Despite dominating the market niche for hand-built luxury cars, Packard could not survive the Great Depression on those alone. In 1933 the decision was taken to launch a mass-market model and – although quickly derided as a ‘Junior Packard’ by disgruntled owners of prestigious Packard Twelves and Eights – the One Twenty proved to be a company-saver.
A new plant was quickly established and the mid-market, machine made its debut in 1935. In fact, the keenly priced One Twenty was great value for money and had advanced features not shared by the superior Packards, like hydraulic brakes and independent front suspension. But in order to cash in on the company’s established prestige, the distinctive Packard bonnet and radiator remained the same.
This marketing ploy was an instant success. The kudos of Packard ownership was suddenly more widely available and thousands of buyers eagerly chose from the One-Twenty’s full range of body styles that included two- and four-door sedans, tourers, various coupes and convertibles. Along the way a limousine, convertible four-door sedan and a wood-bodied station wagon appeared and two trim levels (C and CD) were offered as Packard launched even cheaper models.
After taking a year off, the One Twenty name returned to the Packard range in 1939 and lasted for three more years, still offering a full range of body styles. By the time it finally folded into the Six and Eight lines, the now-hyphenated One-Twenty had sold 175,000 units and shepherded this independent company through potentially lean years. It may have been a necessity, but the original One
Twenty’s appearance marked the beginning of the end of Packard’s supremacy in the lucrative luxury- car market. Although Packard struggled on after World War II, it never really mastered the volume car market and the marque was finally abandoned in 1958.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
1935 (until 1941, excluding 1938)
4.2 l (256 cid) side valve Straight Eight
Sportier models could reach 85 mph (137 km/h)
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
In World War II Packard turned to aircraft engine manufacture, licensing the Merlin engine from Rolls-Royce, which was used in the P-51 Mustang fighter – ironically named ‘Cadillac of the Skies’ thus confirming Packard’s fall from luxury- car grace.