This post is adapted from a thread at PackardInfo.com
Please give “Big Kev” a tip of your hat for starting this great forum for Packard fans. In its ten years, PackardInfo has become a must-go-to site for anything related to Packards.
Despite the best efforts of Packard president George Christopher to take the company completely out of the luxury market and move down-market into Buick’s turf, there were still people of enough influence in the company interested in preserving Packard’s traditional role as the luxury market leader that the company could still produce genuinely luxurious cars with first-in-class features. It was in this turf battle culture that in 1940 Packard introduced two automotive firsts, both definitely luxury items: power windows and air conditioning.
Packard began experimenting with air conditioning in the late ’30s. Alvan Macauley, Packard’s chairman, drove a ’38 Packard fitted with air conditioning. Henney, who built Packard-based ambulances and funeral cars, offered a ’38 Packard ambulance fitted with a Trane air conditioning unit. In 1940, Packard offered air conditioning as an option on the Senior cars, the 160 and 180.
Packard took the air conditioning option a step further for 1941: a “Cellerette” option was available on the Senior cars. Taking advantage of the long trip from the compressor at the engine to the evaporator unit in the trunk, Packard’s “Cellerette” allowed full bar service for six – complete with ice cubes frozen in the car!
Above: The anti-drinking-while-driving attitudes of today weren’t present in the early 1940s. A full bar in a car today would be frowned on by the Nanny State …
Christopher’s drive to take Packard out of the luxury market carried over into the immediate post-war years. The Clipper, designed in part by Dutch Darrin, was introduced in 1941 and was the car Packard carried over in 1946-7, while the Senior 160 and 180 were dropped. Air conditioning was available on the Clipper, but not the Cellerette.
1941 Clipper with air conditioning. Note the “Air Conditioned” badge replaced the “Clipper” badge on the front fender.
With the introduction of the infamous “bathtub” Packards in 1948, Packard was effectively out of the luxury car market and the air conditioning option was not carried over into the post war cars. When James Nance arrived as Packard’s president in 1952, he began his ill-fated quest to restore Packard as the luxury market leader and air conditioning – using a unit purchased from arch-enemy General Motors – was offered in the ’53-’54 Packards. In 1955, Packard once again offered factory air of its own make. It was an integrated unit with the vents coming out of the top of the dash board, one of the first truly integrated air conditioning units offered by any manufacturer. Meanwhile, the clever cellerette unit remains a footnote to Packard’s history for 1941.
Below: Newspaper article from 1941 about the Cellerette. Note the “Win with Wilkie” political ad. Go here to “Ozstatman” to enlarge for reading.
“Big Kev” posted this ad from 1940 touting Packard Air Conditioning: