Skip to main content
About PackardJames Ward Packard founded his car company out of dissatisfaction with his Winton horseless carriage. When Packard took his complaints and suggestions to Alexander Winton himself, Winton reportedly took offense. If Packard thought he could build a better car, he would have to do it himself. And that's what he did.
Packard's first prototype was completed in 1899, and four additional Model As were built that year. 49 Model Bs were completed in 1900, and William D. Rockefeller bought two. The spade handle steering lever was replaced with a steering wheel for 1901's Model C. The Ohio Automobile Company changed its name to Packard in October of 1902. A Model F drove from San Francisco to New York in 61 days in 1903, to significant media attention.
Leading up to the release... View more the Model Thirty, introduced in 1906, and the Model Eighteen, arriving in 1907, Packard had built a total of about 1,700 cars. The Thirty and Eighteen did very well, with 11,818 models sold. The world's first production 12-cylinder car, the Twin Six, arrived in 1915, and remained in production until 1923.
Packard was called one of the "Three Ps of Autodom", with Peerless and Pierce-Arrow being the other two. Heading into the 1920s, the company's status as a premier luxury automaker was undisputed.
But the stock market crash and financial chaos of the 1930s heralded Packard's coming fall. The last Peerless rolled off the assembly line in 1931, and Pierce-Arrow would be gone by 1938. In order to survive, Packard introduced the medium-priced One Twenty in 1935.
While the One Twenty was an immediate commercial success, selling nearly 25,000 units its first year (compared to 7,000 for all other Packards), it nonetheless represented the first crack in the brand's exclusive image. The 6-cyl 115C debuted in 1937.
The company built airplane engines during World War II and was financially healthy by the time automotive production resumed in 1946. As was the case for the rest of the industry, the first post-war models picked up where things had been left off, starting with an updated version of the 1942 Clipper. 1946 was a good year for everyone, including Packard, but the Big Three seized on Americans' thirst for the new and bold, and were quickly releasing newly styled cars that made the Clipper seem old-fashioned. The Clipper itself further diluted the prestige of the high-end Packard Eight, with whom it shared most of its visual styling.
Essentially ceding the luxury segment to Cadillac by 1950, mid-market Packards were still well-built, quality machines and did well. In order to expand technology and production, Packard purchased Studebaker in 1954. But, apparently unaware of that Stude's own financial precariousness, Packard was essentially hanging an anchor around its own neck.
For 1957 and 1958, Studebaker Presidents and Golden Hawks were rebadged as Packard Clippers and Hawks, respectively, garnering the unaffectionate nickname "Packardbakers."
The Packard name was gone by the early 1960s. Today, enthusiasts view the company history as emblematic of a shift in the values held by Americans, who now eschew any notion of timeless style and quality in favor of novelty and flash. View less
Other Packard Models