Packard Twin Six 2/4-Passenger Coupe Roadster
Nineteen twenty-nine was a banner year for the U.S. auto industry, as total vehicular production exceeded five million units for the first time. “Black Tuesday,” the October 29th stock market crash, didn’t have much effect because it was late in the year. It was well into 1930 before the effects on new car sales were fully felt. Packard, however, had experienced some erosion already, with 1929 sales slipping below 48,000. For 1930, they were barely half that and in 1931 ebbed below 13,000.
With that in mind, Packard’s approach to 1932 appears curious. While a new entry-level car, the Model 900 Light Eight, was introduced, at the top of the spectrum was a real enigma. There, Packard brought out new V-12 cars on two wheelbases, Models 905 and 906, measuring 142.5 and 147.5 inches respectively. Christened “Twin Six,” the only similarity to the earlier 1916-1923 V-12 was the name.
The new car was powered by a 445.5-cubic inch engine, making 160 bhp at 3,200 rpm. Designed by Cornelius Van Ranst, whose credits included the Cord L-29, the V-12 was originally intended for a front-wheel drive Packard, a project that proved stillborn. The engine, however, survived, transplanted to the chassis of the Deluxe Eight. A narrow, 67-degree vee, it was of unusual configuration with valves nearly horizontal, actuated by hydraulic tappets. The combustion chamber was partially in the block, giving rise to the description “modified L-head.” A Stromberg dual downdraft carburetor (the first downdraft on a Packard) fed it fuel, which was supplied by a Stewart-Warner pump. The transmission had only three speeds, but by mid-year all Packards would be so equipped. The earlier four-speed gearboxes were not really required in cars that seldom required shifting. Packard claimed a top speed “in excess of 85 mph,” but the Twin Six was reportedly capable of 100 in all body styles, which ranged from plebeian sedans and coupes to “Individual Custom” bodies, six of which were by Dietrich. Each car came with a Certificate of Approval signed by a Packard engineer, attesting to a 250-mile break-in run after which all necessary adjustments had been accomplished.
In retrospect, the introduction of a marquee motor car in the depths of the Depression may seem like sheer lunacy, but there was a certain logic to it. Development of the engine was substantially complete before the crash, and the rest of the car was based on the Deluxe Eight, so there was little additional cash outlay required. Moreover, multi-cylinder cars were plenteous in the marketplace, as Cadillac had introduced V-12 and V-16 cars in 1930, and archrival Pierce-Arrow had a twelve in the works for 1932, as did Lincoln. Struggling Marmon, moreover, had staked its fortunes on a V-16 in 1931, which would prove its undoing. Not to have fielded the Twin Six would have put Packard at a severe disadvantage with those who could still afford a luxury car and didn’t mind flaunting it. Ostensibly, the profit margin on such a car could well justify its manufacture, but prices, body for body, were only $100 to $150 above those of the Deluxe Eight. In that respect, the Twin Six was a real bargain. Too much of a bargain, it turned out, for when sales proved to be mediocre – only 311 of the 905s and 238 906s were built in the model year – prices were raised by $500 across the board.
This car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in January of 2011 at the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa, Phoenix, Arizona.
160 bhp, 445.5 cu. in. modified L-head V-12 engine with double downdraft Stromberg carburetors, three-speed manual transmission, solid front axle and live rear axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs, and four-wheel servo-assisted mechanical drum brakes. Wheelbase: 142.5 ".
Source: RM Auctions
Photo Credit: Copyright Darin Schnabel