Fall from Grace: The Bathtub Packards and the Decline of America’s Most Prestigious Brand

Between 1935 and 1956, the Packard Motor Car Company went from the top of the heap among American automotive brands to just another independent, struggling to survive on the scraps of the Big Three. This week, we take a look at the Packard Clipper, the “bathtub Packards” of the late 1940s, and how the once-great automaker lost its way. We also examine one of the company’s odder experiments, the 1948 Packard Station Sedan.

1948 Packard Super Eight Victoria badge © 2010 Aaron Severson

PACKARD CHANGES DIRECTION

At the start of the Great Depression, the Packard Motor Car Company was the default choice for American luxury car buyers. There were cars that were more expensive or more exotic, but Packard had an aura of blue-blooded respectability that no other domestic automaker could match. A big Packard was not a sign of material accomplishment so much as a badge of class status, bolstered by graceful but restrained styling, impeccable quality, and exacting engineering.

1929 Packard 640 Runabout side © 2010 Aaron Severson
A Sixth Series (1929) Packard Custom Eight (640) 2/4-passenger roadster. The 640 was styled in-house by Werner Gubitz, but many of its design cues came from Ray Dietrich, who was a design consultant for Packard in this period. The Custom Eight was powered by a 385 cu. in. (6,306 cc) straight eight rated at 106 gross horsepower (79 kW).

The arrival of the Depression left Packard in an increasingly precarious position. While Packard’s old-money clientele were less affected by the economic collapse than were the middle class, even the very wealthy were becoming wary of displays of conspicuous affluence. Packard sales began to drop, leaving the company in the red.

President and chairman Alvan Macauley recognized that if it were to survive the decade, Packard would have to broaden its market. He promoted Max Gilman, the gruff, no-nonsense head of Packard’s New York distributor, to general manager and appointed former GM executive George T. Christopher as assistant vice president, responsible for overseeing the development of a new middle-class car, the One Twenty.

The One Twenty, launched in January 1935, brought Packard within the reach of upper-middle-class buyers for the first time. While far from cheap, it was priced to compete with Buick and handily undercut both Cadillac’s LaSalle “companion make” and the Lincoln Zephyr. The One Twenty was followed less than 18 months later by a new Packard Six, the marque’s first six-cylinder engine since 1928. Both the One Twenty and the Six were solid, high-quality cars, sharing the styling of the “senior” Packards on a slightly smaller scale. These “junior” Packards were a great success, making 1937 the company’s best-ever sales year. Of the 87,000-odd cars Packard built for the 1937 model year, about 95% were Sixes and One Twenties.

1934 Packard Twelve 5-passenger coupe side © 2010 Aaron Severson
An Eleventh-Series (1934) Packard Twelve five-passenger coupe. It rides a 141.9-inch (3,604mm) wheelbase is powered by a 446 cu. in. (7,300 cc) flathead V-12 with 160 gross horsepower (119 kW).

Macauley assured the press, public, and stockholders that Packard had no intention of abandoning the prestige market, but Gilman, who became president in April 1939, had other ideas. Gilman and Christopher saw the senior cars as inefficient and outmoded. They were expensive and labor intensive to produce — the Main Plant, where the senior models were built, had nearly as many workers as the newer plant that built the junior cars — and their sales were very low. Sales of the Packard Twelve hadn’t topped 1,000 units a year since 1933 and the Super Eight’s annual volume generally hovered below 3,000 units.

The era of the great hand-built Classics was ending in any case. Cadillac had dropped its own V-12 and V-16s models by the end of the 1940 model year and many other high-end nameplates had already expired. The market for truly bespoke bodywork had all but vanished; the new trend was to factory-built luxury cars with off-the-rack prices. Although Packard still cataloged a few “factory customs” carrying names like LeBaron and Rollston, most were little more than expensive trim packages, analogous to the “designer editions” that AMC and other manufacturers launched in the seventies.

