(first posted 12/13/2012) Packard, Packard, Packard. What did you get yourself into? We could talk all day about the Studebaker-Packard marriage and its chaotic aftermath, but since it’s been talked to death here and elsewhere, here’s the short, short version: Packard never should have found itself in cahoots with cash-strapped, frequently clueless Studebaker. I love Studebaker dearly–but sometimes that can be a bit difficult, given what the company did to what was once America’s premier automobile.
As most of you know, a 1957 Packard is not really a Packard, but a Packardbaker; 1956 was the last year for genuine Packards. Genuine as being made in Detroit on the same line as the classic Twin Sixes of the Thirties, with no compromises in features and size. Although the 1955 models had myriad assembly and mechanical problems, most of them had been corrected in the ’56 models. Still, it was too little, too late–actually, it had been too late even in 1954. At the very least, Studebaker was guilty of creative accounting and bookkeeping, and the resulting red ink became apparent only after Packard had bought out the Indiana company. Why Packard didn’t back out after getting a clear picture of Stude’s books is beyond me.
All that Packard cash (Packard was still in the black, with good cash reserves at the time of the merger) wound up being used to prop up Studebaker. Studebaker not only had a perilous history of kowtowing to the unions, but had even issued shareholder dividends during the Great Depression–when the company was losing big money–with predictably disastrous consequences. The end result was a major financial crisis followed by the closure of Packard’s venerable East Grand Boulevard factory. It may be of small comfort, but the 1956 Packard Patrician, Four Hundred and Caribbean were well-built, finely crafted cars that held their own with Cadillacs, Imperials and Lincolns. Sadly, the last real Packard came off the line on August 15, 1956, in Detroit.
I’ve already spent more time on Packard’s decline than I intended; for a more thorough story, check out the ’58 Packard and ’55 Four Hundred CCs. My focus here is the 1957 Packardbaker. So back on topic! The 1957 South Bend-built Packard was essentially a 1957 Studebaker President Classic, Studey’s top- of-the-line model. It was quite different from Packard’s 1956 offerings.
For starters, it was smaller. The 1956 Packards were 218.6″ long, with a 127″ wheelbase. The ’57 model was 211.8″ long with a 120.5″ stretch between the wheels. That may not sound like a huge difference, but the ’57 Clipper was also an inch narrower. In fact, even the ’56 Packards were a bit narrow, owed to their 1951-vintage body shell. In comparison, the 1957 Cadillac Sixty Special (the model closest to the 1956 Patrician sedan) was 224.4″ long, 80″ wide and had a 133-inch wheelbase. Going smaller in the American luxury car market was not the best choice in 1957.
To give the S-P marketeers some credit, they did call it a Packard Clipper, a de facto admission that it wasn’t a real Packard. Which, of course, it wasn’t. Oh, there were plenty of Packard cues, including cathedral tail lights (re-purposed 1956 Clipper units), broad chrome-side moldings, front bumper bombs (despite looking very much like Cadillac’s “Dagmar” bumper, they had been a Packard feature as early as 1951) and, of course, the red hexagon in the wheel covers. The ’57 Clippers were introduced a little late, on January 31, 1957, in $3, 212 Town Sedan and $3, 384 Country Sedan (station wagon) form. It is a virtual certainty that no one, least of all S-P executives, was fooled.
In truth, this car was intended to be a stop-gap. At the time, S-P was trying mightily to secure financing for an all-new 1957 Packard that would use a common chassis and frame with planned new Studebakers, but feature different styling and wheelbases for the respective marques. Sadly, a complete lack of investor confidence left the company with no cash infusion in sight. The ’57 Clipper, along with mildly restyled ’57 Studebakers, was what resulted; it was all they could afford at the time. A stop-gap it was, but at least it was a rather attractive one.
Here’s the non-Packardized version: The $2,539 Studebaker President Classic. The Classic, a sub-series of the top-trim President line, received a four-inch wheelbase stretch and the expected added trim and equipment. While it made a plush Studebaker, it wasn’t exactly Packard material. Nevertheless, as the best car Studebaker had to offer, a Packard it would become.
