Car Show Classic: Surprise Airshow Unicorn…by Packard


I was at the Salem Fly-In at McNary Field this weekend, both to examine the Lacey Lady and to see what else was there. A B-25 named ‘Grumpy’ in RAF colors, A 1937 DC-3, and several single engine birds were giving rides to customers…and an unexpected bonus. A car show.  I perused the usual selection of machinery; Mustangs, Camaros, a Malibu or two. But there was one very special car that no one was really paying attention to. Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you an unrestored 1939 Packard Twelve.


I wasn’t able to locate the owner but they did have this handy little story for the curious.


(cribbed from the ‘Net)  This is a Series 1507. 175 bhp, 473 cu. in. 67-degree V-12 engine, three-speed synchromesh manual transmission, independent front suspension with coil springs, live rear axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs, and four-wheel, vacuum-assisted hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 139″

Ironically, many of the greatest automobiles of the classic era arose from the depths of the Great Depression. The Packard Twelve had few peers and was acknowledged as one of the finest automobiles of its time, and Packard’s relentless and careful refinement ensured that these hand-built “Senior” Packard models continue to rank among the most highly prized and sought-after classics today.


By the 1930s, the Packard Motor Car Company already possessed a wealth of experience with 12-cylinder engines. Their first, the Twin Six of 1916-1923, had become almost synonymous with the genre and was phased out in favor of the simpler and more advanced Single Eight that was introduced in 1924. While the Single Eight set new standards for smoothness and agility during the late 1920s, the rekindled multi-cylinder wars had resumed in earnest by the onset of the 1930s in Detroit. Cadillac introduced both its V-16 in 1930 and its V-12 in 1931, while Auburn, Marmon, Pierce-Arrow and even Franklin had their own 12-cylinder engines in the wings for 1932.


Resurrecting the “Twin Six” name, Packard met this new competitive threat with a completely new engine. A large-displacement V-12 design with a 67-degree cylinder-bank angle, development of this new power unit was the happy by-product of an aborted front-wheel drive development project. As released, the new Twelve initially displaced 445 cubic inches, 20 more than the old Twin Six, while developing 75 percent more power. In 1933, the model name was simplified to “Packard Twelve,” and two years later, engine displacement rose to 473 cubic inches, and output now climbed accordingly to 175 brake horsepower.


Overall, the Packard Twelve was a conservative car with finely tailored lines, elegant appointments, a refined chassis and a whisper-quiet, 12-cylinder engine. All-new bodies introduced for 1935 offered true envelope styling with the body, hood, fenders and running boards incorporated into a smooth design. In addition, increased horsepower and improvements in suspension and steering, along with improved engine mounts, provided ease of operation and dramatically improved passenger comfort.

Even during the height of the Depression, the Packard Twelve sold for approximately $5,000 to $6,000, the cost of at least 10 new popular-priced cars at the time.


I like the subdued Art-Deco chromework.


Dig the political license plate circa 1940. I’m not sure how well Wilkie would have rallied the nation after the events of 1941, but I’ll leave that exercise to writers like Harry Turtledove.


The detailing on the hubcap is exquisite.



I wasn’t able to get into the interior for a decent shot, so I stuck my camera inside the open window and snapped a few photos.


The original paint has held up well.



The V-12 motor with Stromberg carbs.


That’s an imposing looking grill.


Suicide doors are very cool, and look at the condition of the paint around the handles. Did they wear gloves to open the doors?


The Packard Cormorant bows and thanks you for visiting!