Shattering the ‘Packard body dies to Russia’ myth

For a great many years, books on both Packard and the Russian motor industry recorded that, under a supposed wartime deal between President Roosevelt and Stalin, the ‘redundant’ body dies for prewar Packard Senior models – by now replaced by new ‘Clipper styling’ – were donated to the Russians, by then on the same side in the Second World War. Not surprisingly, this ‘fact’ would be repeated regularly in subsequent articles in magazines and other books, especially on Packard cars, writes John Bath.

In fairness, the American car and truck industry was enormously helpful to the nascent Russian automobile industry in the Thirties and in some cases body dies for both cars and trucks (but not Packards) were shipped from the US to Russia, as revealed in Cars for Comrades (2008) by American professor, Lewis H Siegelbaum. Of course this is all hard to believe now in the light of ‘difficult’ relationships between the two countries straight after the war and beyond.

1947 ZIS 110 factory
1947 ZIS 110 factory / ZIS production line 1947.

The myth was shattered in articles in The Cormorant, the Club journal published by the Packard Club in 1994, largely because, if produced from the very same body dies, the Packard 160/180 and the ZIS 110 would naturally have identical dimensions… but this is not so! It is true that the front end (ahead of the A-post) clearly resembles a 1941 Packard 160/180 – but in my view, with the design improvement of the chrome ‘whiskers’ (stretching from the radiator grille) extended round the front fender to meet the wheel arch.

But behind the A-post, the ‘cabin/trunk area’ owes more to the Cadillac 75 than the Packard.

Therefore there is no doubt it is a copy of the Senior Packard, complete with other similar features inside the car, as Stalin liked this marque above many others and owned a number of examples. In the UK, Julian Nowill got this story spot-on in his book East European Cars (published in 2000), one of the earlier volumes published to focus on cars produced in most Eastern bloc countries, which has since been followed by many others, as interest in these cars has increased.

developing the ZIS

developing the ZIS / Three cars purchased by the Russians when developing the ZIS

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