D.D. Gross Motor Sales: 1940 – The Packard Franchise Begins

Click here to read Part 1.

Dan started D. D. Gross Motor Sales in 1918.

By October of 1929, the stock market crashed and the Great Depression began. Dan’s business managed to survive the effects of the Great Depression. In fact, Dan’s business even grew during the 1930s, expanding to four locations and sold Willys, Desoto, Chevrolet, Plymouth and Dodge automobiles.

By 1940, Dan’s business strategy made a major shift. 1940 marked the first year that D. D. Gross Motor Sales began selling the Packard Motor Car brand of automobiles. Dan stopped selling all other brands and consolidated his business to the Moline location. The dealership continued to sell the Willys trucks and REO Speedwagons, as advertised in the 1940 Lake High School yearbook.

Children from Moline and neighboring Walbridge and Millbury attended Lake Local Schools. Image provided by Scott Gross.

What prompted this shift?

Packard Motor Car was a high-end automobile, especially compared to the other brands that Dan was selling. Perhaps Dan envisioned that selling Packard automobiles was the best choice for his business. Selling multiple brands from multiple locations may have spread his resources too thin. Maybe Dan determined the profit margins were the best with the Packard brand. Regardless, Dan’s business strategy for 1940 was to sell only Packard automobiles from one location – the Moline building that he owned.

The earliest first-hand account from a 1940 Packard customer came from local resident Sam Layman. Sam recalled his father’s purchase of a 1940 Packard Model 110. The Model 110 was introduced in 1940 and included a six cylinder engine. This line of automobiles was a less expensive line that attracted buyers who otherwise could not afford a Packard. Sam Layman recalled:

As I remember, Packard had great cars and catered to the rich. In the late 1930’s, they got into financial trouble. So Packard developed the “100” Series, which was offered at a lower price. In 1940, the model “110” was a straight six cylinder engine and the “120” was a straight eight cylinder engine. Dad bought a 1940 model “110” for about $800.00, if I remember right. This was one of the best cars that I have ever driven. Dad and Ma liked to go, but Dad didn’t like to drive. He was raised in the “horse” days. So the boys, me included, would take them driving in the Packard.

Dad used it to go to work on the railroad, which was only a mile and a half drive each way. The engine really didn’t get hot enough to burn out the oil. We didn’t have detergent oil then, either. I overhauled the engine when it had less than 50,000 miles. The slots in the oil rings were completely filled with carbon.

Sam Layman

The dealership used showroom literature to assist the client in learning more about the Packard line. From the 1940 showroom book used at D. D. Gross Motor Sales are the color images for the 1940 Packard Touring Sedan.

In the 1940s, Dan also shifted his advertising strategy and began running advertisements in local newspapers.

While he tried different local papers, he primarily advertised in the Perrysburg Messenger. In December of 1940, a sequence of three advertisements was run promoting the 1941 models. Packard likely had a program for the dealers in which they would supply the printer’s block. The newspaper then inserted the price and dealership information into the ad.

The 1942 Packard book used in the showroom introduced the line of Senior Cars – The Super-8 One-Sixty and the Super-8 One-Eighty. The 1942 showroom sales book included marketing information and illustrations. According to the sales book, the Senior cars were the finest of Packards. Optional features even included automatic windows that rise and lower at the touch of a button and genuine air conditioning that cools, filters and dehumidifies.

The showroom book even made reference to the Packard Proving Grounds:

Image provided by Scott Gross.

The showroom book also made one final sales pitch:

BUILT FOR THE TIMES

You have read about the just a few of the scores upon scores of the evidences of hidden quality that make Packard value outstanding in the motor car field – and make Packard ownership in times like these an even sounder investment than usual. That you can count upon a Senior Packard to give you lasting, low-cost, reliable transportation is assured by the Packard 42-year reputation for “Quality First” manufacturing . . . by proof from the laboratory and Proving Grounds – by the confidence of those entrusted with securing production for national defense . . . and lastly, by the multitudes of motorists who have learned of Packard excellence through long experience with it. In this year for thoughtful buying, we urge you more than ever to – ASK THE MAN WHO OWNS ONE.

1942 Packard showroom booklet; exact publication details unknown.

In this book, Packard also made reference to their increased role in wartime production. This foreshadowed changes in production that were on the horizon.

DEFENSE FIRST!

With more pride than usual this year! For the demands of defense production have been great – and might have meant a sacrifice in quality. But Packard has met the challenge of the times with all the resourcefulness and ingenuity at its command. And while fewer cars will be built they will equal in quality and mechanical excellence any cars Packard has ever built.

1942 Packard showroom booklet; exact publication details unknown.

AIR POWER – SEA POWER

This despite the fact that Packard has been among the leaders in defense production from the start. Two major assignments are building high-powered Supermarine engines for swift Patrol Torpedo boats of the U.S., British and Canadian navies – and famed Rolls-Royce aircraft engines for the U.S. and British air services.

1942 Packard showroom booklet; exact publication details unknown.

CAR QUALITY NOT AFFECTED

But these assignments are being handled without impairing the quality of the motor cars Packard builds. The proofs of this fact are in the cars themselves.

1942 Packard showroom booklet; exact publication details unknown.

Early in 1942, Packard completely converted to war production.

Packard produced the 1942 automobiles from August 1941 through February 1942. By February, President Roosevelt prohibited the production of all civilian cars during the war years. For their contribution to the war effort, Packard built airplane engines for the P-51 Mustang fighter and V-12 marine engines for PT boats.

The next installment in this series will discuss the impact of World War II locally and on Dan’s business. Click here to read Part 3.

Author

  • Emily Benoit

    Lover of research and writing, libraries and archives. Graduate of Oakland University's MA of English Literature program; and Wayne State University's MLIS program with an additional certification in archival administration.