That’s not to say the ’57 Clippers were bad cars–in fact I like them, especially the wagon. Speaking of which, the Country Sedan, with a 116.5″ wheelbase and 204.8″ overall length, actually rode a shorter wheelbase than the sedan, and was based on the President Broadmoor wagon. As previously mentioned, The Town Sedan, which was based on the Studebaker President Classic’s four-inch longer chassis, measured 211.8″ stem-to-stern, with a 120.5″ wheelbase.
One thing for which the ’57 Clipper needed no excuses for was its engine. Powering all 1957 Packards was a Studebaker OHV 289 CID V8 fitted with a McCulloch Model VS-575 supercharger that engaged at 3,000 rpm. Breathing through a two-barrel Stromberg carburetor, the setup was good for 275 hp at 4800 rpm. Yes, you could have the very same engine as the vaunted Golden Hawk in your chrome-festooned wagon. I myself rather like the idea.
Clippers did look a little bit longer and lower than their Studebaker siblings, thanks in part to wide, grooved chrome side moldings that bisected their flanks (and continued across the tailgate in Country Sedans), all enhanced by two-tone paint.
Standard equipment included Flight-O-Matic automatic transmission, chrome wheel discs (adapted from the ’56 model), chrome drip moldings, back-up lights, a padded instrument panel (whose formed fiberglass cover was prone to warping over time), an electric clock and front and rear carpeting. Not exactly the high specs of not-so-distant Packards, eh? Well, it was a Studebaker at heart.
I mean, can you honestly imagine a traditional Packard owner buying one of these? This was a painfully visible step down from the 1955-56 models, especially compared with the all-new 1957 Cadillac and fabulous ’57 Imperial. I suppose some of them did, but it’s more likely that many made a lateral move to a Big Three luxury make–or perhaps to a Mercedes-Benz or Jaguar.
The closest comparison to the ’56 vs. ’57 Packard debacle I can think of involves the downsized 1985 C-body Cadillac. Like the Packard, the Caddy was suddenly seen as less prestigious than the Broughamy 1985 Town Car and, to a lesser extent, the Chrysler Fifth Avenue. Sure, the ’85 Fleetwood and deVille sold well, but GM was wise to keep the traditional RWD Fleetwood Brougham in the lineup. Not everyone was enamored of the FWD Caddys, at least not until a much-needed restyling in 1989. Sadly, Packard never got a second chance.
The standard equipment may not have been worthy of a luxury car,but plenty of options could be ladled on. Popular items included whitewall tires ($28), power steering ($98), power brakes ($38), power windows ($103) and a power front seat ($45). A limited-slip differential, Studebaker’s excellent Twin-Traction, was also available.
Inside, things looked a bit more Packard-like, with no Studebaker Cyclops-Eye speedometer present. Indeed, the gauges and instrument panel bore a striking resemblance to the 1955-56 Packard’s. Regrettably, the steering wheel was the usual Studebaker hand-me-down, albeit with a spiffy ship’s-wheel emblem.
Along with the ’64 Cruiser and ’89 Omni, I found this two-tone aqua-and-turquoise ’57 Town Sedan at last September’s Trains, Planes and Automobiles car show in Geneseo. This is an excellent show that attracts plenty of unusual cars; I highly recommend attending if you’re nearby the Quad Cities. The fare is most certainly not of the usual Tri-Five Chevy, GTO and Mustang variety, and this Packardbaker proves it–as does the last-of-the-line ’66 Commander next to it. As one of only 3,940 sedans built for the year, it’s a rare find in its own right. The wagon is even scarcer, with a mere 869 units produced.
1957 was not good to Packard, nor to S-P itself, as the company lost $43.3 million for the year. With no knight in shining armor bearing a line of credit, the 1957 new-car program was ditched. At S-P, the focus shifted to staying alive, never mind coming up with a new car. The questionable 1958 Packard face lift indicated just how crazy things were becoming.
