1912 Packard Model 30 Racer [Gallery + Video]
(Amelia Island, FL) While not known for its racing heritage, Packard had introduced its first race-car in 1903. The lightweight “Grey Wolf” was relatively successful against its heavier and more powerful competitors. A few years later that same spirit continued as a Packard 30 was converted into a race-car.
Early racecars started life as a ‘stock’ automobiles with the modification from showroom car to racer had more to do with taking away unnecessary parts. “Most of the cars of this period that raced were true stock cars. They were stripped down cars. They did everything they could to remove weight.” explains Brian Blain, owner of this 1912 Packard 30 racer.
“For the most part the engines were tweaked very little. Of course for racing you had to have larger oil tanks and larger fuel tanks but back in the day it was 90% driver and 10% car whereas today it’s the other way around.”
As for this car’s history, it came from the factory as a Runabout and some point in its life was made into a race-car. (continued below video …)
“It was found in Argentina in the ‘50s as a race-car. The fellow that I bought it from spent the next sixty years trying to find all of the missing parts to make it back into a touring car. Fortunately he never did and I restored it as a race-car.”
Racing in the early twentieth century posed many issues. Poor road conditions and a lack of safety devices were constant obstacles faced by the drivers and riding mechanics.
“We race it mostly all around California and the western states. I just finished restoring it about a year ago so I’ve only got about 3 races on it so far. I’ve got a couple of other prewar cars. This is a very easy to drive, very refined car. They are very well built cars and I have a lot of fun with it.”
“When I race the car I have a riding mechanic. He has to pump fuel and watch the oil gauges, he’s looking for overtaking cars, and in some instances if the car stalls, he jumps out and starts the car for me.”“The riding mechanics back in the day were very brave souls.” – Brian Blain
The Packard 30 marked the end of four-cylinder engines for the company. The 430 cu inch T-head engine, with intake on one side and exhaust on the other, was inefficient but highly reliable. Given the lower speeds of racing at that time, reliability was often more important than performance.
This Model 30 is believed to be the oldest surviving Packard racecar.
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Photography & story by Matthew Emmer & Guy Smith.