During the first decade of the automobile, the American sportsman of means didn’t have many choices when it came to what we now call a sports car. In 1906, when this photograph was taken, the Mercer Raceabout and Stutz Bearcat had not yet been introduced. There were certainly other high-power cars in the day, but few that combined the size, power, style and sporting nature of the new Packard Model S.
The photo shows a young gentleman showing off his new Packard to three pretty girls from the neighborhood. The Model S, also referred to as the model 24, was the only model available from Packard in 1906, and just 728 were built. The car features a four-cylinder engine and a 108-inch wheelbase; interestingly, this car appears to have a 1907-type rear fender line.
This was the first of Packard’s T-head four-cylinder engines, with 350 cubic inches and rated at 24 taxable horsepower. Packard used the European technique of rating their cars at taxable horsepower, which varied per municipality. The actual output of the Model 24 was about 40 horsepower.
According to The Horseless Age issue of September 27, 1905: “The new engine is of 4 ½ inches bore and 5 ½ inches stroke, and in accordance with the policy adopted by leading foreign makers is conservatively rated at 24 horse power, although it is claimed to develop as high as 40 horse power… The bevel gear reduction to the rear axle is calculated to give a speed of 35 miles per hour at 900 revolutions per minute of the motor… The body is of sheet aluminum construction, as are the mud guards and the bonnet. The dash is of mahogany.”
The car in the photo wears a 1907 Pennsylvania license plate, No. 2671. Pennsylvania first issued license plates in 1906, while Philadelphia had been issuing its own plates since 1903. These early plates were actually assigned to the driver, not the vehicle, and approximately 20,000 plates were issued in 1907 – the year on the plate represents the date of issue.
Today, I know of only one roadworthy 1906 Packard Model S Runabout that has survived, and that car resides in a marvelous collection in California.