It all started in the late 1800s when James Packard purchased a Winton automobile in 1898 with the money he made as a mechanical engineer in the lightbulb manufacturing plant he owned with his brother, William.
Winton automobiles were a good car; however, the one purchased by James was a real lemon and had all sorts of problems that he was not shy about sharing with the automaker. Basically he had so many complaints with the vehicle that Winton reportedly told James that if he was so convinced that he knew what was wrong with the car then maybe he should go and “build a better one himself.”
So inside of a year on Nov. 6, 1899, James and William produced their first automobile in the area next to their lightbulb factory in Warren, Ohio. The Ohio Automobile Company was the name when the first vehicle was produced 123 years ago this month and in 1903, when the company relocated to Detroit, they renamed themselves the Packard Motor Car Company.
The Packard was synonymous with luxury and pushing the limits. Boasting the first air conditioning, the modern steering wheel and a land speed record, the Packard was widely considered the American version of the Rolls Royce. “Ask the man who owns one” was the slogan that was as recognizable as the swan or cormorant hood ornament that became an icon in the 1930s. The 1925 Packard single eight sported the goddess of speed but no matter what ornament was on the hood, one thing was certain — the vehicle behind it was going to be a classic with sexy curves and a real head turner.
You can check out several of these models at the National Packard Museum located at 1899 Mahoning Ave. The museum is open noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. The cost to tour the museum is $10 per person but they participate in the Museum 4 All program that offers a discount to families that have state-sponsored EBT card for $1 admission for up to 4 people per card. More information on the museum exhibits and upcoming events can be found on their website, packardmuseum.org
As you explore the timeline of the history of this iconic automobile and its really cool backstory, you will also find on display some of the original cars that were part of the first 400 produced right there in Warren.
But if you like a classic car, the Great Hall Exhibit will likely take your breath away. So many shiny well preserved and downright sexy vehicles all on display is quite the sight.
Be sure to check out the gift shop while you are there for a little souvenir with your very own Goddess of Speed or maybe the Swan is more suitable to your style. Whatever you are into you might find just a cool trinket to remember your visit.
It is hard to deny the incredible contributions that a lightbulb maker who bought a lemon of a vehicle in Warren gave to the automobile industry during their time on the market. They set the bar and the price high and will forever more have a place in automotive history that you can be proud came right out of your backyard.
So go ahead and wander over to the museum, and remember that you are not lost, you are just looking for a man who owns one to ask your questions.