Robert J. Neal, Packard historian, author and gentleman

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Dave Czirr
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Robert J. Neal, Packard historian, author and gentleman

Post by Dave Czirr » Sat Feb 21, 2015 4:52 am

I just received the sad news that Robert J. Neal, the author of so many excellent books on Packard, passed away yesterday after a prolonged illness. Those of us who have read Robert's books will recognize what a great loss this is to the Packard world. I was fortunate enough to meet Robert several times and to have made a small contribution to some of his work. A fine gentleman, historian, and author.

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Re: Robert J. Neal, Packard historian, author and gentleman

Post by genehouse » Sat Feb 21, 2015 6:42 am

Dave, thanks for the news. I have been waiting and praying that somehow he would get better. I'm glad he was with us long enough to spend this last Christmas with his family and few a close friends. Although we never met, he was a great encouragement to me and allowed me to help him in his latest book by providing some original data from the inventor of the torsion load system that I had the fortune to find. He was always friendly and didn't mind taking the time to help the newer members with any issues they had. I'll miss him greatly.

1949 Super 8 Limousine
1939 Buick Special
1926 Star 6
1926 Star Landau (still in AZ waiting for me to pick it up!)

If you are going to skate on thin ice, you might as well dance!

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Re: Robert J. Neal, Packard historian, author and gentleman

Post by JWLawrence » Sat Feb 21, 2015 9:35 am

Sad news about Robert Neal's passing. I had the opportunity to exchange a few e-mails with him on my early Packard memories. I am currently reading his last book about the 51-54 Packards. It is taking a while as the content is so rich. Perhaps a way to honor his memory would be for the PAC to establish a scholarship to an acredited college automobile technology program in his name.


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Re: Robert J. Neal, Packard historian, author and gentleman

Post by 5682-4775 » Sat Feb 21, 2015 10:02 am

Sad news indeed, how much richer is our Packard world for all his work. I too am presently absorbing his last book, information dense is the prefect description. What a great honor it would be for the PAC to establish scholarships in his name, for automotive technology and automotive writing. Rest in peace, Mr. Neal, your fine work will be forever read and enlightening and never forgotten.

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Re: Robert J. Neal, Packard historian, author and gentleman

Post by fredrump » Sun Feb 22, 2015 6:48 pm

That is really strange. I was just looking for an email address for him and now I see he died yesterday. I'm using his 1948-50 Packard book to learn more about the car I just brought home to Papa.
1949 Super 8 Victoria Convertible in Sylvan Green.
1948 Super 8 Victoria Convertible in Maroon (2279 ?) G400536)
1949 Super 8 Victoria Convertible in Black (2279-9-10199)
1949 Super 8 Victoria Convertible in Sylvan Green (2279-9-11255)
1949 Oldsmobile Rocket 88 Club Sedan in Red

Stuart R. Blond
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Re: Robert J. Neal, Packard historian, author and gentleman

Post by Stuart R. Blond » Sun Feb 22, 2015 7:04 pm

Late last year, Bob finished two new articles for The Packard Cormorant magazine -- "1948-50 Renumbered cars" and "The Case of the Missing Engine Collection". Look for at least one of them to be published later this year.

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Re: Robert J. Neal, Packard historian, author and gentleman

Post by Leeedy » Mon Feb 23, 2015 6:46 pm

I am saddened to hear this unfortunate news. Bob and I communicated many times over the years. The mails and emails back & forth were always interesting. While I saw Bob on occasion when I had a house in the Pacific northwest, I had not seen him in a long time until the PAC National in 2013 at Pontiac, Michigan. We sat and talked for a while and I bought one of Bob's "special edition" books covering 1948-50 Packards that he had for sale there. I believe only sold at the PAC National (just two more reasons why attending a PAC National is such a wonderful thing). He was nice enough to autograph that book I bought to me. I also more recently purchased Bob's other postwar Packard book and I am still thumbing though the amazing and detailed information packed into this book. All the more amazing since it was written and completed in spite of the enormous effort all this must have required given his illness.

His loss is a tremendous one for the Packard hobby. I don't know about you, but I'm taking a moment of silence...and then I'm offering a salute to Robert Neal and his great contributions to the hobby and the history of Packard. Thank you, Bob.
Last edited by Leeedy on Mon Feb 23, 2015 10:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Dave Czirr
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Re: Robert J. Neal, Packard historian, author and gentleman

Post by Dave Czirr » Mon Feb 23, 2015 8:03 pm

Information provided by Dwight Heinmuller:

Noted Packard historian and author Robert Joseph Neal died on February 20, 2015, at age 82.

Mr. Neal wrote many books over a period of 48 years, the last few on aspects of Packard history no other author tackled, and in areas of great interest to Packard owners and admirers. His first book was "Smith & Wesson 1857-1945," published in 1966 by A.S. Barnes & Co. Many more books and articles followed on his favorite topics of Smith & Wesson firearms and Packard cars.

His Packard book titles include "Packards at Speed," from 1995, "Master Motor Builders," from 2000, "A Technical and Operational History of the Liberty Engine," from 2009, "Packard 1948 to 1950," from 2011 and his latest, just completed book "Packard 1951 to 1954," from 2014. These followed and were intermingled with many magazine articles on the two subjects for various Packard club publications and gun magazines. A 1950 Custom Eight Sedan and 1954 Cavalier remain after a collection that included a 1936 Twelve 5-passenger coupe, a 1941 One Twenty coupe and 1955 and 1956 Caribbeans, among others. Bob contracted the Packard bug from his parents, who had a nice array of Packards that introduced him to the finest of automobiles. Bob was very active in local and national Packard Club activities.

