Motoring Trailblazers - Packard Clipper

Sun 17th Nov 2019

The world of motoring is hurtling headlong into a bright new future of all-electric, automated, connected technology - and Marty McFly is not behind the wheel! But what were the cars that were ‘back to the future’ of years gone by?

There have been many different trailblazing motors which were seen by the critics to be ahead of their time, and in this series, we will investigate and showcase many of the best in class.

Packard Clipper
Founded by brothers James and William Packard in 1899, Detroit’s Packard Motor Car Company certainly had an illustrious history, producing some of America’s most luxurious and era-defining cars in a 57 year period at the top.

And in its last dying breaths of production in the 1950s, the Packard would see an innovation which is today adopted by almost every single car which leaves the production line - power and central locking.

Though the history of central locking is not well documented, we do know that in 1914 Scripps-Booth, another Detroit car manufacturer, managed to install a system which allowed drivers to unlock all of the doors at the same time. However that luxury car was a one-off and the secret of central locking remained in Motor City until Packard launched the Clipper in the mid-1950s. By launching central locking in a mass-market car, Packard had revolutionised our entry system into cars - and brought us to the point today where cars can be unlocked wirelessly by the mere presence of a key.

Packard’s invention would prove to be one last hurrah for the historic company. By the 1950s their ageing workforce were struggling to come up with the groundbreaking designs which would mark the decade as one of real growth for the motor industry. The company looked to reinvent its tired image by purchasing Studebaker in 1953, and managed to get the Clipper out of the door by 1956, but it was its last breath and the Packard name was retired by 1959, bringing an end to the famous name - even if its last invention lived forever.