Ironically, many of the greatest automobiles of the celebrated Classic Era® were introduced at the very trough of the Great Depression, when premier car makers struggled to stay afloat. One of the most highly prized of them remains the mighty and remarkably successful Packard Twelve of 1932-1939. By the onset of the 1930s, the Packard Motor Car Company had already amassed a wealth of experience with 12-cylinder engines for both automotive and aviation applications. Their first V-12 automobile line, the Twin Six of 1916-1923, was met with praise, yet phased out in favor of the simpler and more advanced Single Eight introduced in 1924. While the Single Eight certainly set new standards for smoothness and agility, the rekindled multi-cylinder competition at the high end of the market resumed in earnest by 1930 in Detroit. Cadillac’s introduction of V-16 and V-12 models, in addition to its V-8, came by 1930, while Auburn, Marmon, Pierce-Arrow, and even Franklin readied their own multi-cylinder engines for 1932.
Resurrecting the prior “Twin Six” name for 1932’s Ninth Series, Packard met the competition head-on with a completely new engine. A large-displacement V-12 with 445 cubic inches and a 67-degree cylinder-bank angle, this massive new power unit was the happy by-product of a cancelled front-wheel drive chassis-development project at Packard. By 1933, the model name was simplified to “Packard Twelve” and two years later, engine displacement rose to 473 cubic inches, with output rising accordingly to 175 brake horsepower.
Overall, the Packard Twelve was a conservatively and durably engineered chassis with finely tailored bodylines, elegant and luxurious appointments, and incredibly quiet, near-silent operation. All-new bodies introduced for the 1935 Twelfth Series models offered envelope-type Streamline Moderne styling with the body, hood, fenders, and running boards all integrated into a smoothly integrated overall motif. Careful mechanical refinements continued to make the Packard Twelve surprisingly pleasant to drive, despite its significant size and weight.
Evolution of the Packard Twelve continued through the next set of updates that defined the Fifteenth Series, introduced in September 1936 for 1937. These included new “Safe-T-fleX” independent front suspension based on that of the “Junior” One-Twenty, as well as modern hydraulic brakes, disc-type steel wheels, and elimination of the Bijur central chassis lubrication system. As before, the transmission was a smooth-shifting 3-speed unit with full synchromesh. Three models were offered, depending on desired wheelbase length. Despite the challenging economic times, Packard produced 1,300 Fifteenth Series Twelves for the 1937 model year. At the time, one half of Packard’s workforce produced the exclusive “Senior” models, with the other half cranked out 118,000 mid-market “Junior” models. As a result, Packard management embraced the more profitable mid-priced market and ceased production of the legendary Twelve after 1939.
Representing the many advancements that made the Fifteenth Series Twelves such a rousing success when new and beyond, this 1937 Packard Twelve Model 1507 Coupe Roadster benefits from a top-quality restoration, which now displays a light pleasing patina. The Coupe Roadster is impeccably proportioned, with gracefully flowing bodylines, and unforgettable design cues such as the boldly raked radiator shell. Simply put, it is striking from any angle. Among the most desirable and attractive bodies in the Fifteenth Series, this Coupe Roadster rides on the 139 ¼-inch wheelbase Model 1507 chassis. It is exceptionally well restored and correctly detailed, and has been sparingly enjoyed and properly maintained by an enthusiastic custodian. Finished in medium gray over rich burgundy leather upholstery complemented by a black canvas folding top, it is eminently attractive and welcomes regular use. The paint remains excellent with a consistent and light overall patina, complemented by superb chrome. Desirable accessories include dual covered side-mount spare wheels and tires, an iconic Packard “Goddess of Speed” radiator mascot, Trippe Safety Lights, a golf-bag door, trunk rack, and a factory radio. In the cabin, right burgundy leather upholstery is excellent and inviting to match, accented, of course, by Packard’s signature wood grain dash and door-garnish trim. Records on file show extensive service and freshening work by Steve Hayden in 2007, and it received an AACA National First Prize award in 2016.
With 473 cubic inches and 175 factory-rated horsepower on tap, touring performance of this wonderful Coupe Roadster is assured, with all the refinement expected of a Packard. The engine and surrounding engine compartment are very well finished, detailed, and presented, consistent with the rest of the vehicle. This gorgeous and inviting Coupe Roadster from 1937 is offered in excellent condition, and offers relaxed and confident on-road performance in concert with its independent front suspension, hydraulic brakes, and synchromesh transmission. An ideal entry into a wide array of enjoyable classic events and CCCA CARavan® tours, it stands ready to assume pride of place in any worthy collection of prestigious and historic automobiles.
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