D.D. Gross Motor Sales: New Packard Sales During the 1950s

Click here to read Part 5.

By the1950s, business at D.D. Gross Motor sales was going strong.

The sale of appliances and housewares and the sale of Packards were successful. The body and maintenance shops were bustling with business as well. Dan’s client base consisted largely of doctors, attorneys and people who generally could afford a Packard. On average, the dealership was selling a new Packard a week, or around fifty per year.

1951 marked a major change for Packard, which was a complete body redesign. To promote this change, Dan increased his advertising in the Perrysburg Messenger. Research uncovered thirty-five new 1951 Packard ads for the dealership, including a September 7, 1950 ad which introduced the new model.

At least three ads in 1951included a photo that was taken at the Packard Proving Grounds, including this January 25, 1951 example.
Images provided by Scott Gross.
An article ran on September 28, 1950 promoted the Patrician, which featured the new Packard Thunderbolt engine and Ultramatic Drive. Image provided by Scott Gross.

In preparation for the new models, Dan made changes in the showroom. The area dedicated to appliance sales was reduced in order to accommodate the 1951 automobiles. On September 7, 1950, the Perrysburg Messenger reported:

D. D. Gross Salesroom Being Remodeled

The D. D. Gross salesroom in Moline is being remodeled, getting in readiness to display the new 1951 Packard on Friday, September 8th. Elaborate plans are being made for the opening and you are invited to attend.

Perrysburg Messenger, January 7, 1950.

The showroom was very small for displaying Packards.

Keep in mind, this room was built in the 1930s to display Willys autos. The Packards were a very tight fit. The large Packards were driven from the shop into the showroom through a narrow double door opening.  Typically, two cars were shown by the front windows and a third directly behind them. Because the clearances were so tight, floor jacks had to be used to position the cars. The showroom was kept very clean and while it did not have air conditioning, it had an air handling system that filtered and pulled fresh air through the showroom.

In the1950s, a small inventory was kept on Dan’s lot. At most, D. D. Gross only had six to eight new Packards in stock. Most of the Packards sold at the dealership were “custom” built at the factory. Typically, a customer chose the features they wanted in their new Packard and the order was placed at the factory. The dealership’s cars were ready on an average of about one car per week. Sometimes, the Packards were delivered by the truckload, but waiting for an entire truckload usually took too long. Instead, employees were sent to Detroit and drove the new Packards back to Moline. Many individuals remembered making these trips.

The job that I probably enjoyed the most was driving cars back from the zone office on East Jefferson Street in Detroit. I would get out of school (senior year in high school and first couple of years in college), catch a Greyhound bus at about 2:30 out of Toledo, be in Detroit an hour later and make the zone office on East Jefferson around 4:00 to 4:30. I might go to a nearby storage point and pick up a car and drive it back – usually during the Detroit rush hour.

Clif Fals

         I went to Detroit a number of times to bring back new Packards, and I always enjoyed that. We always went with Dan to bring the new Packards back. Usually three or four of us would get into one car and go to Detroit. We would then bring back two or three new cars, and one person would have to bring back the car that we drove up in. I remember the first Packard that we brought back with the “Ultramatic Drive” transmission. Dan personally wanted to drive this car back.

Irwin Welling

Once, Roger and I went to Detroit to pick up a new Packard. Roger drove and I was the lane changer person. Once back in Toledo, we traveled south on East Broadway to Moline. As we got closer to Moline, Roger said “let’s see what this can do!” Well – we hit a hundred plus. No seat belts and a six foot deep ditch on the right hand side. We were home before the potatoes were peeled for supper!

Ron Gross

Research revealed that Dan relied heavily on print advertising for his business during 1950s.

But there were other forms of advertising used as well. The dealership used “give-away” items as an additional form of advertising. Give-away items were inexpensive trinkets given out to potential customers. The purpose of the give-away was simply to get the dealership name, address and phone number into the hands of potential customers. This included items like key chains, ice scrapers, pens, and note pads.

Image provided by Scott Gross.

In the fall of 1955, the dealership rolled out another form of advertising. D. D. Gross sent out mailers to invite customers to attend special preview showings of the 1956 models of Packards.

Image provided by Scott Gross.

Dan’s advertising strategies must have paid off.

Starting in 1949, D. D. Gross Motor Sales earned Packard’s “Ten Percent Club Leadership Award”. The dealership earned this award again in 1950 and 1951. In June of 1953, Dan received a sales award for Packard President’s Month.

Image provided by Scott Gross.

Lastly, newspaper research uncovered another connection to the Packard Proving Grounds. In September of 1953, Dan Gross attended a Packard Clinic, which was likely held at the Packard Proving Grounds. The purpose of the clinic was to provide engineering instruction on the Ultramatic transmission. An article describing this event was found in the Perrysburg Messenger on September 24, 1953. The article included a photograph of David Winegar (Packard Engineer), Karl Behlmer (Behlmer Motors of Fremont, Ohio), and Dan Gross on the right.

Image provided by Scott Gross.

The next installment in this series is entitled, “Stories from Around the Shop”. Many past employees shared humorous stories that took place while working at the dealership. Click here to read Part 7.

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.