It is said that all good things must end. This proverb dates back to at least the time of Chaucer (although in his usage he left out the word “good” and talked about all things in general). However you look at this saying, it is certainly true of automobile companies, as the vast majority of which that have ever existed are now defunct. This means that there are an awful lot of “last cars” waiting to be found in the wilderness on this and future expeditions.
I’ve already dug deeply into the last DeSoto while on a previous unicorn safari, so let’s grab our rifles and try to bag some more famous big game last cars.
When discussing the final Packard, there are really two “lasts” to consider: The last Packard bodied 1956 model, which many would consider to be the last “true” Packard, and the last actual car to bear the Packard name, which would have been a rebadged Studebaker produced in 1958.
The last “true” Packard came off the line of the Connor Ave. assembly plant on June 25, 1956. Some sources claim that it was a four-door Patrician model, but no photographic or written documentation evidence exists to support this (at least that I could find). Packard production records from this period are sparse, and no concerted effort has been made that I am aware of to locate the last 1956 Packard-bodied Packard.
The Packard name would go on to be applied to lightly modified Studebakers for 1957 and 1958: The last car to bear the Packard name emerged from Studebaker’s South Bend Plant on July 25, 1958.
Fortunately, the Studebaker production records from this era have survived, so we know a great deal about the final 1958 “Packabaker.” It was a four-door sedan bearing serial number 58L-8134, and it sported a Mountain Blue metallic paint job. Options included A/C, overdrive transmission, and whitewall tires.
As was the case with the final DeSoto (and so many other final cars), the ultimate Packard was accorded no special treatment – it was sold to a dealer and delivered to a customer like any other car, neither of whom were likely even aware of the car’s significance. Unfortunately, the current whereabouts of this car are unknown.
Thanks to contemporary news reporting, we know that the last Edsel rolled off the line of the Louisville assembly plant on November 19, 1959. It was a tan Villager wagon (unknown as to whether it was a six- or nine-passenger model). Either way, it was a pretty rare ride, as only 275 Edsel wagons were produced for the abbreviated 1960 model year.
The whereabouts of this last Edsel are unknown, but it would have looked identical to the car pictured above. According to the Edsel registry at edsel.com, which has been tracking hundreds of extant and scrapped Edsels for the past several decades, no Edsels produced in the final month of November 1959 are known to survive. The 1960 Edsels with the highest surviving serial numbers all have October 1959 production dates, so at this point, any Edsel with a November 1959 production month would earn the de facto title of last surviving Edsel.
I figured it would be good to end this piece on a high note. Unlike Packard and Edsel, the last Studebaker (from 1966) is present and accounted for, thank you very much. It is currently on display in the Studebaker National Museum in South Bend, Indiana, as photographed and attested to by our own Jim Grey (and countless other museum visitors).
Part of the reason the last Studebaker survived while so many other final cars have not is that Studebaker was not going out of business when they stopped producing cars, so the shutdown was a little more orderly.
Studebaker was in fact a highly diversified conglomerate by the time they stopped producing cars in 1966. Contrary to popular belief, Studebaker was not losing money on their car business – it actually turned a small profit in its final year thanks to the use of GM Canada engines and the overall frugality of the manufacturing team. However, the Studebaker board realized that in 1966 their automotive business was small (less than 9,000 1966 models produced) and shrinking fast. Turning this around would have required a significant outlay of cash, with no guarantee of success, especially since Studebaker was essentially a Canadian market-only car by this point.
Studebaker continued as a going concern even after the last car was produced and the Hamilton, Ontario plant was shut own. In 1967, Studebaker merged with the Worthington Corporation to form Studebaker-Worthington. “Studebaker” remained in the combined company name for over a decade, only finally being retired in 1979 when S-W was acquired by McGraw-Edison in 1979.