Packard Gun Boat - 1910

This image was originally published in the April 2, 1910, Indianapolis Star. The photo is actually of a Packard touring car decorated as a gunboat for the floral parade was one of the most anticipated features of the March 1910 Indianapolis Automobile Show. The car won one of three contest categories - the "unique" class - by which cars were organized judged. The other two were "dealers" and "private" class.
The Packard "gunboat" may have been the most amazing of a long line of heart-stopping floats. Imitation cannons - compete with "blackened noses" - protruded from the flower-covered sides of the ship. The Stars and Stripes gloriously streamed from the masts. The Indianapolis Military Band struck up the "Star-Spangled Banner" and the guns emitted noise and smoke. The crowds reportedly loved it and expressed their appreciation with cheers.
Frank Willis not only drove the car but helped design the decorations with Ray Holcomb. Their young sons were positioned at the front of the vehicle as captain and pilot. This float was an amazing fifty feet long with drapes hanging so close to the ground the car gave the appearance of floating along at sea. You can find an original photo of the car elsewhere on First Super Speedway.
Check out the cutline that many people undoubtedly read as they sipped their morning coffee back in April 1910: "The Packard automobile headquarters at the Willis-Holcomb Automobile Company was the scene of many callers yesterday who wanted to have the pleasure of a close inspection of the prize-winning unique display that led all competitors in the floral auto parade Wednesday afternoon. The gunboat display that was an elaborate one that represented a great deal of hard work and the expenditure of a large sum of money. The Indianapolis Military Band was conveyed in this machine. Frank Willis piloted the big craft. It won the prize in the unique division."

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