Charles Bronson and his team at Boulevard Motorcar Company breath new life into one of the most beautiful Packards of all time.
The new Packard Twelve was powered by a 445.5-cubic inch engine, making 160 brake horsepower at 3,200 rpm. Designed by Cornelius Van Ranst, whose credits included the Cord L-29, the V-12 was originally intended for a front-wheel drive Packard, a project that proved stillborn. A narrow, 67-degree vee, it was of unusual configuration with valves nearly horizontal, actuated by hydraulic tappets. The combustion chamber was partially in the block, giving rise to the description “modified L-head.” The transmission had only three speeds, but by mid-year, all Packards would be so equipped. The earlier four-speed gearboxes were not really required in cars that seldom required shifting.
In retrospect, the introduction of a marquee motor car in the depths of the Depression may seem like sheer lunacy, but there was a certain logic to it. Development of the engine was substantially complete before the crash, and the rest of the car was based on the Deluxe Eight, so there was little additional cash outlay required. Moreover, multi-cylinder cars were plenteous in the marketplace, as Cadillac had introduced V-12 and V-16 cars in 1930, and the arch-rival Pierce-Arrow had a twelve in the works for 1932, as did Lincoln. Struggling Marmon had staked its fortunes on a V-16 in 1931, which would prove its undoing.
Not to have fielded, the Twin Six would have put Packard at a severe disadvantage with those who could still afford a luxury car and didn’t mind flaunting it. Ostensibly, the profit margin on such a car could well justify its manufacture, but prices, body for body, were only $100 to $150 above those of the Deluxe Eight. In that respect, the Twin Six was a real bargain, but only 549 buyers thought so.
For 1933, the line was re-christened the “Packard Twelve,” and while the marketing was just as ambitious, the results were nearly the same as the previous year, with 540 cars built. Bodies included nine Packard-built styles shared with the 1004 Super Eight, as well as two 1006 long-wheelbase models, a formal sedan and a limousine. Also on the 1006 chassis were a myriad of customs and individual customs by Dietrich, LeBaron, and others.
Packard management, while conservative, was always on the lookout for new talent. When Raymond Dietrich set up Dietrich Inc. in Detroit as the design arm of Murray Body Corporation, his smart and elegant designs attracted the attention of East Grand Boulevard. As a result, Packard soon became one of Dietrich’s best customers, to the point where they incorporated his styling cues in later production cars. After 1933, all open Packards carried Dietrich body tags, as they recognized the influence of Dietrich’s work.
However, as all true Packard aficionados know, Dietrich does not necessarily mean “Dietrich.” True Dietrichs are the so-called Individual Custom cars that were built and offered on a limited-production basis, with only a few of each style being produced per year between 1931 and 1934. These Individual Customs were offered only on Packard’s Senior Eight and Twelve chassis, and their lines were simply exquisite, beginning with its graceful vee’d windshield, continuing on to the Dietrich’s trademark beltline, and finishing with a superb and elegantly tailored roofline and tail.
One of the most impressive Dietrich bodies was the two-passenger stationary coupe, so-named to set it apart from the coupe roadster. This body was the ultimate in Classic Era logic, and it rode the same 148-inch-wheelbase 1006 chassis as other Individual Custom Dietrichs, but it could hold only a comfortable pair of adults and their luggage. It was a stunning machine that looked as powerful as, indeed, it was.