Packard’s slow-selling 12-cylinder cars were quietly dropped in 1939. When the Eighteenth Series bowed in 1940, the senior models were little more than stretched versions of the junior cars, differing mainly in interior appointments and hood length. Even their new designations — One-Sixty and One-Eighty — suggested their commonality with the middle-class One-Twenty and six-cylinder One-Ten. The result was higher volume, but a serious erosion of Packard’s old-money reputation.

1941 Packard One-Ten club coupe front 3q © 2010 Aaron Severson
1941 Packard One-Eighty Custom Super-8 LeBaron sedan front 3q © 2010 Aaron Severson
Two Nineteenth-Series (1941) Packards: a six-cylinder One-Ten club coupe (top) and a One-Eighty Custom Super-8 LeBaron sedan. Other than the side mounts, trim, and the substantial wheelbase stretch — 138 inches (3,505 mm) for the One-Eighty, 122 inches (3,099 mm) for the One-Ten — they look very much alike, although the One-Eighty cost about five times as much as its junior brother.

SIDEBAR: Series and Model Years

Early in its history, Packard resisted the industry trend toward model years and their implications of planned obsolescence. The company’s general policy was to introduce new models when they were ready, not at some arbitrary point each fall. Models were initially designated with letters and later with a confusing array of model numbers and sub-series. Packard did somewhat grudgingly assign model years to its cars for registration and licensing purposes, but the series sometimes overlapped model years. Usually, the only difference between two model years of the same series was the serial number, although there were some exceptions.

In the early twenties, Packard restarted its numbering with the First Series (sold from September 1920 through February 1925), followed by the overlapping Second Series (sold from December 1923 to August 1926) and so on. It skipped the Thirteenth Series in the mid-thirties, so the final prewar models were the Twentieth Series, sold between August 1941 and February 1942.

Packard president Jim Nance abandoned the series numbering in 1953. Subsequent years still technically had series designations, but they corresponded to the model year; the 1954 cars were the Fifty-Fourth Series, while the final Packards were the Fifty-Eighth Series.

As a side note, Packard’s model designations shifted slightly from year to year, often with little apparent rhyme or reason. For example, “One Twenty” was not hyphenated from 1935 to 1937, was renamed “Eight” in 1938, went back to “One Twenty” in 1939 to 1940, and gained a hyphen (“One-Twenty”) from 1940 to 1942. For this article, we’ve attempted to use the correct nomenclature for each specific model based on the information in Packard: A History of the Motor Car and the Company, which was in turn drawn from factory records. If you’re confused, join the club …

PACKARD STYLING

Playing in the middle-class market demanded that Packard become more competitive in both engineering and styling. Previously, Packard’s central imperatives were continuity and attention to detail, not innovation or fashion. The marque’s typical customer was very conservative and tended to react poorly to anything too new or too flashy. Packard stylists therefore had to walk a narrow line, updating the company’s look just enough to stay current without alienating existing buyers.

Until the early thirties, Packard styling — known within the company as “body art” — was the purview of engineers and draftsmen, who generally borrowed designs — sometimes but not always under license — from independent coachbuilders. Ray Dietrich (of LeBaron and Murray) became a design consultant in 1926, but it was not until January 1932 that Packard established a real in-house styling department. Its director was Edward Macauley, the 32-year-old son of Alvan Macauley.

1936 Packard Twelve convertible coupe front 3q © 2010 Aaron Severson
A Fourteenth Series (1936) Packard Twelve convertible coupe. From 1935 to 1936, Packard’s V-12 was stroked to 473 cu. in. (7,756 cc), making up to 180 gross horsepower (134 kW) with the optional high-compression heads. Production of the Twelve ended in August 1939.

By the rather reactionary standards of Detroit society, Ed Macauley was something of a playboy. He loved jazz, was a fair saxophone player, and was very fond of motorcycles and sports cars. He had no formal artistic training of any kind, but, like Edsel Ford, he was a good critic and a decent administrator. To his credit, he was well-liked by Packard designers, engineers, and workers, his warmth, conviviality, and lack of pretension helping to overcome the undisguised nepotism of his appointment.

