Counting to Twelve: The Packard Twelve and Twin Six

THE NEW PACKARD TWIN SIX

If the V-12 would have been an unlikely Buick-fighter, it had more obvious potential as Packard’s belated answer to the multicylinder Cadillacs and the new Marmon Sixteen, which had gone into production in April 1931. At the New York Auto Show in January 1932, Packard showed off a preproduction prototype of a new Twin Six — essentially a DeLuxe Eight with the new V-12 under the hood.

The decision to sell the V-12 as a flagship came rather late in the game, after Packard’s Ninth Series (1932) cars had already gone into production. As a result, there was no time to develop a new chassis or body. Since the DeLuxe Eight was a good deal larger and heavier than the smaller FWD car for which the V-12 had been designed, the engine’s cylinder bore was expanded from 3.38 to 3.44 inches (85.7 to 87.3 mm), the maximum the bore spacing would permit, and the stroke was increased from 3.5 to 4.0 inches (101.6 to 108 mm), bringing displacement to 446 cu. in. (7,300 cc). The greater displacement provided considerably more torque, now 322 lb-ft (437 N-m), but only 10 hp (7.5 kW) more, bringing rated output to 160 hp (119 kW).

One troublesome aspect of the last-minute chassis switch was cooling capacity. Ideally, the Twin Six should have had a bigger radiator than the DeLuxe Eight, but there was no room in the chassis and no time to modify the chassis to make room. As a stopgap, Packard engineers gave the existing radiator a thicker core and added a coolant expansion tank — a novelty for that era.

1933 Packard Twelve 1005 engine © 2006 Dan Weisshaar (used with permission)
The Packard V-12 engine, seen here in a Tenth Series (1933) Packard Twelve Coupe Roadster. Unlike the original prototype, which had zero-lash valve adjusters and dual distributors, the production engine had a single Auto-Lite distributor and Cadillac-style hydraulic lifters, used under license from GM. For 1933, the V-12 got various cooling system improvements, a new Bendix-Stromberg EE-3 carburetor with an automatic choke, and a new cam and lifters that provided a slightly improvement in power. (Photo: “CIM0118” © 2006 Dan Weisshaar; used with permission)

While some Ninth Series cars still used the four-speed transmission, the Twin Six had the new three-speed unit Packard was gradually phasing in on all models. The three-speed was actually more useful than the four-speed, whose gearing was far from ideal (it had two low gears, one too short, the other too tall) and which had lacked the new transmission’s second- and third-gear Synchro-Mesh, licensed from General Motors.

Also standard on Twin Sixes was Packard’s “Finger Control Free-Wheeling,” a vacuum-operated clutch that automatically disengaged whenever the accelerator pedal was released, reengaging when the throttle was depressed. Intended to ease the pains of manual shifting, the automatic clutch (which could be disabled via a dashboard button) was more quirky than useful and lent an ominous runaway-train sensation to the descent of steep hills. Since Packard owners in those days tended to be chauffeured anyway, the device’s appeal was limited, particularly since the vacuum mechanism wasn’t always reliable. It reverted to optional status with the Tenth Series in 1933 and disappeared after that.

The production Twin Sixes were not the performers the prototype was, although they were speedy enough. With the optional high-speed axle (4.07:1), the lighter open cars could just barely crack the 100 mph (161 km/h) mark, although heavier closed bodies with the standard 4.41 and 4.69 axles were naturally slower. Fuel economy averaged around 9 mpg (26 L/100 km), about what you’d expect with curb weights approaching three tons.

Considered as a car, the Twin Six was superb: quick, refined, solid, and relatively easy to drive despite its ample bulk. Considered as a Packard, it exemplified the breed — classy, superbly built, and impeccably detailed. As a piece of sheer showmanship, however, it fell a little short. Although the Twin Six was about as fast as Cadillac’s Sixteen, which had both similar power (165 hp/123 kW) and comparable displacement (452 cu. in./7,413 cc), the Packard V-12 couldn’t quite match the V-16’s sense of awe. The short-lived Marmon Sixteen, meanwhile, trumped both Cadillac and Packard in power and sophistication. Marmon’s 491 cu. in. (8,044 cc) V-16 had overhead valves, an aluminum block and heads, and an impressive 200 gross horsepower (149 kW). That the Twin Six was a very fine automobile was undeniable, but it could only be considered the ne plus ultra in a narrow, conservative sense.