The 1957 Clipper may have looked nice enough for what it was, but the ’58 no-name Packard (the Clipper model name was dropped in favor of Packard Sedan, Packard Hardtop, etc.) was something else. While it does have a sort of kitschy-fifties appeal today, who knows what new car buyers thought of it then! And along with the ’58 model, ladies and gentlemen, came the end of the Packard make. So sad.
I’m very fond of both Packard and Studebaker but what happened with this merger is criminal.
When I see Packardbaker photos I always want to avert my eyes and quickly “click through” this disaster.
Looking at this one in pictures, it strikes me that this would have made a pretty credible Studebaker President. This may be the best looking “big” car ever built on this body (certainly before 1960). The Stude President never looked like it possessed the trim quality to be competitive in its class, but this car would have been a player in a Rambler Ambassador sort of way. I wonder how this car would have done as a President in 1959-60 – Stude could have hopped onto Romney’s “anti-dinosaur” bandwagon with a smaller but luxuriously trimmed car. But it was a terrible Packard. I am trying to remember if I have ever actually seen one of these in the metal, I think that maybe I have once at a car show. What a beautiful example this one is.
One nit to pick – the Twin Traction differential was not a Studebaker part. It was a Packard innovation from either 1955 or 56, and may have been the only “real” Packard DNA in the whole car. Studes continued to use the Twin Traction name up until the end.
Final thought: I have long believed that Packard’s demise was as responsible as anything for the success of the 1957 Imperial. Packard buyers had avoided buying Cadillacs (and Lincolns) for years. Packard people would have been the kind of people impressed with Chrysler’s engineering pedigree, and the new Imperial would have been attractive to them. 1957 was the only year that Imperial ever outsold Lincoln.
JP, I thought they did it in ’59 and ’60, too? Not totally confident in Wiki’s numbers, but the ’58-’60 Lincolns were deservedly slow sellers.
I would have to do more research, but I am pretty confident that Imperial only managed the feat that single year. Imperial did very well in 1957, but its sales took a big dive in 1958, just like the other Forward Look cars.
Chrysler should have bought Packard after the war.
Off topic: I know this blog is “CURBside Classics”, but I really don’t have a problem with ones shot at open air shows like these pix.
Sometimes the cars are so rare there’s no way you’d ever be able to get a shot of them curbside. Just putting that out there. The more old cars, the better, IMO.
On topic: Having been born after the demise of Packard, and a bit before the time of Studebaker’s end, I have little emotional connection to these cars. By the time I can remember anything, these cars were taken by the tinworm for the majority of the examples.
They’re like vehicles from an alternate parallel universe, I’m interested in them, but not enough to get wound up about them in the same sense as if you were to mention Mercury, Oldsmobile or Pontiac. I remember those cars, lusted after some of them, owned a few and have a connection with them.
Regardless of all that, I really am glad to see these cars. Just have to figure out the obligatory LSx swap! (ha ha!)
Most of the car show finds that get featured here are something unusual that wouldn’t otherwise be encountered very often. I don’t find that inconsistent with the spirit of this site, and I don’t have any problem with it.
When I was growing up, cars like DeSotos, Studebakers and Hudsons seemed like relics from another time. Mentioning one conjured up images of “something that happened a long time ago” (I think of the dad on “Happy Days” driving a DeSoto, or the reference to a LaSalle in the lyrics to the theme to “All In The Family”), and someone having owned one was kind of seen as humorous (you must be really old if you owned one of those, and you bought a car that was sufficiently unpopular that they don’t make them anymore). It feels strange to think that Plymouth, Oldsmobile, Mercury and Pontiac are now in that category. I owned two Plymouths myself, and in my lifetime my parents have owned vehicles from all of those brands except for Olds.
