Long gone but hardly forgotten: Packard Motor Company

In the history of American car making, many great name plates have graced the roads only to meet a bitter end. Some nameplates stuck it out for nearly a century before closing up shop, while others barely hit the streets before calling it quits. One bygone company that made a lasting mark on the industry even to this day is Packard Motor Company.

As an early American nameplate, Packard was famous for designing a monster V12 and classic pre-war designs, and the company was equally renowned for its founders’ signature taste for one-upmanship.

James Packard was driving one of the first horseless carriages produced by Winton, another defunct engine maker, when it died on his 60-mile drive from Winton’s Cleveland factory to Packard’s home in Warren, Ohio. Packard, originally in the business of lamp making, took his story to Alexander Winton and offered a constructive critique of Winton’s carriage. Not one to be scolded, Winton challenged Packard to build a better automobile. Following the scuffle, Winton went on to be just a footnote in the vast history of American auto builders, while Packard would enjoy success creating popular cars for nearly 60 years.

At its peak, Packard produced the premier premium rides on the road, and even helped the war effort by contributing the famous Liberty aircraft engine to the U.S. armed forces during World War I. The 1942 Super-8 One Eighty model currently demands some of the highest prices at auction, while the 1941-47 Clipper, designed by legendary stylist Dutch Darren, is also highly sought after.

By 1956, however, the classic Packard look was no longer classic so much as dated, prompting the company to pack up shop. Because of Packard’s high standards of quality, it is not uncommon to see these cars in pristine condition at car shows throughout the country.