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Packard of Minneapolis Offers the Ercoupe – The Airplane Anyone Can Fly

The lead photo of a salesman pointing out features of an “Ercoupe” airplane to a customer in the showroom with a Packard behind it at the Packard Company of Minneapolis caught our attention due to the good fortune of being able to have driven and…err fly one of each. The 1948 Packard as pictured (below) was in the shop for a tune-up was and owned by a customer, and the Ercoupe was owned by a friend Andy Smith who kept it at a local flying club’s small grass strip airfield located here on a dairy farm in Vermont (nicknamed Dummerston International.)

  • 1948 Packard club sedan on the showroom floor at the Packard Company of Minneapolis that was located at 1400 Harmon place in Minneapolis, Minnesota. 

The Packard was a 1948 Standard Eight Club Sedan with a small 288 c.i. straight-eight engine which was a slightly upscale middle market car of the period. It was a pleasant car to drive, but like most other cars of the time in its price range it had a somewhat lackluster performance. The little Erco “Ercoupe” had about as much power as a 36 h.p. Volkswagon, but it was FUN to fly and the controls are laid out like a car.

  • An “Ercoupe” in flight over Washington DC.

Andy’s “Ercoupe” was powered by a 75 or 85 h.p. air-cooled Continental O-190 flat-four aircraft engine and was a marvel of simplicity. It was very easy to operate as it is only equipped with a control wheel used for all changes in direction and has no rudder pedals such as a typical airplane does. Turning left or right on the control wheel “steers” the aircraft the same way as the steering wheel turns a car; to climb up the wheel is pulled back and to descend it is pushed forward. The only other controls are the hand throttle, ignition switch for dual magnetos, carburetor controls and the starter button on the dashboard.

  • Dual controls and room for two and a half passengers. 

  • An Ercoupe offered for sale in a department store window.

The full details of the Ercoupe story “The Rise and Fall of the Plane Anyone Could Fly” can be found at the Smithsonian Magazine the source of the Ercoupe photos courtesy of the College Park Aviation Museum.

Learn more about the Packard in a 1948 Packard sales brochure at The Old Car Manual Project. The Packard Company of Minneapolis photos are courtesy of the Hennepin County Library.

7 responses to “Packard of Minneapolis Offers the Ercoupe – The Airplane Anyone Can Fly

  1. Looking at the Packard dealership, I had overlooked your mention of the address but thought it had the feel of the one on Harmon Place at Spruce Place, with the Boyer-Gilfillan Ford dealership seen out the window to the left at Harmon Place and Twelfth St. Then I read the address, confirming it at 1400 Harmon Place. This had become the premier auto row street in Minneapolis by the 1920s, overshadowing the previous one on Hennepin Ave, a block away…beginning with Stephen’s Buick at the start of Harmon Place on 10th St all the way to Downtown Chevrolet where Hennepin Ave crosses and ends Harmon by Loring Park.

  2. Ercoupes are a staple of low cost flying…even today they are perhaps one of the lowest cost aircraft around.
    I’ve never heard of one selling at a car dealer, but famously in the late 40s “everyone can fly” light airplane boom, they were sold by Macy’s in New York.

    The type was produced by several different builders from the 40s to the late 60s…Mooney actually was the last producer of the design and made a few (<50, IIRC) single tail Money Cadets in 1968.
    They were improved over the years, later ones had metal covered wings, more modern instrument panels and a host of improvents. Some even had rudder pedals installed to make them more conventional.

    With no rudder pedals and benign handling, they were said to be easy to fly and ALMOST foolproof, but flying is a bit more unforgiving than driving, so it didn't have a spotless safety record…no matter how simple the design.

    • Wow, I’m 70 and I learn something new every day. I have never heard of or been aware of any of this and I’m a big car fan. Thank you , John, for this info.

  3. My grandfather bought a brand new 1948 Packard 4 door Custom 8. We found the original invoice, he paid $2808,(N over $30,000 today) with 3 options. A radio, $52,( $560 today) an outside rear view mirror, $8, ( $86 today)and the Cormorant hood ornament, $18.( almost $200 bucks today, $300 at swap meets) when a basic Ford was half the cost. Not sure what was in grandpa’s car but we had the 288 . It did an adequate job, it’s not like any of those bigger motors did much more. People had a lot of faith in Packard right after the war. We couldn’t have won the war without them. My grandfather was not able to go to war, but we believe he bought a Packard, mostly because of their war efforts. That all fizzled in the early 50’s and we had a brand new war to worry about, and Packard fell behind.

    • I never knew that the cormorant hood ornament was offered to buyers as an add on option, as I had always assumed that it came with the purchase of the car. I guess that explains it absence on the ’48 Packard that is shown parked in the dealership showroom. I am not an admirer of the rather bulky post war Packard. To me they were the one dog in a litter of beautiful looking pups that the other automakers were offering for their ’48 and ’49 models. The main problem it seems was that the front grill was just too small for that particular design. If the grill had been more elongated then the car would not have ended up being such a dud.

  4. The guy in the cockpit is wearing an A-2 flight jacket. Had he served in the USAAF in WW2, I wonder ?

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