I’ve told this story here before, but in the early ’80s, when I was about 10-12 years old, I actually had a Packard poster hanging in my room. My parents took me to a car museum whose gift shop sold posters depicting cars made by various brands. They told me I could get one, and I picked out the one with, of all things, Packards. I think I picked it just because it was different. I can remember my parents asking me, “Are you SURE that’s the one you want?” At the time, I was interested in old cars and had a few car books, so I certainly had heard of Packard, but it was probably little more than a name to me at that age. I’m sure I knew that Packard was a make of car that had become defunct in the ’50s, but not much beyond that.
And keep in mind that all car show finds are now called “Car Show Classic” rather than “Curbside Classic.”
It’s unfortunate for Packard that this car was seriously stodgy and outdated before it was born!
I agree with Geozinger that this car is interesting in the abstract sense, but that’s about all. I mean, who would pass up a Chevy Bel-Air, equivalent Ford or Chrysler for this? Not me, just speaking as a majority of one…
Still, it’s a pretty-looking car, and I’m happy that SOMEBODY thought enough of it to restore it for posterity. It’s now a very old car, so that IS worth keeping, and the old iron is getting scarcer every year. Kudos to the owner!
That Studebaker back door window shape sure is ugly.
I love that shape in coupes.
It’s dysfunctional in a 4-door sedan, poking into where the door should be. That obvious conflict makes it ugly too. This sedan body version of the ’53 Starliner coupe was an ugly duck from day one.
Same deal with the Hillman Minx, except that they never made a two-door sedan at all (a Beetle-class car no less!)
Actually they did make two door sedans, the Californian and Rapier are merely two door Minxs.
I have no personal memories of Packards, but I agree it is one of the saddest industry stories ever. To have the stature and elegance Packards had in the early part of the 20th century to being nothing but a distant memory only some fifty years later.
Due to my affinity for automobiles, including historical information and models, the pictures of the former Packard plant in Detroit remains one of the saddest (non-mammal) images ever. And yes, it is still there today. Why have they not demolished it yet?
…same shot, in “happier” times…
That bridge collapsed a few years ago, fortunately when nobody was under it. The current owner of much of the building put a tarp up that made it look like the old picture rather than the more recent one, but nothing was done to shore up the bridge itself (the building on one side of the is owned by the city of Detroit, which complicated working on the bridge. Guy had a pipe dream of renovating the whole place to be put to multiple uses. Now just wants to demolish most of it and sell the land. That’s still very expensive, due to its pioneering use of reinforced concrete, the toxic material cleanup, and the sheer size of the place (about 40 acres)
Last week the Hemmings Blog cited a feature in The Old Motor which links to an amazing set of features in the Detroit Free Press. Interactive photos – as you slide your mouse across it fades from now to then and back. It’s like seeing a ghost. Video, captioned photos, a timeline, lots of material.
Direct link to the Detroit Free Press.
The CC effect rides again, though in a different way, I found and went to that site yesterday.
It doesn’t seem to have been updated in a while, but if you haven’t visited the Fabulous Ruins of Detroit website (http://www.detroityes.com/fabulous-ruins-of-detroit/home.php), take a look…depressing in places, yes, but also eerily beautiful.
They haven’t demolished it yet because nobody has any money to do so. The owner is a broke ex-convict, and the City of Detroit is also broke. It is currently in foreclosure. Their only hope is for the feds to deliver some bacon . . .
Oh, and estimates for cleaning up the site are as high as $20M.
I thought the Packard sales issues were solved when another set of fins were installed on the other fins-
If nothing else, the 1957 Clipper was a more interesting car than the 1958 Ambassador, which wasn’t all that luxurious and whose overly long cowl looked weird. Perhaps the Ambassador got less of a bad rap than the Clipper because of the expectations game; the Nash brand didn’t possess anything near the cache of Packard.
One thing I wonder is whether Packard could have survived by producing a more compact premium-priced car. Did luxury have to mean big?
In 1957 . . . . . . . yes.
What probably would have worked was keeping the regular 1956 Packard as the senior series and introducing this as a “junior” Packard to the big car. Its not that luxury had to be “big”, this was only 4 years before Lincoln introduced the small(for the time) Continental in 1961. Compacts were booming in 1958. The problem with the 57 Packard was the same as the Versailles and Cimarron many years later, it still looked like the cheap car it was based on.
