Packard is one of the most highly regarded brands from the classic era, with roots going back to the very beginning of the 20th Century. Although the automaker is revered today for bold luxury cars, it’s not often remembered for its early days when Packard built sporting cars.
Packard, like many other manufacturers of the age, did produce what we would today call a sports car. The cars were expensive and highly prized by “gentlemen racers,” who campaigned them all around the country.
Packard entered its cars in tests of endurance right from the beginning. But in 1906 with the release of the Model 24 Runabout, the company turned to tests of speed. Introduced in 1907, the Model 30 succeeded the Model 24 and really put the company on the map.
With an increased wheelbase and greater horsepower, the Model 30 was offered as a touring car, limousine or a “high-powered” runabout. A 4-cylinder engine (cast in pairs), with a bore of 5 inches and a stroke of 5½ inches, powered the car and developed close to 60 horsepower at 650 rpm. Few American cars could match the Packard Model 30 Runabout in 1907, with Simplex, Lozier and Thomas being the primary competitors.
It should be noted that Packard used the European “taxable horsepower” system to denote the horsepower of their cars. In the early days of motoring, many European countries, and a number of American states, based the cost of licensing passenger cars on a calculation of horsepower. “Taxable horsepower” was computed slightly differently in each region, but was based on the number of cylinders and their dimensions (bore).
In an effort to reduce the tax levied, the “taxable horsepower” was always stated as less than the actual. Thus Packard’s use of “30” in the model name.
After the release of the company’s groundbreaking Twin-Six in 1915, the first American production 12-cylinder car, Packard shied away from building sporting cars. Soon after, the last of their factory-sponsored racing efforts ceased as well. With the possible exception of the Model 734 Speedster, Packard concentrated on the luxury market.
The Horseless Age of June 12, 1907, states, “The Packard Motor Car Company, of Detroit, announces the completion of the 1907 output of 1,129 cars twenty-nine days ahead of the schedule prepared nine months in advance.”
Although the panic of 1907 slowed automobile sales, this production total boosted Packard to the eighth largest manufacturer that year, just below Cadillac and Franklin.
The car pictured here, believed to be chassis 3924, was cherished by its original owner – as the photo would suggest. Known today only as Mr. Shaw of Topsfield, Massachusetts, he kept his prized possession until 1940 when the esteemed collector of early Packards, Rod Blood, purchased the car in wonderful original condition.
Blood would drive the car often, and it is said that this car was his favorite among his 30 or so Packards. When he passed in 1966, the car found its way through a number of well-know collections. The car now remains in New England, where it has spent its entire life.