1. Without the Merlin, Germany would have won the war in Europe.
        Fortunes were expended prior to Rolls-Royce involvement. RR have the right to “own” the V12 over any others. Full throttle, full load until destruction, revise, repeat. etc.
        I suggest that you open a chapter on Military direction & funding that was “ate up”, by motor Coys.
        Example- Cadillac’s 135 degree V inherently would have provided massive torque from idle.
        Easier to marinise too. Low CG. Am sure there is a dual purpose story there.

        Thank you for a wonderful site.

        1. The Merlin of course was a fine engine, but the challenges involved in production car engines and aircraft engines are quite a bit different and the lessons that apply to one application have very little to do with the other. For instance, passenger car engine doesn’t have to worry much about disturbed airflow in high-alpha maneuvers or inverted flight, but aircraft engines don’t have to contend with wildly varying throttle settings and loads from off-idle speeds, which presents an enormous challenge for passenger car engines. Cooling requirements are also wildly different. So, it’s really very much apples and oranges.

  15. After reading some of these comments, I just have to give my own little two cents: in the Summer of 1960 I found a Packard 12 for sale for only $500.00
    It turned out to be one very fast machine!
    I found it to easily outrun the state police in Michigan with one of their big Fords when one tried to stop me for having my younger brothers (kidnapped) to go camping on Labor Day week end 1961 in the U.P.. The freeway hadn’t been built yet, so that trip should have taken 8 hours… I took 4 hours averaging 89 mph! This involved stopping for a refill of 30 gallons of gasoline (not self serve). and a burger for a snack for each of us. I couldn’t tell what speeds we went as the meter only read to 100 and broke right away when I asked dad if we had time for the police when I saw the ‘bubblegum machine light up’.
    Unfortunately I had to give the automobile up to be able to afford to raise a family.
    PS Should have kept the car, would have been better for me.

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