The problem, as I understand it, was that S-P did not have enough volume to keep both South Bend and Detroit running. Regular Packards could not be built in South Bend because the lines were not wide enough to accommodate the much wider Packard. Remember that Studebaker sold exceptionally narrow cars back then, even in 1947 and 1953. In retrospect, Studebaker should probably have picked up and moved out of South Bend and headed for Detroit, but at the time, I don’t think that they thought the Packard plant big enough to handle Stude cars and trucks. As recently as 1949-50, Stude had been running 200K units annually and thought they could get back there with the right products.
“…it’s more likely that many made a lateral move to a Big Three luxury make–or perhaps to a Mercedes-Benz or Jaguar.” Studebaker’s marketing tie-in with Mercedes-Benz happened about that time, and probably helped at least some people to move to Mercedes cars. It certainly did help some Studebaker dealers to become Mercedes dealers.
What happened to the Packard dealer network by 1957-8? Did they stay stand-alone or give up to the Studebaker shops?
In Portland this Packard might have been sold by Rasmussen Studebaker on W. Burnside St. (See the Lark inside?) They became the Portland-area Mercedes dealer, with a luxurious riverfront downtown showroom today.
In the forties Packards were sold a little further down on Portland’s old auto row. I don’t know when it closed. The building’s still there, and only four letters have changed on the big sign: P-A-?-K-?-?-?.
Our LP Evans Studebaker became LP Evans Mercedes, which still exists today.
The ugly sedan version of Loewy’s Starliner ended up as the last “Packard”, even though the company was at least solvent before the merger. So very sad this legendary marque didn’t keep its integrity to the end.
Maybe Packard could have survived into the sixties, but Cadillac was still so strong, it’s hard to see how. By the seventies the market for a super-premium American car was doomed. Autobahns and compact countries still supported German supercars, but the ultimate personal transportation for North America’s long distances was no longer on wheels.
That reverse slant on the rear door glass is what I never liked about Studebakers. While the Avanti and Loewy coupe were legitimate lookers, the sedans were lumps. Maybe the last-gasp ’64-’66 models were tolerable. When I was a kid growing up in the 1970’s I came to my own conclusion that ugly styling did Studebaker in.
It’s interesting how certain styling cues turn me off to this day. Backward-slanting rear door window treatments never looked right to me, on Ramblers or Studebakers. The third side window of mid-’60’s Dart and Valiant wagons looked like it had an angry brow. Looking back it probably was just a continuation of the original Valiant/Lancer styling, but that car was a road toad too. Just another example of Exner ridiculousness.
Packard was having trouble keeping up with the rest of the industry even before the merger. Consider they were still using flathead straight-8 engines six years after Caddy’s fabled high-compression overhead-valve V8 made its 1949 debut. Though financially viable, Packard clearly felt that wasn’t going to last. They got that right for the wrong reasons.
By 1955 Packard had developed their own modern high-compression V8, fully automatic transmission, and electrically-controlled four-wheel torsion-bar suspension. Too late. All tossed into the Detroit River just a couple years later.
Would have kept them going a while if Stude hadn’t dragged them down. But they were doing a small fraction of Cadillac’s volume even in the best of times which led them to believe once again they needed the backing of a volume producer. A healthy Studebaker would have provided that.
Though equipped with the aforementioned innovations, the 1955-56 models were otherwise restyled versions of the clean-sheet ’51. Could they have come up with an answer to the longer, lower, wider Caddies and Imperials of the late ’50’s? Maybe the cash reserves frittered away to prop up Stude could have financed another redesign.
Still, Packard would have been looking for some way to generate volume like the other independents struggled to do. It had been a catch-22 since the Depression, when they went downmarket with the 120 and the Six just to get out of the 1930’s alive.
