The Packard Light Eight (series 900) was an automobile model produced by the Packard Motor Car Company of Detroit, Michigan only during model year 1932. The Light Eight was planned as a new entry model. It competed in the upper middle-class with makes like LaSalle, the smaller Buicks and Chryslers, and the top-of-the offerings from Studebaker, Hudson, Nash etc. The idea was to gain much needed additional business for Packard, as the grim reality of the depression was felt now industry-wide.
Packard did not use yearly model changes in these years. A new series appeared when management felt that there were enough running changes made. So, the Light Eight was introduced in January, 1932, together with the new V-12 (called "Twin Six" in its first year to honor the pioneer Packard model built from 1915 to 1923). Standard Eights and Super Eights followed by June, 1932.
Construction of the Light Eight followed tried Packard tradition. It had a heavy frame with X-bracing, 8-inch-deep side members,and the usual rear-wheel drive. Wheelbase was 127¾ in. (324,8 cm). It got a 320 c. i. (5232 ccm) straight eight engine with a compression ratio of 6:0, delivering 110 hp. It had a vacuum-plate clutch and an angle set hypoid differential. Battery and toolboxes were mounted on the fenders. Full instrumentation was used.
The car was distinguished at first glance with a grille that had the traditional ox-yoke shape, but also with a then fashionable "shovel" nose. Closed Light Eights had a quarter window layout that was not shared by other Packards.
As the Light Eight used the same engine as the Standard Eight but was substantially lighter (4,115 lbs for the sedan vs. 4,570 lbs for the model 901 Standard Eight sedan), it was a very good performer of its day.
The Light Eight series 900 was available in four body styles:
Style # 553 4-door, 5-passenger Sedan
Style # 558 2-door, 2/4-passenger Stationary (rumble seat) Coupe
Style # 559 2-door, 2/4-passenger (rumble seat) Roadster Coupe
Style # 563 2-door, 5-passenger Sedan Coupe (sometimes referred as a "Victoria" Coupe)
Prices and Options
A Light Eight 4-door, 5-passenger Sedan cost $1,750.00, compared to $2,485 for a similar Standard Eight Sedan. This difference nearly bought a brand new Ford! The three other Light Eight body styles cost $1,795.00 each. So, it's no wonder that Packard managed to sell 6,785 units of its new model. In comparison, 7,669 units of the already well-introduced Standard Eight were sold during the shorter model run from 23 June 1932 until 5 January 1933. Problem was that Packard couldn't materialize a profit out of the light Eight's offered price as it could with the Standard Eight.
Options for the Light Eight included Dual sided or rear-mounted spare wheels, sidemount cover(s), cigar lighter, a right-hand tail-light, luggage rack, full rear bumper and fender park lights, the ladder for $65.00.
The Light Eight was intended as Packard's price leader at the entry level of the luxury car market. As such, the package worked. But it failed its main reason for existence: To lure away buyers from its rivals. Instead, it hurt sales of Packard's volume line, the Standard Eight.
Nevertheless, the Light Eight was a very good car, with stylish lines, very good performance, and, as always with Packard, reliable, cost efficient and remarkably well built. Too well, in fact, at that...
No wonder that, even amidst the harsh times of the Great Depression, many prospects for a Standard Eight ended buying a Light Eight. Although it offered not as much luxury, there were enough features in this car that were used in Packard's bigger model, too. It was powered by the same 110 hp engine as the Standard Eight; it had a wheelbase that was only 1.75 inch (4,45 cm) shorter - and its lower weight brought more performance. And Packard Prestige at a much lesser price was included, too.
Packard learned its lesson quickly. There was no Light Eight for its 10th series (1933) line. But it renamed the Standard Eight as simply the Eight and integrated a four-model subseries that was patterned after the Light Eight. Although the shovel nose was gone, the quarter window treatment remained, and the differential that was introduced with the Light Eight was now found in all Eights. But this 1001 series was no longer available at such low prices: They started at $2,150 for the sedan and went up to $2,250 for the roadster.
Finally, it is safe to say that the Light Eight brought the experience to Packard to build and market an upper middle-class model. In this sense, it is the predecessor for its truly triumphal second try, the Packard One-Twenty, that was introduced in 1935 and which would change the grand make forever.