1936 Packard Phaeton

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Packard was founded by brothers James Ward Packard , William Doud Packard and his partner George Lewis Weiss in the city of Warren, OH. James Ward believed that they could build a better horseless carriage that the Winton cars owned by Weiss (An important Winton stockholder) and James Ward, himself a mechanical engineer, had some ideas how to improve on the designs of current automobiles. By 1899, they were building vehicles. The company, which they called the Ohio Automobile Company, quickly introduced a number of innovations in its designs, including the modern steering wheel and years later the first production 12-cylinder engine.

While Ford was producing cars that sold for $440, the Packards concentrated on more upscale cars that started at $2,600. Packard automobiles developed a following not only in the United States, but also abroad, with many heads of state owning them.

In need of more capital, the Packard brothers would find it when Henry Joy, a member of one of Detroit's oldest and wealthiest families, bought a Packard. Impressed by its reliability, he visited the Packards and soon enlisted a group of investors that included his brother-in-law, Truman Newberry. In 1902, Ohio Automobile Company became Packard Motor Car Company, with James as president. Packard moved its automobile operation to Detroit soon after and Joy became general manager and later chairman of the board. The Packard's factory on East Grand Boulevard in Detroit was designed by Albert Kahn, and included the first use of reinforced concrete for industrial construction in Detroit. When opened in 1903, it was considered the most modern automobile manufacturing facility in the world and its skilled craftsmen practiced over eighty trades.The 3.5 million ft2 (325,000 m²) plant covered over 35 acres (142,000 m²) and straddled East Grand Boulevard. It was later subdivided by eighty-seven different companies. Kahn also designed The Pacakrd Proving Grounds at Utica, MI.

Throughout the nineteen-tens and twenties, Packard built vehicles consistently were among the elite in luxury automobiles. The company was commonly referred to as being one of the "Three P's" of American motordom royalty, along with Pierce and Peerless. Packard's leadership of the luxury car field was supreme.

Entering into the 1930s Packard attempted to beat the stock market crash and subsequent depression by manufacturing ever more opulent and expensive cars than it had prior to October 1929. The Packard Twin Six was introduced for 1932, and re-named the Packard Twelve for the remainder of its run (through 1939). For one year only, 1932, Packard tried fielding an upper-medium-priced car called the Light Eight. As an independent automaker, Packard did not have the luxury of a larger corporate structure absorbing its losses as Cadillac did with GM and Lincoln with Ford. However, Packard did have a better cash position than other independent luxury marques. Packard also had one other advantage that some other luxury automakers did not; a single production line. By maintaining a single line, and inter-changeability between models, Packard was able to keep its costs down. Packard did not change cars as often as other manufacturers did at the time. Rather than introducing new models annually, Packard began using its own "Series" formula for differentiating its model change-overs in 1923. New model series did not debut on a strictly annual basis, with some series lasting nearly two years, and others lasting as short a time as seven months. In the long run, though, Packard did average approximately one new series per year. By 1930, Packard automobiles were considered part of the "Seventh Series". By 1942, Packard was in its "Twentieth Series". There never was a "Thirteenth Series".

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