My feeling in historical hindsight is that if it hadn’t been Studebaker, it would have been AMC or Kaiser-Jeep. Maybe Ford or Chrysler would have purchased them just for the name, which at one time carried more clout than Lincoln or Imperial
Yes, as we’ve talked about before (in the ’58 Packard comment thread and elsewhere), Chrysler could have been a great match for Packard. Chrysler bought Briggs, who built Packard bodies, in 1953, which helped bring Packard to this point. They were both engineering-driven and both did substantial defense business.
Packard would have taken Imperial’s place. We could have been crying about Packard K-cars.
…and what Marchionne’s doing to the brand with his seeming mania for retrenching the company out of existence.
The reason why the sedans were lumps was that they weren’t really the same cars as the Loewy coupes. Studebaker had a devil of a time getting the Loewy coupe in shape for production in ’53, and had no money or time to build the sleek sedan design that they sketched (and maybe clay modeled) using the proportions of the coupe. Instead, they clumsily adapted the styling cues of the ’53 to a modification of the ’52 sedan body, which has entirely different proportions. That car, stretched, shrunk and reskinned again and again, was the basis for every non-Hawk and non-Avanti Studebaker built up to the bitter end. A big reason that 1957-58 Studebakers and Packards look “off” is that they are an effort to graft late-Fifties styling onto a taller, narrower early-Fifties platform. In fact, you could argue it’s a late-Forties platform, given that the ’52 Stude was itself not too dissimilar from the ’47 postwar design.
I like the trim size and low beltline of the ’57 Packardbaker. The last of the ‘real’ Packards, the ’56’s, while better than the ’55’s, still had quality issues. I’ve heard of a recall for rear axles, and I’m aware of a Caribbean that was 18 cars from the last convertible that had a transmission failure while still fairly new.
Packard had more money at the time of the merger, but by ’56, Packard/Clipper was the bigger loser of the two auto divisions. The loss in ’56 was $43 million, but that was reduced to $11 million for ’57 with the demise of Packard and a largely-unchanged Studebaker line. The sale of Packard’s plant brought only $750K from one source I read.
Many, many Packard blueprints and documents back to the turn of the 20th century exist at the Archives of the Studebaker National Museum in South Bend, and most build sheets for the ’56 cars are located there too.
Twin Traction was available on Studebaker trucks in ’56, at the same time as Packard automobiles.
I do love that 57 Packard. I may not have been a “real” Packard but its not a bad looking car. Sad that those two went down in a death spiral together. Studebaker and Packard was a relationship equivelent of getting married on a drunken weekend in Vegas to someone you just met, finding out they’re an alcoholic who can’t manage money, and then the whole thing ending in murder/suicide instead of divorce. Makes you want to cry or make a really bad Lifetime Movie out of it.
It seems to me that Packard in the ’50s was much like Cadillac in the ’90s. A company with a solid very loyal customer base that was rapidly becoming too old to buy new cars, and their children were looking elsewhere, so I’m not convinced that the Studebaker deal did anything but speed up the ending.
Also, looking at the rear quarters on the ’58 I think somebody at Packard thought they did merge with Chrysler. 😉
Ironically, Studebaker had its greatest profit in its over 100-year history in 1959–the first year in five there was not a Packard model marketed by the Studebaker-Packard Corporation. The “Packard” name was removed in 1962 as being anachronistic.
in 1957, the top and bottom offerings (and everything in between) from Studebaker-Packard were the same car underneath the chrome, scultping and scripting. The cheap-o Scotsman looked like a naked Packard. The Big 3 didn’t dare do this so blatantly (until later). If a turnaround was to happen, 1957 was when it had to take place- a very narrow window of opportunity.
