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In 1899, James Packard took up Alexander Winton’s challenge to build a car better than the Wintons which Winton was producing at the time, and the rest, as they say, is history. Almost from its inception, the name Packard became known worldwide for its high standard of engineering excellence. In addition to the Packard automobile line, over the first half of the 20th century this reputation for quality extended to endeavors in electrical equipment, trucks, and marine and aircraft engines.
While seemingly highly successful and still widely revered for its attention to quality and engineering detail, during the 1930s a series of now questionable business decisions and just plain bad luck began to beset the company. This lead over the following years to an increasingly difficult financial position for Packard. Packard did well during the World War II years, but as the years after the war progressed all the independents, including revered Packard, came under increasing pressure from the competition from the major manufacturers. By the mid-1950s the combined market share of all the independents (less than 5 percent!) was small enough to instill a sense of foreboding and force desperate measures for all.
For Packard, this included an ill-advised union with also much troubled Studebaker in 1954. A hoped-for further merger with Nash-Hudson’s American Motors Corporation (AMC), to produce a strong enough entity to survive as a fourth major car company, never materialized. Continuing pressure on the new Studebaker-Packard Corporation forced the closing of the major Packard plant in Detroit in 1956, and all production moved to the Studebaker plant in South Bend, Indiana. The South Bend plant could not produce the full-sized Packard cars, and production of the truly Packard automobiles ended.
John W. Henny Jr., from a family of carriage builders, set up shop in 1916 building truck bodies and soon motorized funeral coaches, built on assembled chassis with six-cylinder Continetal engine. By the early 1920s the Henney name was among America’s best known in the funeral car trade. Henney also built passenger cars.
1927 Henney introduced the NU-3-Way coach, a funeral car equipped with a three-way casket table. In 1928 Henney was awarded a government contract to supply 23 ambulances to the United States Veterans Bureau (now the Veterans Administration) for use at their medical facilities.
1930 and 1931 Henney’s rode on a purpose-built chassis that closely resembled that of the auto industry’s style leader, Cadillac.
By 1934 they had abandoned assembly of their own chassis and were building on Cadillac, Lincoln, Oldsmobile, Packard and Pierce-Arrow chassis. Less expensive models were built primarily on Oldsmobile chassis during the mid-Thirties and were designated as Henney Progress coaches.
At the 1937 National Funeral Director’s Convention, Henney introduced a streamlined flower car as well as a self-leveling suspension system that they called the Leveldraulic.
Late 1938 Henney introduced “Weather-Conditioner” air-conditioning which appeared on Henney ambulances developed by their new partner Packard.
In 1940 Henney flower cars were mildly redesigned with access to the casket compartment through small side doors located behind the driver’s door or through the tailgate which had built-in casket rollers that matched those on the compartment floor.
Henney’s flower car was clearly the most beautiful of its brand-new 1948 professional cars. Standard equipment included a stainless-lined casket compartment as well as an all stainless flower deck topside. As with most other flower cars, a body-colored folded faux-cabriolet top was built onto the rear of the flower deck.
1954 was the last year Packard Henney professional vehicles were built.
Henney did not die when its professional-car business did. Henney assembled the first transistor-regulated electric car, the 1960-61 Henney Kilowatt. The Kilowatt was produced using Renault Dauphine’s supplied to Henney by the French automaker without a drivetrain.
Two models were produced, 1959’s 36-volt system using 18 two-volt batteries and 1960’s 72-volt system using 12 6-volt batteries. Approximately 100 units were built.
- Last year for Packard Henney commercial vehicles
- Henney professional cars (hearse, ambulance, flower car) built on the 162” wheelbase commercial chassis
- 1954 commercial vehicles used Cavalier trim
- Purchased new by CC Mellinger in Tacoma