1931 Cadillac Sixteen Special Phaeton side
The Packard Twin Six’s intended prey: the extravagant Cadillac Sixteen. This is a 1931 Sixteen, a Fleetwood 4260 Special Phaeton with a second cowl and crank-up windshield for the rear seats; only 84 were built out of 3,250 Sixteens built in 1930-1931. The Cadillac V-16 was 453 cu. in. (7,413 cc) with 165 hp (123 kW); Cadillac’s V-12, offered concurrently, was 368 cu. in. (6,033 cc) with 135 hp (101 kW).

PROSPERITY AROUND THE CORNER

Although the new Packard Twin Six was announced in January 1932, the first cars weren’t delivered to customers until April. The Twin Six was available in 12 standard body styles and nine “Individual Custom” models, four of which were built in-house, the other five assembled by the coachbuilder Dietrich, Inc. Prices ranged from $3,650 for a Model 905 coupe to just under $8,000 for the most expensive All-Weather Town Car Landaulet. The standard-bodied cars were priced competitively with the Cadillac Twelve; the Individual Customs were more expensive than any catalogued Cadillac Sixteen.

If the new V-12 had appeared before the Crash, it would probably have been a great success, but by 1932, the Depression had dealt a crippling blow to the luxury market. Packard lost $2.9 million in 1931 and $6.8 million in 1932. Total sales for the Ninth Series were down to 11,058, less than a quarter of Packard’s 1929 volume. The Twin Six accounted for only 557 of those sales, not helped by a mid-year price increase of $500. Sales of the Individual Customs were particularly disappointing.

1933 Packard Twelve Convertible Victoria front 3q
A Tenth Series (1933) Packard Twelve Convertible Victoria, originally priced at around $4,500. This is a Model 1005, riding the shorter, 142.5-inch (3,620 mm) wheelbase; the 1006’s wheelbase was 147 inches (3,744 mm). The Twelve’s chassis is basically the same as the DeLuxe Eight’s, with solid axles front and rear and vacuum-assisted mechanical brakes. Note the ends of the front bumper — they’re hydraulic stabilizers, oil-filled damping weights designed to reduce wheel shimmy and improve ride quality. The adoption of independent front suspension in 1937 rendered them superfluous, but they were used on senior cars from 1930 to 1936.

Fearing that the Twin Six name might confuse customers as to the car’s actual cylinder count, Packard decided to rename it “Twelve” with the Tenth Series, which was introduced in January 1933. There were various revisions to the new models, including a new frame, a new Gemmer worm-and-roller steering box, and a one-piece driveshaft. Closed-body Twelves now had a new, taller radiator, although the open cars, most of which were built using leftover Ninth-Series bodies, had the smaller radiator; the taller radiator became standard on the Eleventh Series. In a bid to improve sales of the 12-cylinder cars, the Individual Custom bodies — which now included six Dietrich models and two by LeBaron — were now available only on the Twelve, meaning that buyers who wanted a semi-custom car had to spring for the bigger engine.

None of this helped Twelve sales, which were only 520 for the Tenth Series. Cadillac’s multicylinders weren’t doing much better; the Cadillac Twelve accounted for 952 sales in 1933, the Sixteen only 125. Marmon managed only 56 Sixteens for 1933 before closing its doors in May. Despite outgoing President Herbert Hoover’s claims that a return to prosperity was just around the corner, few buyers were able — or willing — to spend so much money on an ostentatious super-luxury car.

1934 Packard Twelve 5-passenger coupe front 3q
An Eleventh Series (1934) Packard Twelve five-passenger coupe with wooden artillery wheels and standard equipment (no side mounts). Fisher Body “No-Draft VentiPlanes,” a feature used under license from GM, were now standard on all closed bodies.

SIDEBAR: A Styling Evolution

We should say a few words here about Packard styling during this period. While Packard had established many of its basic stylistic trademarks well before World War I, until the thirties, the company was largely dependent on outside coachbuilders and designers for styling work. Packard’s in-house design efforts, such as they were, were largely the work of body engineers, although in the twenties, the company set up a small Body Art Department, run by L. Clayton Hill, draftsman Archer Knapp, and later Vincent Kaptur. (Kaptur, who went to GM in 1928, is best known today as the originator of GM’s A-B-C shared body system.)

In 1925, Alvan Macauley contracted with Dietrich Inc., a Detroit-based design firm recently founded by Ray Dietrich (a Brewster veteran who had previously co-founded LeBaron), to design and build a series of semi-custom bodies for sale through Packard dealers. Dietrich also became a Packard consultant, helping to set the direction for Packard’s factory body designs.