Since Macauley was an administrator rather than a designer, the real creative force behind Packard design became chief stylist Werner Gubitz. Gubitz, a German immigrant who had joined Packard from Dietrich Inc. in 1927, was actually three years older than his boss, but Gubitz was a quiet introvert, quite different from the bon vivant Macauley. Gubitz’s early designs showed the strong influence of Ray Dietrich (and for a time Alexis de Sakhnoffsky, a Packard consultant in 1931–1932), but Gubitz’s own sensibilities became more apparent as the thirties wore on, gracefully evolving Packard’s traditional themes in carefully measured steps suiting the marque’s conservative character.

1936 Packard One Twenty business coupe front 3q © 2008 Aaron Severson
A Fourteenth-Series (1936) Packard One Twenty. In appearance, the One Twenty was essentially a slightly shrunken version of the senior Packards, riding a shorter, 120-inch (3,048mm) wheelbase. It was the first Packard with independent front suspension, dubbed Safe-T-fleX, and hydraulic brakes, which were added to the senior lines in 1937.

THE PACKARD CLIPPER

This cautious approach to styling advancement served Packard well until the arrival in 1938 of the Cadillac Sixty Special. Styled by Bill Mitchell, the Sixty Special was a high-priced fashion leader with many design features that were considered groundbreaking at the time. Despite the reservations of some Cadillac executives, who feared it would be too big a leap for the brand’s existing customers, the Sixty Special became a great commercial success and had a galvanic influence on the American luxury car market, demonstrating that luxury car buyers were far more fashion conscious than most automakers had believed.

The Sixty Special evidently made Max Gilman very nervous, as did his and sales chief Bill Packer’s awareness that GM planned an even more radical new look for 1941. In late 1938, Packard management ordered Ed Macauley to launch a crash program to develop a Packard rival for the Sixty Special.

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  1. Although you focused on Packard’s management along with the company’s (mis)fortunes, there were always rumors of external forces that contributed to Packard’s downfall. After WW2, the Big 3 seemed to gang up on the independents and there was some scuttlebutt regarding the sale of the mid-50’s Packard tooling to the Russians. I don’t know much detail and I’m curious if you had any insight.

    1. The rumors of Packard selling its tooling (first for the pre-Clipper senior cars in 1941-42, then its final mid-fifties cars) have persisted for many years.

      I’m not at all sure what to make of them. The idea that Packard might have sold or transferred the tooling in 1941-42 is conceptually plausible, but James Arthur Ward, who went through Packard’s records at some length in the late eighties, found no documentation whatever of any official transfer, nor any mention of it in minutes of Packard board meetings. Other historians have suggested that the Soviet ZIS, despite its obvious resemblance to the prewar Packards, couldn’t have been struck from those dies. The idea that Packard would have sold or given its 1955-56 tooling to the Soviets in the late fifties strikes me as outlandish. My suspicion is that the Soviets simply found or bought a couple of actual Packards and produced studious locally made copies, just as they did with the Boeing B-29 Superfortress (knock-offs of which were manufactured as the Tupelov Tu-4).

      Even if the Soviets did somehow end up with the actual tooling, it hardly would have made any difference, because Packard had already stopped using them. The prewar tooling was abandoned in 1941, when Briggs Body Co. persuaded Gilman and Macauley to transfer all body stamping work to Briggs. In retrospect, that wasn’t a good decision for Packard, but even if Packard had built the Clipper and later cars in-house, the outdated tooling would have been abandoned anyway. Much the same is true of the ’55-’56 tooling; in 1956, Studebaker-Packard shut down production in Detroit, as we’ll see in next week’s article. S-P had little choice about consolidating production in South Bend, and they had to sell the only Studebaker plant that could have accommodated Packard’s existing tooling. (Which at that point was seven years old, anyway.)

      The only way the Big Three — or, more precisely, Ford and GM — "ganged up" on the independents was the price war between Ford and Chevy in 1952-1953, which we’ll also talk about next week. I don’t think there was any specific intent of smashing the independents, although certainly it was difficult for the independents to keep up with GM and Ford in pricing, frequent redesigns, etc.

