Packard was founded by two brothers, James Ward and William Dowd Packard in the city of Warren Ohio. They strongly believed that they could build a better automobile then the current models on display. They also had ideas on how to improve on the designs of current automobiles. By 1899, both brothers were building and designing vehicles in their native Warren, Ohio. The company was originally called the Ohio Automobile Company, and quickly began introducing various innovations in its designs that included the modern steering wheel, and the first production 12-cylinder engine.
While Henry Ford was producing vehicles that sold for $440, the Packard's instead concentrated on more upscale cars that started at $2,600. Their automobile developed a following and reputation not only in the U.S., but also abroad. The Packard's built vehicles that were consistently considered the elite in luxury automobiles. The company was commonly referred to as being one of the three 'P's' of American Motor Royalty; along with Pierce-Arrow of Buffalo, NY, Peerless of Cleveland, Ohio. On October 2, 1902, the Ohio Automobile Company became Packard Motor Car Company. The automobile operation soon moved to Detroit. Production was quickly placed ahead of General Motors Cadillac automobiles.
By 1925, Packard was considered the indisputable leader in the field of prestige automobiles. The exclusive Senior Eights were the Packard models that signified a prestige that went back to 1923. It was these models that were so successful through 1929 that the profit that they generated was almost enough to weather the Great Depression, and later finance the development of the 1935 One Twenty.
It was the Junior automobiles that supported the Seniors to World War II and beyond.
The Eight was the premier model, with only one notch below belonging to the much sought after Six, between 1923 and 1928. The lines were once again upgraded in 1928.
With a muscular, yet silky 385 CID power-plant, a new Custom Deluxe Eight was added at the top. At the same time the Six was replaced by the Standard Eight and was named so like the Custom Deluxe through 1932. As the most inexpensive model in the line, the Standard still came with the same quality, and assurance of excellence as the other models in the line, it just happened to be sold at the cost of $4,100, and the equivalent of 10 Model A Fords.
Introduced on August 1, 1928, the Packard Model 645 also fell under the designation of the Custom Eight line, or the Deluxe Eight series on September 8, 1928. Around 2,061 units of the Packard 645 were produced, and were easily identified by the Round-Back Headlamps that replaced the earlier drum-type. These models also came with a larger eight cylinder engine and a temperature gauge on the dash. The horsepower was at an increased 109, with the addition of the bore, L-head, in-line eight, and cast en bloc. Mechanical brakes were placed on all wheels, and the 645 came with 3-speed transmission.
The coachwork was done by Dietrich, and the design is consistently considered both desirable and beautiful. Offered in an astounding 21 body styles, the 8-cylinder was designated the 645 for 1929.
In one model year, an amazing 43,130 Standards were sold, plus another 11,930 Custom/Deluxe and Speedster models. High demands and waiting lists began the 1929 model year, but unfortunately due to the economic crisis, the sales tailed off to approximately 35,000 units for the year. The depression of the 1930's hurt Packard, and by 1934 their production dropped from more 50,000 in 1928 to below 7,000 units per year. As the depth of the Depression intensified, there was a curious delayed reaction for Packard, as they still managed to sell approximately 18,000 units as late as 1931. For 1933-34, the Standard Eight became the Eight, and the Custom/Deluxe series became the Super Eight. Meanwhile, fine car sales along with the rest of the Industry continued to plunge, reaching the horrifying bottom of 7,040 units in 1934.By Jessica Donaldson