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1608 Twelve 2032 Phaeton by Derham
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.
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