      GM senior management actually would have preferred for the independents to remain reasonably healthy, although they did little to make that happen. General Motors management (at the corporate level, not the individual divisions) lived in mortal fear that if they controlled too much of the market, the Justice Department would break them up on antitrust grounds. Still, I suppose you could compare GM’s actions to ‘incidentally’ wiping out a species by overdeveloping its habitat and disrupting its food supply…at that point, it hardly matters if you’re intending to cause extinction or not.

    2. One of the major problems that Packard had was that Chrysler bought out Briggs, who made bodies for Packard.

      1. As discussed in the separate article on Packard in the fifties, that did become a serious problem for Packard, but that didn’t happen until 1953, which is why it isn’t mentioned here. It wasn’t on the table during the period discussed (except insofar as deciding to rely wholly on Briggs for bodies turned out to have been a mistake).

  2. I never knew Packard had such a great reputation–I finally get the punch line of a classic James Thurber cartoon in which a society matron is showing her dog’s new litter of puppies to another matron and says, “…and their father belonged to some people who driving through in a Packard!”

  3. the author is not very knowledeable about Packard, many errors contained, like:
    “Darrin also built a modest number of Clipper-based Convertible Victorias, based on the One-Eighty chassis; this is the 1941 model. Production amounted to about 35 cars in 1941, 15 in 1942” Packard only built ONE of these, no mention of Nance and the great Caribbeans? too much opinion in this article

    1. Jim Nance and his tenure are outside the scope of this article, which focuses on the period from the late thirties to the end of the 23rd Series in 1950. The Caribbeans are mentioned in the subsequent article, at least briefly; while they were magnificent automobiles in many respects, their sales and impact were sadly limited.

      According to L. Morgan Yost’s chapter in the [i]Automobile Quarterly[/i] book [i]Packard: A History of the Motor Car and the Company[/i], there were about 50 Clipper-based Darrin Convertible Victorias in all, 35 in 1941, 15 in 1942. The one-off was the Sport Sedan, Type No. 1422. This was listed in the catalog, but apparently the only one built was for a Packard executive. If you have other information to share, I’d be happy to see it.

      If you note other specific factual errors, feel free to point them out, and I’ll investigate. As for the opinion, I make no apologies for that — you’re free to disagree.

    2. My father owned two Caribbeans. Magnificent automobiles but the early one had valve problems.

  4. It very interesting reading about the Packard tooling from the lean-lease program from ww2 and how the Russians got the tooling for free but every time I try to get an answer it scenes to me that there is government cover –up as to how the dies were sent to Russia during the war? It also scenes to me that even during the mid 1950’s when times were good that it was very odd how a ww2 military contractor was at the forefront of technology then is beaten in the ground! It is very to understand how a well run indention car company just went out of business when it was well diversified in car, aircraft engines, marine engines and even jet engines?

    1. As I said earlier, there’s considerable doubt as to whether Packard actually did send its tooling to the USSR at that point. (Even if it did happen, I doubt it would have been a formal part of Lend-Lease, since calling tooling dies for an automobile war materiel would be a stretch.) James Arthur Ward found no evidence of it in Packard’s internal records, including board meeting minutes. I suppose if someone were motivated to investigate further, a Freedom of Information Act request might provide some answers, since I can’t imagine anything like that would be classified, particularly now.

      I don’t see what anyone would stand to gain by covering it up. Used (and, one could argue, obsolete) automotive tooling hardly seems more sensitive than military aircraft, tanks, ships, etc., which are pretty well documented. Occam’s Razor and the “cui bono” (who benefits?) principle would seem to apply.

      The article on Packard in the fifties touches on Packard’s defense contract woes, which Ward’s book discusses at greater length. Basically, a lot of automakers who had defense contracts lost out in the mid-fifties, both because of contracts canceled following the end of the Korean War and shifts in U.S. defense policy under Defense Secretary (and former GM president) Charles Wilson.

  5. Just a few quick comments — The 1951 and 1952 “200”, the 1953 Clippers and the convertibles from those years (except for the ’53 Caribbean), all used glass taillight lenses. (In the taillight caption)

    And, the California Packard dealer was Earle C. Anthony, not Anthony Earl. (In the pelican caption)

    Other than that, a very nice and informative article. Thank you!

