Packard 900 Light Eight 559 Roadster Coupe

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900 Light Eight 559 Roadster Coupe





The Packard Light Eight (series 900) was an automobile model produced by the Packard Motor Car Company of Detroit, Michigan only during model year 1932. The Light Eight was planned as a new entry model. It competed in the upper middle-class with makes like LaSalle, the smaller Buicks and Chryslers, and the top-of-the offerings from Studebaker, Hudson, and Nash. The marketing objective was to add a new market segment for Packard during the depression.

Packard did not use yearly model changes in these years. A new series appeared when management felt that there were enough running changes made. Therefore, the Light Eight was introduced during January 1932, together with the new V-12 (called "Twin Six" in its first year to honor the pioneer Packard model built from 1915 to 1923). Standard Eights and Super Eights followed in June 1932.

Construction of the Light Eight followed the Packard tradition. It had a heavy frame with X-bracing, 8-inch (203 mm) deep side members, and the usual rear-wheel drive. Wheelbase was 127.75 inches (3,245 mm). Power came from a 320 cu in (5.2 L) straight eight engine with a compression ratio of 6:0, delivering 110 hp (82 kW; 112 PS). It had a vacuum-plate clutch and an angle set hypoid differential. Battery and toolboxes were mounted on the fenders. Full instrumentation was used.

The car was distinguished by a grille that had the traditional ox-yoke shape, but also with a then fashionable "shovel" nose. Closed Light Eights had a quarter window layout that was not shared by other Packards.

The Light Eight used the same engine as the Standard Eight, but was lighter - 4,115 lb (1,867 kg) for the sedan vs. 4,570 lb (2,073 kg) for the model 901 Standard Eight sedan. It was also a good performer for its day.

The Light Eight series 900 was available in four body styles: 4-door 5-passenger Sedan, 2-door 2/4-passenger Stationary (rumble seat) Coupe, 2-door 2/4-passenger (rumble seat) Roadster Coupe, 2-door 5-passenger Sedan Coupe (sometimes referred as a "Victoria" Coupe).

Packard managed to sell 6,785 units of its new model. In comparison, 7,669 units of the Standard Eight were sold during the shorter model run, from 23 June 1932, until 5 January 1933. The automaker had lower profits from the Light Eight compared with the Standard Eight.

One of the strategies quickly employed by Packard to deal with the Great Depression was to consolidate as much as possible of its body construction and trimmings in its own facilities, filling the space that was becoming under-used as production dropped. One custom coachbuilding relationship that was preserved as long as possible, however, was that with Murray Corporation’s affiliate, Dietrich Inc.

Raymond Dietrich’s reputation was beyond compare among stylists of the late 1920s and early 1930s, and his designs were important sources of fresh ideas and concepts for Packard’s own coachwork. That Dietrich had been forced out of his namesake firm by early 1932 was no matter, as his talent had manifested into the many custom and semi-custom bodies that continued to bear the Dietrich name and to grace Packards for decades to come.

In particular, the Individual Custom by Dietrich bodies, which were tailored for the most expensive senior Packard chassis in 1932, 1933, and 1934, still bore the master’s touch in their subtle detail and handsome balance. They were hugely expensive—the most expensive Packards one could buy through a Packard dealer—but they were essentially custom coachbuilt cars, with each crafted in the colors and trim chosen by its original owner. In many ways, they were the last true “custom Dietrichs,” as opposed to later production Packard bodies that simply wore the Dietrich name and borrowed some of his styling cues from the earlier Individual Customs.

Options for the Light Eight included Dual sided or rear-mounted spare wheels, sidemount cover(s), cigar lighter, a right-hand tail-light, luggage rack, full rear bumper, and fender park lights, the latter was priced at $65.00.

The Light Eight was intended as Packard's price leader at the entry level of the luxury car market. It was attractive to buyers, but it failed its main reason for existence, which was to lure away buyers from its rivals. Instead, it hurt sales of Packard's volume line, the Standard Eight. Amidst the Great Depression, many prospects for a Standard Eight ended buying a Light Eight. Although it offered not as much luxury, it had many features found in Packard's bigger model. It was powered by the same 110 hp (82 kW) engine as the Standard Eight; it had a wheelbase that was only 1.75-inch (44 mm) shorter - and its lower weight brought more performance. The Light Eight included Packard prestige at a much lower price.

Packard learned its lesson quickly. There was no Light Eight for its 10th series (1933) line. It renamed the Standard Eight as simply the Eight and integrated a four-model subseries that was patterned after the Light Eight. Although the shovel nose was gone, the quarter window treatment remained, and the differential that was introduced with the Light Eight was now found in all Eights. This 1001 series was no longer available at low prices: they started at $2,150 for the sedan and went up to $2,250 for the roadster.

The Light Eight brought the experience to Packard to build and market an upper middle-class model. In this sense, it is the predecessor for the automaker's second try into this market segment, the Packard One-Twenty, that was introduced in 1935.

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