Tucked away on Ludlow Street sits a typical older building, painted white with oversized windows. Nothing sets it apart except for an old blue sign reading "Packard" attached to the corner and the glimmer of chrome that catches the eye. Inside, another world awaits, full of extravagant, gleaming masterpieces of transportation.
Packards were not made in the Dayton region, but our former Packard dealership is now home to the world's only full-time museum dedicated solely to the Packard. It’s easy to see why people are so enthusiastic about them. While Henry Ford designed boxy cars for average people, Packard catered to the elite with no expense spared, making each and every car as sumptuous and regal as possible for the rider. These cars were meant to be driven by chauffeurs, with the wealthy riders enjoying the scenery in the comfort of cozy seats that look more like furniture than auto interiors.
The cars are beautiful works of art – not only do they show the dedication to craftsmanship of the first half of the 20th century, they tell the story of American society through the ages. The 1914 Runabout has a chaperone seat in the back, a reminder that at one time, unmarried men and women were not allowed to be alone in each other's company. The 1934 Super Eight Sport Phaeton has a photograph in the glove compartment of the former owner, a man who appears to have earned his riches in the lucrative organized crime rings of the time. One Army-green car looks to be straight out of a World War II movie set.
The building itself is a gem, and feels a lot like stepping back in time to the Art Deco period.
By the 1950s, Packard was finished – but it might be a blessing. One would have to wonder if the Packard Museum and the adoration of fans the world over would even exist if the company had those awful, boxy 1980s cars in their past. Because the Packard company only made automobiles from the 1900s through the 1950s, they’ll forever enjoy the prestige and cult following of car enthusiasts everywhere.
Want to go?
WHAT: America's Packard Museum
WHERE: 420 S. Ludlow St., Dayton
HOURS: 12-5 p.m. Monday through Friday, 1-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
INFO: 937-226-1710 or www.americaspackardmuseum.org
COST: $6/adults, $5/seniors, $4/students