    1. Thanks for the corrections! I didn’t know the first part, and the second was obviously just carelessness. I’ve amended the text.

  6. I founded a good text writen by Patrick Foster, about what if Packard had merged right away with Nash instead of Studebaker?

    And here another "what if", if Packard had used the body of the Facel-Vega excellence.

    Or a how about a Packard (should we call it a "Packoln" or "Linckard"?) using the 1956-57 Lincoln body?

    1. This week’s article will talk a bit about the prospects of a Nash/Hudson/Packard merger, and why that didn’t happen. In hindsight, it would have been a better choice, because Studebaker was in far worse shape than anyone (including Paul Hoffman and Harold Vance) really grasped, but Packard’s board saw them as bigger, and assumed they had more of a future.

      The fundamental problem with Foster’s theory, which was the flaw that also undid the Studebaker merger, was that consolidation and shared tooling take time. Studebaker-Packard also had a plan for shared bodies — not the “slap a Packard grille on a Commander and call it a Packard” deal, but a GM-style shared-body plan. The problem was that they did not have the capital to implement it, and when Nance tried to raise money for exactly that purpose, his creditors said no. Nash/AMC was in somewhat better shape, but at the point where a merger would have been possible, it was also losing money, and the same problem would have existed. Nance and George Mason DID discuss building Packard bodies in Kenosha, but the cost of shipping bodies-in-white back to Detroit was just too high.

      Packard did approach Ford in and ask to share the Lincoln tooling for the 1957 Packards, promising to make them look different enough to not infringe on Ford’s business. Packard also offered to merge with Ford, suggesting that Ford either badge the E-car (which became the Edsel) a Studebaker, or badge it as a Lincoln and apply the Packard name to the high-end Lincoln line. The latter offer was not taken seriously, but Henry Ford II did make encouraging noises about the former. While Henry was potentially amenable, his ambitious executive staff was most certainly not, however, and when Packard executives went to Ford, the engineering staff flatly refused to even allow them to inspect the tooling. Those sketches, done by Dick Teague’s staff, were as far as the plan ever got.

      The problem with that plan, even if Ford had been more cooperative, was that Lincoln was about to abandon its body-on-frame construction for 1958. That would have left Packard either having to start from scratch or once again facelifting an outdated body, as they’d been doing since 1951. Packard management recognized that problem, but they dismissed it as something to worry about later (the attitude in the board minutes discussing it was something like, “Yeah, we should all live so long.”) It would at best have been a temporary stopgap.

  7. [size=medium][/size]A couple corrections. The caption of the two-tone 1947 Packard Custom Super Clipper photo cites 0-60 in 19 seconds and a top speed of 108. 0-60 is around 13 seconds, and top speed around 104 mph, still the fastest postwar car ’til the ’49 Cadillac ohv V-8 and ’51 Chrysler hemi V-8.

    The “1941 Darrin Clipper” isn’t. Darrin did build one convertible using a ’41 Clipper for his friend and customer Errol Flynn, but that car vanished decades ago in Mexico. The pictured car is a recreation on the more robust 1947 Super Clipper chassis by a gentleman in Seattle, who has never presented the lovely car as anything but a faithful homage to the original, which he briefly owned as a young fellow just out of the Navy in the 1950s.

    Finally, all the corporate survival “what ifs” overlook that [b][/b][i][/i]all [b][/b][i][/i]independents were doomed by the 1950s because they couldn’t compete with GM/Ford tool amorization costs, afford costly TV advertising, nor the increasingly “necessary” if silly annual facelifts.
    For example, Rolls-Royce from 1935 was chiefly an aero engine manufacturer, the cars a boutique sideline with postwar bodies stamped by Pressed Steel, who also supplied Austin and much of the rank and file English motor industry.
    Cadillac was downsized in 1936 and from then on essentially a GMobile, sharing parts with lesser divisions. A ’41 Cadillac convertible, for example, shares every piece of sheetmetal with a ’41 Pontiac ragtop.

