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Experimental Packard Straight Twelve

The Long-Lost Experimental Packard Straight Twelve

In trying to keep ahead of the competition, automobile manufacturers are always working on new designs, and the Packard Motor Car Company in its heyday was one of the leaders in this endless pursuit. Little is known about this experimental straight-twelve other than it appears to have passed out of the Packard Experimental Department early in 1929 after being tested. It then went to family member Warren Packard, who was active in the Company and it was used by him for perhaps six months.

According to author Beverly Rae Kimes, the family used the car in 1929 and even completed a 1500-mile round trip to Quebec, Canada. The car appears to have been a prototype that was apparently based on one of the 145-inch long wheelbase chassis’ that was offered for the 745 models.

It was outfitted with tasteful Dietrich convertible victoria coachwork with a longer cowl and a hood that was roughly twelve inches longer than the DeLuxe Eight. The color scheme chosen was a sensational combination of orange with silver moldings on the body and hood with silver fenders and splash aprons. It was accented with chrome-plated wire wheels, hood vents, and trunk rack.

1930 Experimental Packard Straight Twelve

Warren Packard died late in August of 1929 in a plane crash while attending a Company sales convention. According to Kimes, after his death Packard brought the car back to the factory and removed and destroyed the unique engine, a common occurrence in the industry with experimental units. It has been reported that after the removal of the twelve, it was repowered with a DeLuxe Eight engine, or perhaps a higher horsepower 734 engine and shipped off to Mexico, far from the Motor City.

Based on what little is known about it would lead one to the conclusion that this form of a twelve was abandoned by the company, and Packard moved forward with its V-twelve that was soon introduced in 1932. Very little information has turned up about this engine or the car in spite of the efforts of researchers over the years, other than a report of it having produced around 150 h.p.

All of this leads us to wonder if our resourceful readers lead us to any solid new information or images about this car or its engine? The top and bottom photos are courtesy of Dave Mitchell. Center photo is from the Rod Blood Collection, courtesy of the Larz Anderson Museum.

Experimental Packard Straight Twelve

25 responses to “The Long-Lost Experimental Packard Straight Twelve

  1. I’m not sure where the mistaken date of August 1930 for Warren Packard’s death originated, but as happens many times, the mistake is oft repeated. The correct date of Warren Packard’s death certainly raises some questions as to the story of this car.

    Warren Packard (II) was killed in an seaplane crash near Gross Ile (ile) Michigan on August 26, 1929. The pilot Talbott Barnard was a Packard employee who was seriously injured, but he was reported working for the Packard company several years later.

    Report of Warren Packard’s death and several other interesting Packard related articles here and on other pages

    His grave

    • Good, Work and discovery. There is some confusion of dates in Beverly Rae Kimes article and maybe Warren Packard in fact got the car early in 1929. She tells of an interesting interview she had with Packard’s wife about the car and their use of it.

      The car in the photos appears in 1930 trim but maybe it was a prototype built early in 1929? Based on what you have found if Warren Packard did have the car it had to be in 1929.

      • Hi,

        I just saw an unusual Packard on the TV show American Pickers. It appeared to have an inline 12. I looked it up online and found this photo of the missing Packard and it looked exactly the same. It was missing the convertible cover and they thought it was a missing rumble seat. It was a cool Packard and thought you might be interested in checking it out. I’d love to have it myself but alas could never afford it or be able to restore it. If you check it out, let me know if I was correct or not. It would be fun to know,

    • Clarification to the above comment.

      The repetition of the original story surrounding this car has apparently led to the corrupted date, rather than the story itself being called into question. A number of older original sources report the above story or similar, but with the death occurring in 1929.

      The family of Warren Packard apparently referred to this car as” The Easter Egg”.

    • Well, done right it would have had 13 mains, 25 journals for the whole unit. You’d be a nervous machinist near the end of the job! I wonder how bad the torsional wind-up would have been in a crank that long? Great looking engine, very handsome car.

  2. A glorious example of vintage automobilia that I’ve never seen and no one else will ever see again. I would have loved to see that crankshaft. I’d mount it on main bearings and place it on the fireplace mantle.

    This is exactly why I love this blog. Please never stop sharing your unique treasures with us.

  3. Keep up the good work. I love this old machinery. Most of it is works of art. I have a couple of ‘Motor Manuals’ from the thirties and forties. Some of the illustrations are very interesting.

  4. Having straightened a big 8 crankshaft I have the utmost confidence in their performance. I was afraid that it might pop
    out of the press. Absolutely terrifying curvature at the point of yield. BUT was very flexable when not supported.
    It gave 2 highs,an’ 2 lows per revolution!!!
    My question was HOW did it get bent.

    • Coburn, Many crankshafts take a set in general use over time.

      The correct way to straighten them is by carefully peening the radius on the side of the journals in the right spot with a tool that is ground and polished to fit the radius.

      To do it all you need is a pair of vee-blocks and good dial indicator for checking purposes. Many times crankshafts straightened by bending break later or return to where they were before straightening in use.

  5. My grandfather was a downriver Detroit (Wyandotte) Packard dealer in the 20’s and was called to the scene of the plane crash to identify Warren Packard’s body. He took a slice of leather seatbelt from the site and it hung in the garage on a nail for 50 years before anyone asked what it was. I still have it.

  6. This car is not a complete mystery. My father-in-law and I were in need of additional 1930 Model A parts and were directed to a farmer north of us. During our conversation as farmer to farmer, he stated he would like to show us something special. He walked us into a separate part of the barn. We were amazed at what a beautiful car we were standing in front of. The hood looked like it was a mile long. The rear seat was elegant with a window that would close off between the back and the driver. I do not recall for sure but I think he said it was about a 1932, but don’t quote me on that. Then he opened the hood to show us the longest engine i have ever seen in a car. A straight 12 cylinder engine is unforgettable to look at. And at least back in the 80s when I stood looking at it, it resided here in the northern US. And he mentioned that after the prototype only 5 or 6 were built with several not surviving up to that time . He thought there might be only 1 or 2 others like it that might have still survived. Call me a liar all you like. I know what I stood in front of and will never forget it. I have never known how extremely rare this is until I was at a car museum yesterday and mentioned this story only to be told the engine was destroyed by looking up this same web-site by one of the tour guides. Maybe tbe prototype was and maybe more than one was built. Rest assured, I stood in front of one amazing car that I will never forget.

    • I have no interest in calling you a liar but it would be nice if you could fill in some details. Where was this “farm north of us?” Who was the farmer? And most of all, what became of the car? Maybe some of this has to remain a secret but if the car still exists why hide it from the world?

  7. Just a couple of very naive (?) observations, based on the photo of the engine, and what I’ve seen of other Packard engines of the 1930’s.

    1) How many main bearings ? Judging by the very even spark-plug spacing, it seems this engine may have had 13 main-bearings. Engines with cylinders paired between main bearings, usually had spark-plugs grouped in “twos”.

    2) Down low on the crankcase wall, it appears to have similar covers for the roller / lever cam-followers, as with the later ’30’s Packard Eights.

    3) Any details in terms of Bore & Stroke, HP, Torque specs ?

    Were there any other straight-twelves? Do any survive ?

    The proportions of this marvelous Packard remind me of a Bugatti Royale… 🙂

    Frank McMullen

  8. It takes much more than a machine shop to make a motor. Drawings, Patterns, Molds, Castings, Forgings Etc. Would be much easier to do like Voisin and couple two 6 cylinder flat heads together yielding an easy 200 hp total.

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