At first, the Dietrich Packards were quite a bit different from the standard bodies, but starting with the Sixth Series, introduced in August 1928, most of the factory bodies adopted Dietrich styling cues even if the cars were not badged as such. Some were actually designed by Dietrich while others were the work of former Dietrich designer Werner Gubitz, whom Kaptur had hired in 1927.

For logistical reasons, Packard opted to handle most of the manufacture of the semi-custom cars in-house, leaving only the final assembly and trim to Dietrich. Since the standard cars now looked very Dietrich-like, the semi-customs differed from the regular line only in minor styling and trim details. This undoubtedly simplified things for Dietrich Inc. as well as Packard and the arrangement was extremely lucrative for both parties because Packard charged a very healthy premium — usually more than $1,000 — for the Dietrich-badged version. In that sense, the semi-customs were less like custom bodies and more akin to the pricey “designer editions” later offered by AMC, Lincoln, and others.

1929 Packard Custom Eight Model 640 Runabout front 3q
This Sixth Series (1929) Packard Custom Eight Runabout is a factory body, but it shows the strong influence of Ray Dietrich. “Cat’s eye” headlights were not standard fit, but they were a common accessory in this period — the Ruxton prototype depicted earlier in this article has them as well.

1929 Packard Custom Eight Model 640 Runabout rear 3q
This car has what Packard called Custom Equipment, which meant side mounts, a trunk rack, and a full rear bumper. Note the fold-down windshield for rumble seat passengers and the golf bag door just aft of the front door — almost obligatory for luxury cars of this vintage.

Ray Dietrich’s involvement in this arrangement ended in 1930. Since 1925, Dietrich Inc. had been partly owned by the Murray Corporation of America, an independent coachbuilder that supplied bodies to various automakers. Murray had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 1926 and reorganized in 1927 under new management, including new president Clarence Avery, a former Ford executive with whom Dietrich never saw eye to eye. The same was true of Dietrich and Clayton Hill (now a Murray sales executive), whom Avery installed in 1929 as Dietrich’s new vice president. With the design firm’s business slumping, Dietrich’s clashes with Hill and Avery became more frequent and in September 1930, Avery forced Dietrich to resign from the presidency of the company that bore his name. Ray Dietrich’s last direct contributions to Packard were the 1931 Eighth Series and (probably) the design that became the “Car of the Dome,” a special Dietrich Sport Sedan used as part of Packard’s exhibit at the 1933 Century of Progress Exposition in Chicago.

These machinations did not immediately affect Packard, which still had a contract with Dietrich Inc., but Murray’s subsequent cutbacks meant that Packard would need to look elsewhere for creative direction. While Packard still had Werner Gubitz, Gubitz was really too soft-spoken and introverted to be an effective manager. Therefore, in January 1932, Packard hired its first in-house styling director: Alvan Macauley’s son Edward.

Since Ed Macauley had no design experience, his role was primarily managerial, which meant Packard still needed a chief stylist. Ray Dietrich wasn’t interested, annoyed at Macauley’s appointment, but in February 1932, Packard signed a consulting agreement with the well-known freelance designer Count Alexis de Sakhnoffsky. Sakhnoffsky’s time at Packard was limited, but he helped to set the initial stylistic direction for the post-Dietrich era.

1934 Packard Standard Eight phaeton front 3q
This Eleventh Series (1934) Standard Eight phaeton shows off its disparate influences: the beltline accent is a Dietrich touch, the “false hood” over the cowl (intended to make the hood look longer) is Alexis de Sakhnoffsky’s work and the pontoon fenders were inspired by Ed Macauley’s personal car, a modified 1932 Speedster.

By the Eleventh Series, introduced in the late summer of 1933, Packard design was a careful and very tasteful amalgam of Dietrich’s influence, de Sakhnoffsky’s design concepts, and the creative ideas of Ed Macauley. The challenging task of balancing those themes in a manner palatable to conservative Packard buyers fell to Gubitz, who became Packard’s unsung hero during this period; he deserves a fair amount of the credit for Packard styling in the thirties and early forties and was at least partly responsible for the Packard Clipper, described in our article on the Packard of the forties. In 1947, Gubitz took early retirement from Packard — although he was only 48 — and left the auto industry for good. He died in 1971.

1929 Packard DeLuxe Eight Model 645 front 3q
1929 Packard DeLuxe Eight Model 645 Murphy build plate
Despite its array of “Individual Customs” and catalogued semi-custom bodies, some buyers preferred to take their cars to outside coachbuilders. This Sixth Series Packard DeLuxe Eight Model 645 Convertible Sedan was built, or at least customized, by the Walter M. Murphy Co. of Pasadena, California.

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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