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While contradictory rumors still rumbled about the misunderstanding whichoccurred when Henry Ford turned down a contract to build 9,000 Rolls-Royceairplane engines, the Defense Advisory Commission’s William S. Knudsen lastweek faced about and offered the contract to Packard Motor Car Co.

Packard’s tough, breezy President Max Gilman at once announced that, if his directors approved, Packard could and would do the job. He spoke of spending $30,000,000 at once for retooling, hiring 14,000 men, reaching a production of 840 engines a month within 15 months.

This week, Packard directors met to consider the deal. The meeting lasted all afternoon, while reporters waited. To them was handed a curt announcement: the Rolls-Royce project had been discussed, but “many matters require further study.” Max Gilman apologized for a statement which “you [reporters] will probably think is a dud.” It was by no means certain that the contract would be signed. Bill Knudsen’s effort to get 9,000 Rolls-Royces seemed to carry a jinx.

Yet Packard is no newcomer to the high-powered engine business. In 1917, tall, brusque, brilliant Colonel Jesse Gurney Vincent, Packard’s chief of engineering and designer of its famed Twin Six, went to Washington with the original blueprints of the famed Liberty engine in his grip. ThereColonel Vincent went into a huddle with a California aircraftsman named Colonel E. J. Hall. Five days later they came out with an improved design. Before the war’s end Packard delivered 6,500 Liberties to the belligerents.

Making Liberty motors was Packard’s introduction to big-volume production methods. After the war, shy, gentlemanly President Alvan Macauley ploughed his $10,000,000 war profits into a self-contained, beautifully tooled plant that has been an industry model for precise engineering. The plant continued to make airplane engines for the Government until 1925. And Packard became the fastest name in marine engines too. This arm of the Packard business got the company a fat Government contract last March: $2,000,000 worth of supermarine engines for the U. S. Navy.

In the past five years the aristocratic, hand-tooled maker of a few thousand $2,510-and-up cars a year has changed itself into a mass-production unit, is this year rolling 120,000 Sixes ($867 at Detroit) and Eights ($1,038) off its assembly lines. The man who led that invasion of the medium-priced automobile field was Macauley’s successor, ex-Truck Salesman Max Gilman.

But green-eyed Max Gilman is now faced with a different transformation. One of the many questions that probably bothered the directors this week: can Packard tool itself up to the job in 15 months? On that point a top-flight U. S. aircraft production man commented: “Marvelous things can happen in a period like the present. You might almost say the impossible becomes possible.”

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