Bob was born at Four Mile Tree Plantation, Surry County, VA, on February 12, 1933, near Jamestown. After a brief move to Chase City, VA, Bob and his older brother Donald grew up in Suffolk, VA, near Norfolk. Bob was led to Christ at an early age and his Christian beliefs guided him throughout his life.

A computer and radio expert by profession, Bob decided on his electronics career while in the service of his country in the Army Signal Corps from 1954 to 1956, after a lifetime interest in radio and electronics. Bob later completed a course at Radar School in New Jersey and was then transferred to Okinawa, assigned to the Radio Propagation Research Unit. After his enlistment was up he was offered a job by the Army in Antarctica, which he declined in favor of a warmer job in 1956 with IBM as a Field Engineer in the new computer technology area. While in New York for IBM training, Bob bought his first Packard in 1956, a new 1955 Clipper Custom Constellation. Also, he met his first wife there, Helen F. Gordon, a Maine native who worked for the Rand Corp. which was developing the program system of the big, new SAGE* Air Force computer. They were married in 1958 and later moved to Arizona, then on to the Seattle area where Bob worked on IBM equipment that was leased to Boeing. He was busy with his family which now counted two sons, Church activities and the new and exciting field of computer technology. In 1968 Bob was promoted to IBM's highest technical field engineering position as Field Engineering Specialist. Helen died of cancer in 1978 after a difficult illness.

Guns were an important interest as a teenager. His first was an 1873 Colt Single Action revolver. Smith & Wesson firearms became his next and primary gun interest. After acquiring a few examples and spending time on significant research, his first book followed in 1966. It was published in German in 1989. Packard collecting continued with a few more models in residence over the next few years.

Bob met his next wife in 1981, Donna Fricks, and they were married in 1984. During their first years of marriage, Donna was kept busy with her landscape maintenance and commercial cleaning business, while Bob traveled extensively across the lower 48, and Alaska, troubleshooting IBM computer equipment. Retiring from IBM in 1986, Bob worked alongside his wife in her business. There was also time to begin some serious books on Smith & Wesson and Packard, some of which were award winners. This would be Bob's most productive time at his favorite subjects. But another sad event came too early for Bob, when he lost Donna to lung cancer in 2008.

Writing and research helped to keep his mind on happier topics. Bob had a very productive life as a historian of both the Smith & Wesson Company and the Packard Motor Car Company. During his earlier years he published 4 books and 21 magazine articles on the Smith & Wesson Company. After his interest turned mainly to Packard he published 5 books (about 750,000 words) and 44 magazine articles (about 250,000 words) on the subject and in doing so became the largest single producer of published Packard history of his generation.

Bob mentions in a book on family history, published in 2014, that he had a "good life and God has blessed me
greatly." We all should look forward to be reunited with family and friends when we all meet in heaven.

He is survived by two children by his first wife, K. Kevin Neal and Gordon E. Neal, his five step children, Robert E Fricks, Jr., Teresa George, Ronald E. Fricks, Raymond E. Fricks and Richard E. Fricks and a multitude of grandchildren and great grandchildren.

*SAGE. stood for "Semi-Automatic Ground Environment." SAGE was the most ambitious computer project ever undertaken, which required over 800 programmers and the technical resources of some of America's largest corporations. It was started in the 1950s and was operational by 1963. It remained in continuous operation until 1983. At 250 tons and 60,000 vacuum tubes, it was the largest, heaviest and most expensive computer system ever built.

Dwight Heinmuller

UPDATE 2.24/2015, facebook entry by Teresa Neal:

Friday evening my step dad left his earthly home for his forever home. Us seven kids will miss him. We are so thankful his life and his influence in each of our... lives. For those of you that know Robert Neal - his service is Monday, March 2, Graveside @ 1pm at Washington Memorial Cemetery. Service following at 4pm at Galilee Baptist Church in Kent

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Re: Robert J. Neal, Packard historian, author and gentleman

Post by Packlit54 » Sat Feb 28, 2015 8:31 am

To the Bob Neal family, you have my deepest sympathy in Bob’s passing. He was a good friend, although hundreds of miles apart. We would see each other occasionally at one of the Packard events around the country. We often had great talks on the history of Packard. I was a frequent contributor to his Packard books and have all of them. I had great confidence in loaning him whatever he needed from my Packard collection to help in writing those books knowing that when he was through with what I sent he would return the items in the same condition I sent them and that is a rare quality.
Bob was a great Packard historian and has added to the written history of the Packard Motor Car Company that few others would even attempt. I will miss him and our frequent e-mail conversations.

Bob Zimmerman
Owner: 1954 Packard Patrician

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Re: Robert J. Neal, Packard historian, author and gentleman

Post by Fourpack » Fri Mar 06, 2015 8:15 am

It's so sad; we have lost another friend and a titan of the Packard world. We are grateful for the legacy Bob leaves us in the form of five great books on Packard. It is such a shame that fate didn't allow him to close out the sequence by letting us share is insights on the 1955-56 Packards.

It is a privilege to have known Bob and I will be forever grateful to him for letting me be his friend.

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