Packard Twelve Coupe Roadster

It has long been regarded as ironic that the greatest creations of the classic era came during the depths of the recession. Although the company was in excellent financial health, Packard was deeply concerned about the devastating effect of the Depression on sales in the fine car segment. Packard’s response was to redouble its efforts, meeting the threat from Cadillac and Lincoln head on with the new Twin Six and a range of spectacular custom bodies.

One of the most respected designers of the classic era, Ray Dietrich was also one of the most influential. After stints at Brewster and LeBaron, he formed Dietrich, Inc., where his smart and elegant designs attracted the attention of Packard management, and as a result, Packard became one of Dietrich’s best customers. Lacking an in-house styling department, Packard incorporated Dietrich design cues in its production cars, and in fact, after 1933, all open Packards carried Dietrich body tags.

Packard’s Twelve was, in many ways, the signature car of the classic era; it was the top-of-the-line offering from America’s leading manufacturer of fine cars. It was the Brooks Brothers suit of the time: a conservative car with finely tailored lines, elegant appointments, a refined chassis and a whisper-quiet, twelve cylinder engine.

In a sense, Packard’s Twelve was never meant to be. In fact, the car’s history goes back to the Cord L-29 and the great Miller-engined front drive racecars. Packard’s management was intrigued with the idea of front drive and commissioned the construction of a prototype. A decision was made to develop a twelve-cylinder engine for this new car, as the shorter length of a V12 – compared with Packard’s venerable inline eight – allowed more flexibility in packaging the front drive chassis.

Extensive testing revealed weaknesses in the front drive chassis’s design, and anticipated development costs soared. Meanwhile, Cadillac had ignited the multi-cylinder race with their exquisite new sixteen and twelve cylinder models, and Packard’s dealerships were feeling the pressure.

The solution, born of necessity, created one of the defining models of the classic era: install the new twelve cylinder engine in Packard’s proven Deluxe Eight chassis. The result was christened the Twin Six, in honor of Packard’s first V12, introduced more than 15 years earlier.

160 hp, 445 cu. in. side-valve V12 engine with Stromberg downdraft carburetor featuring automatic cold-start, three-speed synchromesh transmission with reverse, shaft drive with hypoid rear axle and four wheel adjustable vacuum assisted brakes. Wheelbase: 142.5"

Source: RM Auctions
Photo Credit: Copyright Darin Schnabel

Gallery: Packard Twelve Coupe Roadster