The Packard Twelve – 1932

The 1930s-constrained by The Great Depression – were a testing time for American car companies and several smaller players went to the wall. One of the keenest contest was in the luxury car-market, where Cadillac and Packard were both chasing top dollar from elite car buyers who had managed to retain serious purchasing power.

Everything began well for Packard. Their Twelve (launched in 1932 as the Twin Six, renamed Twelve in 1933) was technically brilliant, stylistically pleasing and beautifully built. It was also fast, earning the coveted title “Boss of the Road”. Yet this was no racer, but a genuine luxury car that could compete with America and Europe’s finest when it came to comfort and ride quality – and did, comfortably outselling the stately (and more expensive) Cadillac Sixteen.

The rolling chassis had a splendid new V12 motor that was the secret of Packard’s continuing success throughout the 1930s. During this period the Twelve went through 17 different series (actually 16, as 13 was omitted) as appearance was tweaked and mechanical improvements were introduced, allowing the Twelve to maintain its place as top luxury car. Early offerings included a wide range of custom bodies, though the choice was reduced somewhat as the decade unfolded. Every style had something in common, for all were delightful to look at.

In 1939, Packard management; decided to discontinue the Twelve and focus on mass-market models, thus conceding a dominant position to Cadillac without a fight. It’s perhaps understandable – half the workforce was occupied building Twelves, though these represented only a tiny fraction of the company’s output. In eight model years fewer than 6,000 were manufactured, but they remain amongst the most prestigious of 1930s classics and robust build quality ensures that plenty have survived to be cherished by today’s owners.




1932(until 1939)


7,3l (445,5 cid) V12


Up to 100 mph (161 km/h) depending on model


Twelves are an innovative Ride Control feature, shock absorbers operated by a dashboard plunger that controlled the oil flow and early models came with an engraved plate reading IN-HARD, OUT-SOFT, causing consternation amongst dealers and swiftly leading to revised wording.


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