The First Five Years

Packard was one of the premier luxury cars in America in the first half of 20th century, it was established by James Packard who felt he could produce better cars than Winton Motor Carriage Company that was the leading car manufacturer in America at that time. James Packer partnered with his brother, William Packard, and another person George Lewis Weiss to establish the company in Warren, Ohio.  400 Packard cars were produced in the factory between 1899 and 1903.

A member of Detroit’s high class and wealthy families, Henry Bourne Joy, bought a Packard and was impressed by how reliable the vehicle was. He visited the owners and soon got a group of investors who renamed and refinanced the New York and Ohio Automobile Company to be Packard Motor Company in 1902. James Packard was made the president. One of the investors, Russel Alger Jr, became the vice president. The company soon moved its operations to Detroit, and Henry Joy became the general manager and subsequently the board chairman. James Packard donated an original Packard which is presumed to be the first to be manufactured to his alma mater, Lehigh University where it is preserved in the Packard Laboratory. Another original Packard is at the Packard Museum in Warren, Ohio where the company started from.

When the company started, its cars had a one-cylinder engine. This changed in 1903. The Packard automobiles featured innovations such as the modern steering wheel and the 12-cylinder engine adapted from the Liberty L-12. The Packard vehicle was also the first passenger car with air conditioning, and between 1915 and 1923, the car manufacturer produced the Twin Six model series which were 12-cylinder cars.

Unlike most of the car manufacturers at that time that focused on producing automobiles for everyone with some producing cars as low as $375 and $500, Packard focused on expensive cars with the minimum starting prices for these cars at about $2,600. This made its cars popular among the rich in the United States and other countries, and it competed with European manufacturers such as Mercedes Benz, Renault, and Rolls Royce.

The Packard plant was located in East Grand Boulevard in Detroit and was designed by the renowned architect, Albert Kahn. The skilled craftsmen at the plant practised more than 80 trades. Today, the dilapidated plant is still standing despite the repeated fires that have razed the facility. The factory is closed to the Detroit/Hamtramck assembly of General Motors which was the site of Dodge vehicle factory between 1910 and 1980. It was also Albert Kahn that designed the Packard Proving Grounds which was constructed by Packard Foundation in Shelby Township, Michigan.