    By 1953, there was only a “Big Two,” as Chrysler’s market share had fallen to only 12.9%.

    Nice article otherwise, but let’s stick with “Just the facts, ma’am” and less conjecture.

    1. I will bow to your recollections on the peach-colored car; I didn’t have the opportunity to talk to the owner when I saw it. The acceleration times you mention for the Super Clipper sound more plausible, so I’ve updated the text.

      I agree that by the fifties it was increasingly (and probably prohibitively) difficult for the smaller automakers to compete with GM and Ford on their own terms. However, that didn’t necessarily mean that they were doomed, just that they needed to offer something the larger automakers did not, and not just try to go head to head with Chevrolet or even Oldsmobile. AMC did that and survived for more than 20 years, arguably stumbling only when it backed away from the niche philosophy to try to become more mainstream.

      In any case, I reserve the right to conjecture — if you disagree, that’s certainly your prerogative.

  8. I found your article on the fall from grace of the Packard Motor Company in the late 1940’s, both stimulating and informative. There was one bit of information presented in your aticle however that seemed to me completely at odds. You mentioned in regards to the 22nd series, which came out in the model year of 1948, that “Macauley was not the only one displeased with George Christopher. Packard dealers held him responsible for insufficient production, which left them with far more buyers than cars. That wasn’t really Christopher’s fault — the main culprit was a severe shortage of steel, something that affected most automakers — but Christopher’s repeated promises of 200,000-unit production had led dealers to expand their facilities in anticipation of extra volume that never materialized.” Fair enough, but then you go on to state: “The arrival of the 1949 models left dealers with large stocks of unsold ’48s, prompting Christopher to ask the board for $2 million in dealer allowances to move the leftovers. The resulting price cuts on nearly new models had a chilling effect on resale values, something that would haunt Packard for the rest of its existence.”
    How is it possible for dealers to be griping about not enough Packards being made for the model year of 1948, and yet have large stocks of that same model unsold with the arrival of the new 1949 models? It doesn’t seem to make sense. Were you not perhaps thinking of the 1949 models, as 116,000 cars rolled off their assembly lines that year, which dealers may well have ended up with a surplus of, as only 40,000 cars were sold the next year? Overall however, a great article, and it is indeed a shame that later when Packard was heading into more choppier waters that it did not choose to merge with Nash, which in 1954 had a working capital of nearly 100 million, though that figure would be significantly reduced after they took on the moribund Hudson. But Hudson had the Jefferson body plant available, and that may have made all the difference in the world, as Packard would have had neither the quality control probelms which plagued many of their new cars, or delayed their 1955 models from reaching the market by almost six months, with the transfer of assembly to the Conner Street plant, which probably resulted in a sales loss of as much as 40,000 autos in the short term, and a great deal more in the long term. Indeed, what a shame that Packard has been long gone from the auto scene.

  9. Couldn’t the Packard Twin-Ultramatic be counted as a “poor-man’s four speed,” because of the up-down or down-up, then the lock-up in each shift be sort of like four speeds? The reason I ask is because of the comparison section of the GM Roto-Hydramatic page on Wikipedia.

    1. I have heard people describe the later Ultramatic as short of a poor-man’s three-speed because it started in low, shifted to direct drive, and then locked the converter. I don’t think the converter lockup would function in low (which is also true even of most modern torque converter automatics) — if you were really feathering the throttle, the transmission would shift into high as low as about 15 mph and then lock the converter — so even by that standard, it wouldn’t constitute any kind of four-speed.

      1. The Ultramatic gearset uses the same gear train layout as GM’s Powerglide, which incidentally also didn’t shift automatically in its first few years on the market. Both use a Ravigneaux gearset and a band to lock one sun gear for “reduction” and a clutch to power that same sun gear for direct drive. The Ultramatic does have the converter clutch, and I believe it only applies in direct drive, but it doesn’t change the effective gear ratio. It only eliminates converter slippage. Considering that the Ultramatic had a “loose” converter like the old Dynaflow design, I have to wonder if the converter clutch apply felt like a shift to a higher gear.

