Thursday 5th February 1903
The Packard board approved the design and manufacture of the Model N, a low priced 1-cylinder car to compete with the Oldsmobile ‘Curved Dash’.
The Model N was a fresh design for Packard’s 1905 model year, offered in five body styles that replaced the company’s Model L and M platforms. Each rode on a 106-inch wheelbase and used a steel frame that was a full 12 inches longer than any previous Packard platform, providing more lateral stability. The car rode on front and rear semi-elliptic leaf springs with a straight axle up front and a bevel-gear transaxle in the rear. Flanking the transaxle was a two-wheeled braking system that utilized internal expanding and external mechanical clamping methods concurrently.
As a whole, the Packard was a relative lightweight. More specifically, the Runabout tipped the scales at just 2,100 pounds. This feat was achieved, thanks to a prolific use of aluminum, including a new Packard-designed 265.7-cu.in. L-head. The engine began with two pairs of cylinder heads cast in pairs in France–which were then shipped to the States–with piston bore diameters of 4.065 inches; each pair was simply referred to as “jugs.” Once delivered, the jugs were then bolted to an aluminum crankcase, effectively making the piston stoke a lengthy 5.125 inches. Additionally, the intake manifold was made of aluminum; a single-barrel carburetor was also part of the build. Rated for 28hp at 900 RPM, that power was sent through a three-speed sliding-gear manual transmission, the casing of which was aluminum. In spite of the seemingly paltry power rating, owners have indicated that 40 MPH is easily achievable, and top speed has been estimated to be 55 MPH.
Aluminum was also used as a major body component on the Runabout, including the 7-pound front fenders and 4-pound rears (not including mounting brackets for both sets), the brass-hinged hood and skin wrapping around the wood-framed foundation for the leather diamond-pattern seats. Another weight saver was the Runabout’s rear deck, made of ash. Centrally mounted to the wooden forward panel was a simple dry-cell battery box that was flanked by the solitary oil sight gauge. The heaviest body parts were the optional brass headlamps and cowl lamps, as well as the now infamous brass tombstone radiator shell, which had been introduced in 1904.
Overall Packard production rose from 207 to 401 units for 1905. By way of comparison, Cadillac’s four-cylinder production output was just 156 cars.