On another thread, an early photo and 1907 article of an after-market modified model N Ford was shown. According to the article, the Ford was lengthened fifteen inches with modifications to the suspension in order to make it drive better. Rob H made a comment about it maybe being the "first speedster?" I made a comment about the beginning of Packard. Rob then asked if I would elaborate using another thread (to avoid further thread drift).
First, a short overview of early development.
Before 1890, early experimentation had been going on for well over a hundred years (already). Most of that work was with steam power, and a lot of electric power in the more recent two decades. Benz built the first basically practical internal combustion automobile in 1886, with Gotlieb Diamler (unknowingly) following mere months behind, still in 1886. By 1890, there were several different manufacturing companies scattered around Europe and Great Britain. These were comprised of companies licensed by Benz, or Diamler, and other independents working on their own ideas. The USA lagged behind a bit.
Historians generally agree, that the first "manufactured" USA built gasoline automobiles were by the Duryea brothers, Charles and Frank, in 1896. There were, arguably, a few electrics before that.
There were also a few other gasoline powered automobile manufacturers in the USA that tried for many years to make the claim that they were the first. Most notably, these included the Apperson Brothers, and Elwood P. Haynes (who started out independent of each other, but later merged into Haynes Apperson), and a fellow named Alexander Winton. Alexander Winton may be best remembered as the man Henry Ford beat in a few famous races on his way to building the model T. But before Henry Ford became known throughout the land, Winton was building and selling about a hundred automobiles. He was one of the largest producers of gasoline powered cars in the world. He was winning more races than anyone else on this continent. He was driven, powerful, and maybe a bit difficult to work with, all before Henry Ford became known for those traits.
About 1898, Winton sold that fateful car. The man that bought that car was James Ward Packard. He was already a very successful businessman. Not being satisfied with his Winton automobile, he set out to improve it. Sources differ on the exact chain of events. However, it is generally accepted that Packard went to Winton with some of his improvements, and Winton was not pleased. He basically told Packard that the Winton automobile was the best thing on the market at that time and that if Packard thought he could do better, then he should build automobiles himself. Almost 50 Packard automobiles were built in 1900. Hundreds, then thousands, and many thousands of quality automobiles followed under the Packard name well into the 1950s. Packard, along with Peerless and Pierce Arrow, was one of the "three Ps", each known as among the best cars built in the world. Winton built a small fraction of that number, and struggled to survive as a marque, ending in 1924.
All from one man's desire to "improve" his standard production new car. Applying the term loosely here, speedsters go back pretty near the beginning of production automobiles.
Drive carefully, and enjoy, W2
And thank you Rob!
I saw an 1890s Packard pump organ in an antique shop several years ago. The shop was closing and its price was $250. It was 100 miles from home, and we had no room for it in our house, but I bet a Packard collector would have paid a premium for it.
A friend of mine in Long Beach once had a Packard piano.
I own a wool tweed suit from the 50's that is a Packard brand and there was a brand of jukebox called a Packard Pla-Mor.
I think the name Packard, like Cadillac, was used on multitudes of products to imply quality. I'm not sure if the organ/piano brand was related to the auto.
I know the suit and the jukebox sure-as-hell weren't.
Wayne - That's a nice, concise thread on the car developments through that time period.
Thank you for writing and posting it.
Packard was in Ohio and was the manufacture of insulated wire. Later on made much of the automobile high tension wire. After the success of the early Packard autos, the auto company moved to Detroit. A hugh plant was built of which the buildings are still standing, but in poor condition. The whole lot, except for a small portion, was sold for very little to a developer.
In 1998 my wife ad I attended the 100th anniversary of the 1st Packard car. We spent 3 weeks there helping to get the event ready. We had the excitement and privilege of unloading the very 1st Packard manufactured.
When we unloaded it looking over the car carefully,I noted a couple of interesting facts. First, the ignition switch was a simple house hold old fashioned 2 button light switch. Secondly this was the 1st car built with a 3 speed selective gear transmission, There was a regular "H" pattern shift gate. We were allowed to start and drive the car for photos and a TV program. Ed Herman from the Discovery channel was taped driving the car along the road.
This car has been on display for nearly 100 years at a college Mr Packard donated to. It was interesting to actually get it started and driving. After adding water, gas and a battery, we cranked it a few times and it fired up with a large cloud of smoke. Soon it settled down and ran quite well. This car has never been restored and it totally original with the exception of a new set of tires installed in the 1950's the last time it was out and running.
From that original car Packard was always a real selective gear transmission car, far and ahead of all the others with a 2 speed planetary transmission.
When Packard was going down the tubes in 1956 the Curtiss-Wright Corporation was hired to liquidate the company, and set out to destroy all the records. Loyal employees who had been with Packard for years stole everything they could, and saved all the company documents and photos that still exist. I don't know how much was lost.
Wayne, thank you for the "Packard story." Very informative and always good to learn about the cars that shaped the U.S. auto industry. Good input too, especially BCG's additional info.
Henry Ford had a running feud with Packard (competing with the K) similar to the media competitions with Maxwell and REO vs. the Model N. I'll try to find it and add later.
Thank you for posting,
I've often wondered why, having invented the three-speed sliding gear transmission, Packard reverted to a progressive shift for their most famous brass era designs, the Model 30 and the Model 18.
Wayne, I hope you don't mind this long addition to your thread. I tried to cut down the article but thought it interesting enough to post intact.
In December of 1906 Henry Ford and Packard's sales manager S. D. Waldon had an ongoing media battle over the virtues of four vs. six cylinder engine. Ironically, I think Packard models 30 and 18 would be the company's last four cylinder cars, and Ford wouldn't build another six until the end of the thirties:
At the end of this (lengthy) article, Henry Ford challenges Packard to a competition, between the leading four (Packard) and six cylinder (Ford) makers:
Rob, Of course! Any and all constructive contributions are welcome! (Even a few snide remarks would be enjoyed) That is what these discussion threads are for, so we can all contribute and all learn more.
Thank you Ralph and Mike S, I think I remember seeing a Packard musical organ once also. But I was not sure, and have no idea if there is any relation. We had Packard-Bell televisions when I was young. Again, I don't know if there is any relationship. (Something more to look up when I get a few minutes).
Thank you Darel L, It still amazes me how much I have been told "as fact" over the years turns out to be not quite true under the light of better research. I had been told many years ago that Packard Wire was only distantly related to the Packard automobile. Last night I spent a few minutes on the web to confirm some "things I knew" and found that Packard wire was indeed a separate company, however run by the same James W Packard and his brother (a little more closely related than I had been taught).
Thank you BCG, Thank you for the insights into Packard number one. That sounds like a wonderful experience.
Gilbert F t E, I have also wondered about Packard's use of the three-speed progressive shift transmission. I have ridden in a good friend's 1914 (special history) Packard touring, and noticed it when he shifted gears (a dream of a car to tour in, and just beautiful).
Thank you, Kieth G.
Steve J, I had heard about the "document save" before, but am glad to see it mentioned again.
Thank you Rob for showing the entire article. I had read some of it before, and enjoyed reading the whole thing again.
Drive carefully, and enjoy, W2