The Packard Patents – A Graveyard of Automotive Designs From the Past

  • pack3
  • A 1919 overhead cam design by H.D. Church, a Packard Engineer

One of the most enjoyable parts of researching for The Old Motor articles is uncovering important forgotten automotive designs from the past. The other day we stumbled on to a large number of patents assigned to the Packard Motor Car Co. Many of them originated from within, but many were apparently designs Packard bought from the inventor and had them patent the design in the name of the Motor Car Co.

The drawing above shows a 1919 s.o.h.c. design by H.D. Church, who was Packard’s Chief Truck Designer. The Company had been involved with other o.h.c. designs at the time including the Packard Liberty engine, the 299 Packard engine and the 905 Packard. Church’s 1919 Packard overhead cam design may have been the first design for the automaker to use what Church called, a valve operating sleeve. This inverted cup (part no. 2), did away with all side thrust from the cam on the valve assembly.

You can learn more about this era including Ralph De Palma’s involvement with Packard and the racing car between 1914 and 1923 in an article by Gary Doyle at Packards International. The racing car engines were tied together with the aircraft designs because Packard engineer Jesse G. Vincent knew that it was easier to develop them in a racing car  on land rather than it was in the air. 

  • pack4     pack1      pack5
  • OHC cam design, 1918 – Railcar design, 1918 – A rotary valve design, 1911

Three more designs that caught our eye can be seen left to right above: Another 1918 s.o.h.c. design also by H.D. Church; a 1918 design by F.H. Dewey for converting a Packard Truck into a railcar, and a 1911 design by M. Tibbetts for a double overhead rotary valve design.

  • pack2
  •                       1903 Packard walking-beam engine patent drawing

Having been involved with Duesenberg walking-beam racing engines, finding the first application of this design to an internal combustion engine has always been of interest. The earliest reference to this concept we have found so far are these 1903 patent drawings above and below for one of the designs by none other than J.W. Packard.

The design is seen below for a two-up, two-down engine with bolt-on crankshaft counterweights. The unusual linkage designs seen above were intended for governing engine speed. You can learn more about this walking-beam engine here, and many more Packard patents here.


1 Comment
Posted in Auto photos 1885 - 1920, Technical Features | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , |

*Updated* A Streamlined Mystery Car – Was it a Harry A. Miller Design?

The car you can see in action above in a Universal Newsreel on the streets in the Los Angeles area has fascinated us for quite some time. Critical Past has it dated as having been filmed on February 6, 1935 and in the notes referenced it as being a Stout Scarab. The basic makeup is quite a bit different than one, and we are skeptical of it being a William Stout creation.

Take a few moments to watch the amazingly clear footage of it traveling down one the palm tree-lined boulevards in the area, along with other cars, some that date to the mid-1930s. The news clip is courtesy of Critical Past, which has one of the largest archival film and still images collections in the world.

* Update * Robert Cunningham has unraveled the mystery and has found that the car was built by Allyn Streur and Allen Hoppe, of Hollywood, California. A press photo that has survived is dated February 4, 1935, and shows the pair posing in the car. It appears that it was constructed from a late 1920s lightweight production chassis.

  • white
  • Drawing by Leo W. Goossen for Harry A. Miller dated January 27, 1933

In an effort to learn more about this car, a considerable amount of time has been spent studying photos of the other streamliners that were current at the time. After studying the photos, drawings and patents of  the others, we have come up with a short list of who may have designed the car in the news clip. It appears to be either Harry A. Miller or Professor Elliott G. Reid.

The closest match appears to be the drawing above by Leo W. Goossen for Harry A. Miller. The rear-engined car was slated to receive either a 220 c.i.d. Miller, or a radial engine. You can view more of historian Gordon White’s drawings by Goossen of the car at Autoweek, in an article by Graham Kozak, which gives more details about the concept. The actual car in the film was fitted with what appears to have been a common flathead six-cylinder engine.


Above is a photo of a car with as similar shape from the December 12, 1935, Automotive Industries. Shown is a wooden model of a whale-shaped car designed by Professor Elliott G. Reid for wind tunnel experiments. His research lead him to determine that this shape had better streamlining characteristics than the commonly used tear drop shape. You can view one of his late 1930s patents and drawings for a Packard Streamliner that he assigned to the Company.

If you can add anything to this story or know of any actual photos of the car in the film, or more information about it, please send us a comment. Thanks to historian Robert Cunningham for his help.

Leave a comment
Posted in Auto photos 1921 - 1942, video | Tagged , , , , , , |

A White Fire Truck at Towner & Hartley in Santa Ana, California


The last time we were at the Towner and Hartley shop we viewed an interesting photo of a 1913 Overland Ambulance. Today we are back with an early White Truck equipped with a fire-fighting body that was likely constructed at the shop. The White Motor Corp. started manufacturing its line of trucks in 1910. Let us know if you can tell us more about this truck. The photo is courtesy of the Orange County Archives.

Posted in Trucks, Buses and Equipment | Tagged , , , |