Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

1916-1923 Packard Twin Six


1916-1917 Packard Twin Six
With 12 cylinders and a 3.00 x 5.00-inch bore x stroke, displacement of the L-head Twin Six came to 424.1 cid. In 1920, it was rated at 90 bhp at 2,600 rpm and was cast in two blocks of six cylinders each.
With 12 cylinders and a 3.00 x 5.00-inch bore x stroke, displacement of the L-head Twin Six came to 424.1 cid. In 1920, it was rated at 90 bhp at 2,600 rpm and was cast in two blocks of six cylinders each.
©Nicky Wright

Other 1916-1917 Packard Twin Six features were less radical, having been evolved on the previous 1912-1915 Six, including many items we still find on cars today: ignition was supplied by a generator-charged storage battery; an ignition timer and distributor were fitted, with separate circuit breaker and distributor for each bank of six cylinders; the starter and lights were electric; the rear axle had spiral-bevel gears; cooling was by water pump; and the carburetor was located between the two banks of cylinders.

Bodies, on two different wheelbases, were up to date and offered in wide varieties, both closed and open. All Twins were expensive, but closed cars involved a lot more assembly work: while the touring, phaeton, and runabout listed at $2,750, the $3,700 coupe was the cheapest closed model and the Imperial Limousine cost nearly $5,000. Such figures represented small fortunes in 1916, yet to the Packard clientele they seemed amazing because they were hundreds less than the previous Six.

The introduction of the 1916 Packard Twin Six on May 1, 1915 was the greatest single announcement in Packard's history to date. Testing one, The Automobile (a British motoring magazine) declared that it met Vincent's three design criteria: "No vibration was perceptible up to a road speed of well over 60 mph and the motor is hardly audible even at full revolutions...there is no sense of effort whatever in opening up from 3 mph in high gear...it was easy to accelerate from 3 mph to 30 mph in 12 seconds and on second speed in a much shorter time."

Demand for Twins was brisk and Packard's workforce increased 50 percent to nearly 11,000 in order to meet it. The factory on Detroit's Grand Boulevard underwent a $1.5 million expansion and now covered over 100 acres. In 1917, Frank Eastman, wry editor of the company's house organ, quipped: "We build a good car and charge a good price for it...ask the man who owes for one."

In July 1916, the 1917 model was announced (all previous models being 1916s). Designated the Second Series 2-25 for the short wheelbase car (2-35 for the long), the Twin Six was little changed except in cooling; "In place of the water being expelled from the forward ends of the cylinder blocks, the gas intake manifold has been cored out to permit all water from the cylinder jackets to be circulated through it and thence to the radiator through a single tube."

New also were detachable cylinder heads, "to insure a more perfect machining of the combustion chamber"; a faster running generator; a higher carburetor to keep it away from the manifolds; a low-current distributor; a lighter-pressure foot brake; and a redesigned gear shift with a ball end -- another portent of the future. The Second Series looked lower, with its smaller wheels and deeper chassis.

Like its predecessor, the Second Series lasted a year. To read about the Third Series of Packard Twin Six, continue to the next page.

For more information on cars, see:


More to Explore