The car on the drawing boards for 1957 would have seen Packard scooping the luxury car business. The style was ahead of anything from Cadillac, Imperial, and especially Lincoln for ’57. Today, someone would finance this shared body plan, but SPC had too many cards stacked against them in the 50’s. It could have been a turn around, but again, what happened worked right into the hands of the coming global car markets. As SPC was tied up with Mecedes/Audi, their cars were taking a back burner so that Mercedes could get a firm foothold in America via the large SPC dealer network. We all know the history of M-B in the past 50 odd years. German/English/Japanese luxury brands have all supplanted American luxury. Yes, America needs a superluxury car only a Packard name could lay claim to, but again, when SPC tried to revive the brand on the Facel-Vega Excellence body in 1959, Mercedes jumped up and said, Oh, no, we can’t have that, that car will compete unfairly on the showroom floor with our 300. Yes, Studebaker survived – not making automobiles, but 2 legendary names were relegated to the past. BTW, 1959, the year of the Lark, was not Studebakers greatest selling year, it was 1950, the year of the bullit nose. Packard had no impact on either event. The post war period did, and then a recession in 1958, which killed the Edsel and made stars out the Lark and Rambler.
Unlike this article says, the 1985 Cadillac FWD C-bodies were a smash hit, not flops. 1985 was Cadillac’s all time sales peak, at nearly 400,000.
They were by no means a sales flop, and it’s difficult to make an apples-to-apples comparison of sales numbers, especially when looking at the figure of 394,000 sales for all Cadillac models during the 1985 model year.
The 1985 FWD DeVille and Fleetwood were introduced in April of 1984, so the best selling line was sold for an additional five or six months, making it difficult to compare sales from previous or subsequent model years. On top of that, the RWD Fleetwood Brougham was sold alongside the revised, FWD ones. If someone has access to the breakdown by model, I’d be interested in seeing it. Something tells me the Fleetwood Brougham saw an uptick in sales once the FWD versions were introduced.
Ive always found it interesting that with the decline GM was going through at the time, Buick, Cadillac, and Oldsmobile all hit their all-time sales peak in 1985.
I was there. The Fleetwood Brougham became yesterday’s news when the FWD DeVilles came out.
The cars that stunk up the store when they came out were the 86 Seville and Eldorado.
Having owned a ’55 Patrician as my first car in 1970, I found the ’57/’58 Clippers totally lacking in luxo car presence. Bigger was what Americans spent their money on then, if they had it. A smallish V-8 with a supercharger wasn’t the answer in the days of 25 cent/gallon gasoline. Plus, the sophisticated suspension of the senior ’55/’56 Packards was a huge bragging point. The ’57 Clipper face lift was aesthetically pleasing, nevertheless. If only they could have redesigned the greenhouse then, instead of in 1963… especially the thick, pyramid shaped B-pillar that gave the car’s Loewy heritage away, I would agree the clean, gilt edged styling would have made a fine President. Any good was lost in the excess of the ’58 fiberglass extremities, though. And, i keep coming back to rear aspect of the wagon. You could play Shakespeare off that balcony above the bumper.
I have always thought the 57 Studebaker and 57 Chevrolet had very similar styling, size and width. My suspicion is that the Studebaker was narrower and taller.
Wonderful use of what was available to create the Clipper. But the 58 has so many jarring details. Not much to warm up to, there. Too much fiberglass desperation.
The ’57 Packards were nice looking cars, almost but not quite true Packards. The ’58s were hideous and beyond salvage. If only Stude had done a bit more to differentiate the ’57s from lesser Studes, things might have been different. I have always thought that big round wheel openings with lots of chrome around them, a la the ’53 Caribbean convertible, would have done wonders for this body to make it look considerably different while harkening back to a very glamorous Packard. Imagine someone owning one of these at a stoplight looking across the intersection at the lowly Scotsman, essentially the same car.
Not enough differentation. Ford made the same mistake 20 years later with Versailles; then 5 years after that GM turned around and did the same thing with Cimarron.
Having finally seen the Predictor at the Studebaker Museum last year, I don’t think the proposed ’57 lineup would have saved Packard – too outsized and floaty. Plus the Studebaker and Clipper designs were very odd, with popped-up headlights that matched oddly truncated fins at the rear.
I’m convinced the only thing that could have saved Packard was a merger with Chrysler right after the war, before Chrysler decided to invest in the Imperial brand.
The Predictor certainly lived up to its name. Look how many cars were influenced by the Predictor`s style..
