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120-B One Twenty Convertible Victoria by LeBaron
The Packard One-Twenty (also One Twenty and 120) was an automobile produced by the Packard Motor Car Company of Detroit, Michigan from 1935 to 1937 and from 1939 through the 1941 model years. The One-Twenty model designation was replaced by the Packard Eight model name during model years 1938 and 1942.
The One-Twenty is an important car in Packard's history because it signified the first time that Packard entered into the highly competitive mid-priced eight-cylinder car market. Packard enthusiasts view the production of the One-Twenty and the Six/One-Ten models as the start of Packard losing its hold on the market as the premier American luxury automotive brand.
The introduction of the One-Twenty (and later the Six/One-Ten models) was a necessary move to keep Packard in business during the final years of the Great Depression. The reason the company decided to forgo the development of a companion brand name to sell the less expensive models may have been linked to its single production line capability at its Grand Avenue manufacturing plant as much as to the expense of launching a new brand of automobile. By making the One-Twenty a Packard, the car could be brought to market quickly, and would afford buyers the cachet of owning a Packard.
This car introduced the independent front suspension to the Packard line. Its so-called "Safe-T-Flex" suspension was an unequal upper and lower A-arm type with the largest possible lower A-arm composed of two different arms bolted together at a ninety-degree angle.
The support arm was a heavy steel forging reaching a few degrees forward of lateral from the front wheel support to as close to the centerline of the car as is practicable. An integral pad socketed the helical spring, whose upper end reached a high frame cross-beam. A tubular, hence lighter, steel torque arm was bolted to the support arm somewhat inboard of the wheel to permit a sufficient steering arc. It reached the frame nearly at the dashboard with a spherical rubber bearing. The upper A-arm was conventionally welded and oriented parallel to the lower one. Between it and the frame was an old-fashioned horizontal shock absorber whose two cylinders were side by side.
The support arm carried all the load; the torque arm carried the accelerating and decelerating torque; the upper A-arm controlled the camber. Advantages claimed for the system included superior maintenance of wheel alignment from the wide spread of the lower A-arm, a permanent fixing of the caster angle, and an increased percentage of the braking force transmitted to the frame through the torque arm.
In its introduction year, the Packard One-Twenty was available in a broad array of body styles including two and four-door sedans, convertible and Club Coupe. The One-Twenty, weighing in at 3,688 lb (1,673 kg), was powered by Packard's aluminum-head L-head inline eight producing 110 bhp (82 kW) at 3850 rpm. Prices ranged from $980 for the three-passenger business coupe to $1,095 for the Touring Sedan. Introduced in January 1935, the car was an immediate success with consumers, with Packard producing 24,995 One-Twentys, compared to 7,000 of all other type Packards for the year.
For 1936 Packard increased the displacement on the L-head eight, increasing its output to 120 bhp (89 kW), making the car capable of reaching a top speed of 85 mph (137 km/h). The One-Twenty added a convertible four-door-sedan model which was the most expensive model in the range priced at $1,395. A total 55,042 units rolled off the line in 1936, the highest production that the One-Twenty would reach.
In 1937, the One-Twenty went up-market as the company introduced the Packard Six, the first six-cylinder Packard in ten years. For 1937, the One-Twenty broadened its model range and was now available in "C" and "CD" trim levels. The line also added a wood-bodied station wagon, Touring Sedan and limousine built on a 138 in (3,500 mm) wheelbase and priced under $2,000. Introduced in September 1936, 50,100 units were produced during series production.
For 1938, the One-Twenty name was dropped and its model folded into the Packard Eight model range, bringing the model name into parity with the Packard Six.
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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