Packard 1106 Twelve 275 Runabout Speedster LeBaron

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1106 Twelve 275 Runabout Speedster LeBaron





The Packard Twelves were introduced in 1932 in response to the growing 'cylinder war' initiated by Cadillac among America luxury car marques. Earlier luxury cars were powered predominately by huge displacement six cylinder engines until Cadillac introduced a V8 in 1915. Packard responded the following year with the Twin-Six. The engine was replaced by the straight eight in 1924.

Cadillac set off another cylinder race in 1930 with the introduction of a V12 and a V16. Packard responded with a new V12 in 1932. In 1934 the V12's displacement was 445.5 cubic-inches and offered 160 horsepower. Top speed reportedly topped 100 mph although Packard advertising at the time modestly claimed over 85 mph. For 1934, the Twelves also featured evolutionary styling changes that many consider the pinnacle of Packard design.

The Model 1106 has a 160 horsepower 445 cubic-inch engine with Stromberg downdraft carburetion, three-speed synchromesh transmission and four-wheel adjustable vacuum assisted brakes riding on a 135-inch wheelbase

It is interesting to note that while the LeBaron Sport Phaeton was built on the long wheelbase 1108 chassis, the Runabout Speedsters were built on 1106 chassis, which combined a short (135 in. wheelbase) eight-cylinder chassis with the Twelve drivetrain. In addition, both front and rear axles, wheels, brakes and transmission were eight-cylinder components. Since the Speedster body itself was lightweight, using the shorter chassis and lighter eight-cylinder components, it resulted in a higher power to weight ratio than any other Packard Twelve. It was, in effect, a factory hot rod!

Each of the four Runabout Speedsters differed slightly from the others. One had a rear mounted spare. Another had step plates rather than running boards, although some believe these were modifications carried out in the period by Bohman & Schwartz. There were variations in interior trim, and at least one had wheel covers. Priced at $7,746, FOB Detroit, they were the most expensive Packard money could buy.

The short wheelbase Packard Aero Sport Coupe was offered as part of the Packard Custom Catalog for 1934. The project was approved for construction in December of 1933 and led by Packard's head stylist Ed Macauley. The resulting style was the last known car to use the term 'Custom Made by Packard' and blended elements of both the LeBaron and Dietrich customs of the era. Less than a handful were produced and these unique motorcars originally sold for around $18,000. Only 4, similar but not identical, examples were built.

Thomas L. Hibbard and Raymond H. Dietrich set up this firm in 1920 under the name of LeBaron, Carrossiers, to design and engineer automobile bodies much as architects built houses. They had met in the drawing office at Brewster & Company and each had considerable experience in the custom body field. Soon they were joined by Ralph S. Roberts, who had known Hibbard earlier, and although not himself a designer had a keen sense of style and good administrative ability.

The new group was successful in selling some designs, and the engineering drawings for many of them, but preferred to work-like architects in supervising the construction of the bodies they designed, for a percentage fee. Such bodies were built by a number of coachbuilders in the New York area and nearby, including Demarest, Derham, Locke and others.

İn the Spring of 1924, a merger was arranged with the Bridgeport Body Company m Connecticut. The new company shortened the name to LeBaron, Inc., and now had facilities for building the creations they designed. This took place a few months after the author had joined them as sort of apprentice designer and general assistant.

Hibbard had left early in 1923 to explore the possibility of having bodies built in Europe where costs were lower, but instead wound up in partnership with Howard Darrin. In 1925, Dietrich also left to set up the company under its own name in Detroit. Other overtures came from Detroit, and the end of 1926 LeBaron had been purchased by the Briggs Manufacturing Company there.

LeBaron was continued as a separate coachbuilding subsidiary, with added duties as source of designs for Briggs' large customers-Ford, Graham-Paige, Chrysler and others. Roberts moved to Detroit and set up a new design centre called the LeBaron Studios, with a freshly recruited young staff, who also turned out designs for the new LeBaron-Detroit Company factory devoted largely to building custom bodies in small series.

The original operation in the East continued until the end of 1930, when reduced business prompted consolidation of all activity in Detroit. Coachbuilt Packards and other makes continued to be built there until the beginning of the war. Following the death of Walter 0. Briggs, founder of the company bearing his name, the entire body-building operation was sold to the Chrysler Corporation in 1952, they having by then become Briggs' principal client. With this went the rights to the LeBaron name, although no true coachbuilt bodies had been built under that name since just before the war.

LeBaron had designed some Packards even in their early days before they had a factory. In the mid-twenties they began turning out small series of town cars and limousines as well as many individually designed Packards. By 1930 these were joined by some convertibles, including a two-seater with top folding into the body and covered by a small boot, which had been designed by the author.

During 1931, Packard introduced custom bodies under their own name, similar to those earlier bought in small series from LeBaron. When the firm discovered that Packard were also about to introduce a coupe roadster as a standard model, very similar to the bodies they had been building, relations cooled a bit. However, by 1933 they were working again on new Packard designs, and also building some of the ideas of Edward Macaulay.

For 1934, some attractive sport models as well as more conservative town cars from LeBaron were included in Packard catalogues. Town cars and limousines by LeBaron remained a major portion of the coachbuilt Packards available until passenger car production ceased for the duration of the war.

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