A later-day idea for a ’57 Packard Twelve by “Harbor Indiana” developed from the Four Hundred four door hardtop planned for 1957.
The holy grail for Packard lovers is the resurrection of the V-12 engine. While the numbers of Packard Twelves (and the Twin Six) were never large, the Twelve was the benchmark for Packard prestige. In his drive to take Packard downmarket, George Christopher saw to it that the V-12 was killed off at the end of the 1939 model year. Many observers feel that it was a mistake to have done this as Packard’s share of this high end of the market had been increasing vis à vis arch rival Cadillac. Thus when dynamo James Nance arrived at Packard in 1952 and began pushing the development of the V-8 along with his quest to restore Packard’s position as THE luxury car leader, serious consideration was given to spinning a V-12 off of the upcoming V-8. Had the Twelve been re-introduced in the ’50s, no doubt the volume (as before) would not be large – but nothing would have restored Packard’s prestige as much as having a Twelve in the portfolio again – especially in light of the introduction of Cadillac’s Eldorado Brougham in 1957. Alas, as with so many things Packard tried to do in the 1950s, it was not to be.
Packard Product Planner Dick Stout (as quoted in Packard – A History of the Motor Car and Company and in the February 1962 issue of Packard Automobile Classic’s The Cormorant) described the proposed V-12 as follows:
“Essentially, it would be a 90 degree V-12, built on the new V-8 tooling. The manufacturing group proposed to do this by means of long blocks, bored first with eight cylinders, moved, and the added four bored. The crankshaft would have 30 degree split throws to permit in-step firing. Bore and stroke would be the same as the 320 cubic inch Clipper engine of 1955, for a resulting 480 cubic inch total … just about the same as the 473 cubic inch Twelve of 1935 to 1939 … “
“Engineering sources agree that despite stubborn rumors to the contrary, a reincarnated Twelve never reached the drawing board stage. Nance, however, took a personal interest in the program and Bremer kept him informed. The end of the idea actually came a little earlier than Stout remembered, at a meeting held on July 21, 1955. On August 1st Bremer wrote Nance that the minutes of the meeting noted “further consideration of the V-12 engine for the 1957 models will be discontinued, principally because of inherent workloads on Engineering the fact that available equipment cannot be practically utilized, thereby necessitating heavy capital outlays. Although I know you read the minutes of the meeting, I felt it important enough to bring this specific section to your attention, in view of your past interest …”
According to one source I have recently been in correspondence with about the Nance years, another important factor in the decision not to pursue the V-12 program was that it likely would delay the introduction of the V-8 had the V-12 program been pursued alongside the V-8 program.. The V-8 had to be in production for the 1955 models at all costs, thus making the V-12 project a non-starter.
What a pity that so many things went so wrong all at the same time for Packard! In the face of all that did happen, Nance and team did an amazing job of trying to right their capsizing ship.
A very nice rendering of the unbuilt ’57 convertible done in 2011 by Brad Leisure.
The roof falling in on Packard and Studebaker drove the company to accept a “deal” with Curtiss-Wright. The upshot of this was that Packard closed all Detroit operations the result of which was the infamous “Packardbakers” of 1957 and 1958. One of the few good things about the association with Curtiss-Wright is that Studebaker-Packard became the U.S. distributor for Mercedes-Benz. Many Studebaker and Packard dealers were able to survive by also selling Mercedes.
The Studebaker Sceptre prototype designed by Brooks Stevens. Stevens believed in this concept so strongly that he personally paid for the production of the prototype.