Gilmore Museum’s 1916 Twin Racer

Gilmore Museum's 1916 Twin Racer

In 1915, Packard’s new twin six was a vehicle that would place the company in the luxury field. The Twin Six designation was used on a 12-cylinder engine made from two six-cylinder blocks, and the new car set the tone of Packard’s overall thinking for many years.

Twin Sixes were aimed directly at the upscale sales bracket. Two lines were offered; the first was actually the 1-25 Series of 1915. It included 10 models and was followed by the 1-35 Series of 1916, with 13 models. The 1-25 became the 2-35 in 1916, but little changed except the name.

The series designations were based on the wheelbase of the cars and not on the horsepower they produced. The 1-25 models had a 125-inch wheelbase and the 1-35 models had a 135-inch wheelbase. In the passenger car market, the Twin Six two-door coupe carried a $2,700 price tag and the three-passenger coupe was priced at $3,700. The touring car in the 1-25 line was priced at $2,750 and the 1-34 version of that body style was $400 more.

Both series used the same engine, a 12-cylinder job with a 3 x 5-inch bore and stroke. That factored out to 424 cubic inches. The chassis of the new Twin-six bore little resemblance to earlier Packard chassis. It used a pressed steel channel section that was six inches deep. The front axles were of I-beam design with roller bearings. The semi-floating rear axles were constructed from beam tubular steel.

One of the Twin Six’s best testimonials came from a British writer who said, ‘For 20 years, Packard models like the Twin Six held a reputation of being in America what the Rolls Royce was in England.’

Packard developed this experimental Twin Six racing car in 1916. Its construction was inspired by race driver Ralph DePalma’s competition successes in a very similar Packard racing car called the 299.

This car was raced prior to the time that the concept of having a pit crew arrived. A “riding mechanic” sat in a buddy seat next to the driver and had to maintain fuel pressure and oil pressure by the use of a hand pump, operated while the car was actually racing. A wooden handle attached to the dashboard was the riding mechanic’s only safety restraint.

In 1920, Packard shipped this racing car to Argentina, where it won the “Championship of the Mile.” It was raced successfully throughout South America until the end of the decade. Then it was simply placed in a shed and forgotte. Seventy years later it was discovered, still in amazingly good condition, in a shed in Paraguay. It now resides in the Gilmore Car Museum (www.GilmoreCarMuseum.org.

This early “factory experimental” racing car has serial number PMC-X 0051. It utilizes a 112-inch wheelbase and the Twin Six engine makes about 88 hp. The car’s claimed top speed is 104 mph. It would be a real experiment to see if someone today could actually drive it quite that fast!

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About John Gunnell 111 Articles
John “Gunner” Gunnell has been writing about cars since ‘72. As a kid in Staten Island, N.Y., he played with a tin Marx “Service Garage” loaded with toy vehicles, his favorite being a Hubley hot rod. In 2010, he opened Gunner’s Great Garage, in Manawa, Wis., a shop that helps enthusiasts restore cars. To no one’s surprise, he decorated 3G’s with tin gas stations and car toys. Gunner started writing for two car club magazines. In 1978, publisher Chet Krause hired him at Old Cars Weekly, where he worked from 1978-2008. Hot rodding legend LeRoi “Tex” Smith was his boss for a while. Gunner had no formal journalism training, but working at a weekly quickly taught him the trade. Over three decades, he’s met famous collectors, penned thousands of articles and written over 85 books. He lives in Iola, Wis., with his nine old cars, three trucks and seven motorcycles.

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