The Packard 120 series was a direct response to Packard’s falling fortunes in the 1930s and they were great cars. As the Great Depression wore on, the traditional luxury market softened to the point where it couldn’t support a company of Packard’s size. Competitors like Peerless and Pierce-Arrow had the same problem and soon disappeared. Cadillac, meanwhile, had La Salle and the entirety of the General Motors operation to make up for slow sales of its prestige machines.
Rather than introduce a new volume line to complement its traditional offerings (as it would later try to do in the ‘50s with the Clipper name), Packard instead introduced the 120 with Packard badging but a price that started $1,405 below the least-expensive standard Eight. A fairer comparison might be this $1,095 five-passenger Touring Sedan (the trunk-back body no. 892, with rear quarter windows; rather than the no. 893 flat-back Sedan or the 896 Club Sedan with its blind quarters) with the standard Eight five-passenger Sedan, which was priced at $2,385 on a 127-inch wheelbase or $2,585 on a 134-inch wheelbase.
That meant a 120 Touring Sedan like this one undercut not only the pricier Packards, but also the $1,295 LaSalle four-door sedan; the $1,190 Buick Series 50; the $1,165 Nash Advanced Eight; and the $1,127 Hudson Custom Eight Touring Sedan. Pricing was essentially on par with eight-cylinder Auburn models and was even cheap enough it might have stolen away some prospective Chrysler customers.
Possibly working to the 120’s advantage was not just the Packard badge, but the state-of-the-art engineering that had gone into developing the new line. Big Packards in 1935 still used solid front axles and mechanical brakes, but the 120 has an independent front suspension and hydraulic brakes. The 120 also used Packard’s traditional straight-eight powerplant, but in a scaled-down version utilizing a one-piece cylinder block and crankcase. The 256-cu.in. flathead engine made 110 hp at 3,850 RPM: Compare that with the 320-cu.in. engine in the standard Eight putting out 130 hp at 3,200 rpm and bolted into a chassis weighing at least 1,200 pounds more than the 120 and it’s easy to see why the new, budget-minded Packard sold like hotcakes in its first year. Production of 24,995 One Twenties eclipsed the fewer than 7,000 other Packards built for 1935.
What all that means for this car is that if you want a 120 to recreate that 1935 experience, you might be better off to look elsewhere. Despite the 120’s great history and Packard build quality, fully restored, this would be not quite a $40,000 car; and it would be easy to spend that or more bringing it back to Day One condition.