1899: Birth of the legendary Packard Motor Car Company


The year eighteen ninety-nine dawned with no decrease in James Ward Packard's visits to the Winton automobile plant in Cleveland, Ohio USA. Ward purchased a Winton motor car on June 10th, 1898 and had been making frequent trips to have it repaired. He returned on January 2nd, 1899 and again on March 15th. Then on March 28th Mr. Winton sent a man to the city of Warren, where Ward lived, "to help put motor together." After three days Winton's man left, and James Ward noted the engine is "very noisy and not running very well," so he returned again to Cleveland for another repair and Mr. Winton promised to write him about it. (Above are notes written by J.W. Packard in his diary).

As 1899 moved along, James Ward's Winton continued to displease. The visits continued on through the spring and by this time the Winton factory was tired of the constant repairs. Ward used his car for many trips - often rigorous ones considered long trips at the time. Most early cars were not built for "everyday driving". Finally, on June 10th 1899 after "supper and evening with George Weiss", his last visit as a customer arrived.

By this time Mr. Winton and Mr. Packard had it out, and Ward was told something similar to "well, if you're so smart, maybe you can build a better machine yourself." An achieved inventor and businessman, James Ward Packard already thought he could - and he would persuade a couple of Winton's men to help him.
To Mr. Weiss he wrote "I must go to [Cleveland] sometime this week on business and I hope that you will be at home. I am quite anxious to talk 'horse' with you. I have got Will [his brother] making a special investigation on the other side [Europe] but have not had a report from him yet. I believe that his report would be of value to anyone contemplating starting into the business here. It is a branch of work which has a very great fascination for me and it is not impossible that I may go into it someday." The letter makes James Ward Packard's intentions clear: he's building a car.
The Packard brothers leveraged the machine shop of from their company, Packard Electric, to produce Ward's design. He dispatched employees to Cleveland to have patterns and castings made, as well as draftsmen to bring his inventive thoughts from sketches to production-ready designs.

On October 30th, 1899 the first completed engine was ready for testing as Ward noted "Auto engine on new machine tests out 7.1 h.p."

On November 2nd, the Packard brothers had a party, or a "ball" as they called it in prior times, to celebrate the new machine shop for automobile making and to forsake his tired Winton for the first Packard.

On November 6th, 1899 the new car was ready for the road. One can well imagine the pact of activity in the small wood-frame building. So, busy making their first car, and knowing the value of patent, they would file patents on their first creation on January 16th, 1900.

The first official word on the new automobile appeared in Warren newspapers on November 7th, the day after the road test. "The 'auto' worked satisfactory, and save one or two minor features, was found to fit in every respect for exacting road work. The motor, which is the essential feature is pronounced superior to any on the market, and the entire vehicle marks and advance in similar construction" reported the Warren Daily Chronicle. The Model A was success.

More news spread, and orders started coming in. Ward noted "apparently pleased with machine and progress made. Decide to go ahead on present partnership basis and make 6-8 or more machines. W.D. and J.W. paid 250.00 toward carriage stock" - the first investment in Packard company shares. The Model A sold well and became the cornerstone of every Packard motor car made throughout the company's history. Ward's way of making cars was unique for a variety of reasons and was powered by his inventions that surpassed some of the most established automakers such as Ford.
Some companies start in a garage, others a room at home and others a wood building with borrowed manufacturing machines. The legendary Packard way of innovation was born of precise engineering, relentless testing and refinement, and the unwavering commitment to superlative standards, natural beauty and elegant comfort.

The Packard Motor Car Company came into being soon-after and became the leader of luxurious automobile making for generations to come. Cadillac, Buick, Chevrolet, Ferrari, Bugatti and other car company founders were inspired by the awe-inspiring elegance and high performance of Packard cars.

Join us in celebrating this fine achievement and rebirth of America's automobile legend with the debut 1899 Model-A timepiece.


View the 1899 Model-A timepiece >