        The Roto-Hydramatic is entirely different, using two separate simple gearsets. A fluid coupling transmitted power to the rear gearset for first gear, then the coupling drained and a friction clutch applied for second gear via front gearset reduction. For third gear, the coupling filled again and locked the two gearsets together for direct drive. There was no converter lockup, but there was a split torque path because some power flowed through the coupling and some through the front clutch.

        1. Powerglide, Dynaflow, and Roto Hydra-Matic are discussed in detail in a separate article. I don’t think Nickolaus was implying Ultramatic was like Roto Hydra-Matic (which it obviously isn’t).

          A converter lockup is not a gear ratio, which is why I said I think the “poor man’s three-speed” argument is very dubious. Locking or unlocking the converter can affect the speeds in gear (insofar as there would otherwise be a bit of slippage and if engine speed drops enough, the converter will start providing multiplication again), but I assume the main reason for that characterization is that the later, automatic-shifting Ultramatic was a “two-clunk” transmission: once for the 1-2 shift, again for the lockup. (Even on much later cars with tighter converters, the lockup clutch often engages with a perceptible thunk.)

  10. This is a very biased and slanted piece. Very anti-Packard, probably anti Studebaker-Packard. The real truth is vastly more complicated than the “bathtubs”. The writer tipped his hand by bringing AMC into the mix, Who would ever compare Packard with AMC? Who could compare coachbuilt Packard’s with levi Gremlins? Geez!

    1. I tipped my hand? Howso?

      I really don’t have an agenda in regard to these articles and am puzzled by people who seem to think that I have a secret plan to extoll or disparage companies that in this case haven’t existed (at least as automakers) in many years.

      1. Perhaps so, Packard has been gone for 59 years. Exactly the number of years in existence. The difference is the reverence by which this brand is held by those who remember it and those who came along after it was gone, like myself. For me only Duesenberg comes close to the aura of the Packard legend. Studebaker killed Packard along with market forces. Ditto Pierce-Arrow. Ford was crazy not to buy Packard when they had the chance, instead they built the Edsel.

        1. Well, the Edsel was not a luxury car and wasn’t intended as one; it was aimed (albeit not very well) at Buick, Oldsmobile, Dodge, and DeSoto. In any case, buying Packard would have been a tough sell for Ford, which on top of the Edsel debacle had just lost a lot of money on both Continental and Lincoln. (If Bob McNamara hadn’t like Elwood Engel’s alternate Thunderbird proposal, Lincoln might very well have gone the way of the others.) For all its history and pedigree, Packard was widely perceived as a has-been by the mid-50s and altering that perception would have required a substantial investment that Ford was certainly in no mood to make, particularly since the U.S. market’s appetite at that point for high-end luxury cars in the classic Packard mold was clearly limited. Both the Mark II and the Cadillac Eldorado Brougham were serious money-losers and it’s arguable whether they even offered any meaningful image value to justify their cost, which is the same equation that pushed Packard out of its traditional ultra-lux role in the ’30s.

  11. Packard management made some mistakes such as keeping the “upside down” bath tub style too long(could have kept 1941 style), investing 12 million in Ultramatic (could have purchased a Borg Warner trans), and not having an overhead valve V8 in 1951 for the first post war restyle (could have offered the 327 inline engine with a supercharger for the Patrician,the 327 normally aspirated for the 300 and the 288 engine for the 200). In addition 1951 Patrician should have had power windows, seats, steering, brakes and AC. With the knowledge that power windows, seats and AC were on previous models leaves a puzzleing question unless production cost was a factor. That said, it was and still is the longest surviving luxury independent. As a child, growing up in a “Packard” family the quality was without a doubt its strong suit. “A car made by gentlemen for gentlemen.”

  12. It was not only a car built for gentlemen by gentlemen, but also for ” young ladies” One of the first of the upside down bathtubs was my light yellow convertible 16th birthday present’ We were flown out to Detroit from Philadelphia to pick mine up right off the assembly line, or so we were told. They even had a photographer to take pictures at the airport as we boarded our flight to Detroit and the long drive home.

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