MotorCities National Heritage Area

By Robert Tate, Automotive Historian and Researcher
Images courtesy of the National Automotive History Collection
Posted: 01.23.2017

file 20170123195817 History Packard Motor Trucks
The history of the Packard Motor Car Company, which is historically known for their great looking automobiles and great heritage, also manufactured great looking trucks.

The Packard motor trucks had been manufactured during the early 1900s. They were capable of carrying heavy loads at high speeds over treacherous roads during the early days of transportation for many of the consumer needs at that time.
file 20170123195845 History Packard Motor Trucks
The truck models used pneumatic tires for their operational traveling methods. Standard equipment included a dash and rear oil lamps, mechanical horn along with the necessary tools in a toolbox for those surprise emergencies which were all part of the traveling process back then.

The Packard engineers had introduced many great engineering studies for their Packard truck designs. The idea, however, for manufacturing Packard trucks came from Mr. Henry Joy, who had written to James Ward Packard (one of the company’s founders), who wanted to develop an all-season, durable vehicle.
file 20170123200609 History Packard Motor Trucks
In 1903, a delivery vehicle with a model F chassis and a “Packard Motor Car Company” logo was painted on its rear quarter became available. At the beginning, the vehicle was used only for factory service and for various errands around the factory area. As noted in the book, “Packard: A History of the Motor Car and the Company,” it was stated that, “James Ward Packard’s interest in the commercial field was never more than superficial, and it was only after the company move to Detroit in late 1903 that Henry Joy could himself move on the idea of placing Packard among the ranks of truck manufacturers.”

After the early days of horse-drawn wagons, the Packard Motor Car Company had manufactured 700 motor trucks by the late 1900s. The Model TA was a half-ton capacity truck available in late 1904. By the mid 1900s, companies in Chicago, Buffalo, Baltimore and Boston were all using Packard’s TA models. The TA trucks used only two cylinders as opposed to the automobile's four and at 14 horsepower for its drivers.
file 20170123200629 History Packard Motor Trucks

In 1908 and 1909, truck manufacturing had doubled. Packard also manufactured trucks for use as fire engines producing the Packard Model 30 Firetruck in 1911. The commercial vehicle industry itself grew during the late 1900's as more businesses and the wartime efforts relied more on truck vehicles.

If there was ever a place in our history where almost unreasonable endurance was demanded from a vehicle, it was in an army service unit. Packard trucks were used in the U.S. Military because of their known ruggedness and dependability. Packard trucks were familiar and welcome vehicles in many of the cities of northern France during the war.
file 20170123200725 History Packard Motor Trucks
The late Packard President Alvan Macauley said this about their trucks during the wartime efforts: “The commercial aspect is overshadowed by the splendid opportunity to perform a real service by supplying to our government the kind of equipment which may be regarded as essential to the successful prosecution of the war.”

However, unfortunately, by the early 1920s, Packard trucks was facing more competition from Loco-mobile and Peerless not to mention direct competitiveness from Ford, Dodge and Chevrolet and Mack and White truck models as well. Packard discontinued its truck line based on the exigencies of the marketplace more than any other related issues, and pivoted the company’s focus back to the consumer market during the late 1920s when the company manufactured some of its most well-known autos.

For more great reading on the complete history of Packard trucks, please read “Packard: A History of the Motor Car and the Company” by the late Beverly Rae Kimes, Stan Grayson and Henry Austen Clark, Jr.file 20170123200745 History Packard Motor Trucks
file 20170123200759 History Packard Motor Trucks
A special thanks to Robert Tate, Automotive Historian and Researcher, for contributing this story to the MotorCities Story of the Week Program.

For further information on photos please visit or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Please do not republish the story and/or photographs without permission of MotorCities National Heritage Area. (Bibliography: Kimes Rae Beverly Grayson Stan. “Packard A history Of the Motor Car and the Company” 1978)

If you would like to contribute an article for the MotorCities newsletter, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 313-259-3425.