Packard 1006 Custom Twelve D759 All Weather Town Car by LeBaron

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1006 Custom Twelve D759 All Weather Town Car by LeBaron





Fearing that the Twin Six name might confuse customers as to the car’s actual cylinder count, Packard decided to rename it “Twelve” with the Tenth Series, which was introduced in January 1933. There were various revisions to the new models, including a new frame, a new Gemmer worm-and-roller steering box, and a one-piece driveshaft. Closed-body Twelves now had a new, taller radiator, although the open cars, most of which were built using leftover Ninth-Series bodies, had the smaller radiator; the taller radiator became standard on the Eleventh Series. In a bid to improve sales of the 12-cylinder cars, the Individual Custom bodies — which now included six Dietrich models and two by LeBaron — were now available only on the Twelve, meaning that buyers who wanted a semi-custom car had to spring for the bigger engine.

The Packard Twelve was produced from 1933 to 1939 with over 35,000 examples produced. It is considered by many to be one of the finest automobiles produced by Packard and one of the most significant creations of the classic car era. The long and flowing front hood hid a 445 cubic-inch side-valve twelve cylinder engine that was refined, powerful, smooth, and quiet.

The engine was originally destined for a front wheel drive project which eventually proved to have weaknesses. That and the anticipated development cost were too much to be practical so Packard decided to scrap the idea. Cadillac had introduced their 16-cylinder engine and other marques such as Pierce-Arrow were improving the performance of their offerings. Packard was feeling the pressure and decided to place the engine into the Deluxe Eight Chassis and dubbed it the Twin Six. The name was in honor of Packard's achievement fifteen years earlier when the introduced their first 12-cylinder engine. By 1933 the name was changed to Twelve to be inline with the rest of the Packard models.

Most of the Packard production Twelve's received factory bodies. Only a handful received custom coachwork by such greats as LeBaron and Dietrich.

Most of the changes to the Twelve were minor. The Eleventh Series added a short-wheelbase (if one can call 134.9 inches/3,426 mm short) Runabout Speedster and phased in aluminum heads for the V-12. The Twelfth Series, launched in August 1934, had a wider track and a vacuum booster for the clutch. The V-12 was stroked to 473 cu. in. (7,756 cc), providing 175 hp (131 kW) and 366 lb-ft (494 N-m) of torque, 180 hp (134 kW) with the optional high-compression heads.

In 1935 Packard introduced more horsepower and mechanical improvements. The suspension became more plush and comfortable while the steering became easier to operate. The cars were designed and built as one unit including the fenders, running boards, hood and body.

Despite the sluggish sales of the Twelve, Packard made a nominal profit for 1933. There were further losses in 1934, but they mostly reflected Packard’s massive investment in the launch of the new One Twenty, which went on sale in January 1935.

1936 the final year for 17 inch wire wheels and the double blade bumpers with hydraulic dampers.

With the 1937 Fifteenth Series, the Twelve belatedly received hydraulic brakes and Packard’s “Safe-T-fleX” independent front suspension, both of which had been used on the One Twenty from the beginning. At the same time, Packard demoted the Super Eight to the shorter chassis of the Eight, so the Twelve now had the long-wheelbase platform to itself. Those changes, along with a slowly recovering economy, brought the Twelve its best sales ever, about 1,300 units.

The consolidation meant there was now little reason to buy a Twelve over a Super Eight, except for the snob value of its extra cylinders. While the Twelve was more powerful, it also outweighed the Super Eight by more than 700 lb (320 kg), so its performance advantage was not vast and its price premium over the eight-cylinder car would buy you a One Twenty sedan. Combined with a new economic downturn in 1938, sales of the Twelve plummeted to 566 units.

By the arrival of the Seventeenth Series in September 1938, the Twelve’s days were numbered. That summer, George Christopher transferred production of the Super Eight to the Junior Plant, which had been established in 1934 to manufacture the One Twenty. The slow-selling Twelve was now the sole product of the older “Senior Plant.” Given Christopher’s disdain for inefficiency, it required no great prescience to see what was coming next. Production of the Twelve ended on September 19, 1938. Total production for its final season amounted to only 280 cars.

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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