Packard Motor Car Company

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The Packard Motor Car Company was founded by automobile baron Edward Packard in Detroit in 1899. Their first automobile model (or make) rolled off the assembly line in 1902.

Packard quickly achieved success in the luxury automobile market — which was not as hard as it sounds, because in the early years of the 20th century all "horseless carriages" were by definition luxuries. However, Ed Packard's company made top-of-the-line models, such as the Twin-Six Touring, which came with convertible awnings and spare tires stored in beautiful leather carrying cases on the running boards. The headlamp mirrors of Packard automobiles were cast and polished in giant racks at the Packard Proving Grounds in Utica, and from the beginning Packard's cars used circular headlamps of the kind touted by Jeep as recently as the 1990s as proof of "real quality".

Packards were also noted for their high degree of safety engineering. A Packard truck was involved in a three-car collision in 1912, while en route from New York City to San Francisco. The other two cars — a Ford and a Bentley respectively — were totalled; the Packard came out with little more than a bent fender. This little incident was reported on the back pages of newspapers nationwide, and Packard milked it in its advertising materials for several years, until automobiles became widespread enough that automobile crashes were no longer newsworthy.

Following the Great Depression of 1929, Packard's cars became more and more elaborate, even as fewer and fewer Americans were able to afford them. The 1932 "De Luxe" sedan, a model owned by Mickey Mantle and Adolf Hitler, among others, came with two spare tires; windows tinted a dark amber with a state-of-the-art chemical process; and five gears on the gearshift, a record for the time. Later Packards continued the tradition with names such as Patrician and Executive.

Packard cars were not redesigned annually, as many companies do today, but rather were released in "series", a practice since appropriated by the German-founded Bayerische Motoren Werke (BMW). The "Senior" series were more conservative in their design, while the "Junior" series regularly introduced new features such as suspension, hydraulic brakes, and air conditioning. To compensate, the "Senior" series were priced higher and aimed at the nouveau riche upper class of America. True status symbols.

One famous Packard owner was Italian-American gangster Salvatore "Lucky" Luciano, head of the Luciano crime family (an organization ironically referred to by the Federal Bureau of Investigation as "the Rolls-Royce of organized crime") from circa 1920 until 1936. In 1933, he was sitting in the rear seat of his black Packard Super Eight sedan when another car driven by gunmen from a rival faction pulled up beside him and began shooting. "Lucky" survived thanks to the sturdy metal doors of the Packard; despite being perforated all down one side, the car was able to race away while the gunmen struggled to reload.

The Packard Motor Car Company was bought by Studebaker in 1954, and the model name "Packard" was finally pulled from production in 1959.

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