A new line of Packards might have sold in 57 (although the new Imperial would have been strong competition for the Not-Cadillac luxury dollar.)
However, there’s no reason to think that a line of Studes, Clippers and Packards would have sold any better in 58 than anyone else’s full size cars. It would have been the immediate death of S-P.
Both the 1958 Packard and 1958 Ford got their 1957 front ends “restyled” with big, jutting grills that to me look uglier than their predecessors. I always found it a bit coincidental that both Ford and Studebaker-Packard should use the same styling “update.”
1957 was perhaps the best year for Packard since the 1954 model year in terms of style and attractiveness.
The 57 Packard was okay looking, but if it looks good then the 56 Packard must look better by any reasonable standard.
I’m with you, hubba. I always found the 51 – 54 to be kinda plain and dowdy looking. I find the 55-56 to be fabulous, esp when compared.
I read somewhere that Packard approached the Lincoln division of Ford to have a “Packard” built from a `57 Lincoln, but with Packard styling cues until enough money was available to build a “real” Packard. I don`t know if it was true, but you hear stories like that.
There were renderings for a Packard for 1957 using the 1956 Lincoln body as a base. I don’t know how seriously it was taken by FoMoCo, but it was quite elegant.
An image https://www.flickr.com/photos/glenhsparky/3710623629/in/photolist-6HhnKh-6UT7oF-6EjB8P-8ztfHY-7oECwm-6Q3KxN-6HdmSa-6DTV8t-7oECwo-6DTV8x-6EoKKY-6EoM4h-6DTV8F-6PYDkp-6EoJUm-6EjBti-4ZNYSV
Facel Excellence based Packard https://www.flickr.com/photos/glenhsparky/3880213843/in/photolist-6HhnKh-6UT7oF-6EjB8P-8ztfHY-7oECwm-6Q3KxN-6HdmSa-6DTV8t-7oECwo-6DTV8x-6EoKKY-6EoM4h-6DTV8F-6PYDkp-6EoJUm-6EjBti-4ZNYSV
In this entire thread nowhere do I see anybody pointing out the real reason of Packard’s panicked buy of Studebaker. They had no bodies to put on their chassis. Packard did not have a body plant, they shortsightedly had farmed that out to Briggs a number of years earlier. Well guess what happened, Chrysler bought Briggs and promptly announced that at the end of the year, Briggs would no longer be supplying bodies to Packard. This is why the thing about keeping the 55-56 in 57 as a senior model was a fairy tale, there were no more bodies to be had to make them. They had to come up with something and the purchase of Studebaker seemed the best option at the time. They really had their back to the wall and the gun pointed at their head.. Briggs owned the dies so they couldn’t take the dies somewhere else and have the bodies stamped. It was a bonehead decision years earlier to have Briggs produce the bodies rather than produce them in house that eventually doomed Packard.
Must disagree with you. First, the purchase of / merger with Studebaker happened in 53 – 54, well before the 55’s were produced, let alone the 57. The motivation for this was attributed to a plan that combined these two with Nash and Hudson by George Mason of Nash. That plan died with Mr. Mason.
The purchase of Briggs by Chrysler was 54 as well, I think. Packard had to scramble but did fine the resources to take over mfg. their own bodies with the 55’s. Keeping the 56 car for 57, with updates surely, is an answer that anyone would have come up with given the situation but Tom points out that they were out of money and had to close something. Unfortunately it was the Packard assembly line, and with it the torsion suspension, the new V-8, not to mention the proper width of a luxury car of the time.
Not according to Studebaker Drivers Club Forum
Packardfan is correct. Packard built its own bodies for the 1955 and 1956 model years – as the link you provided actually confirms.
Packard wasn’t motivated by the need for a body manufacturing facility when it merged with/purchased Studebaker. Packard leased a plant in Detroit from Chrysler (a former Briggs facility, if I recall correctly) for production of the 1955 and 1956 models. That plant had the ability to make bodies for Packard.
Ditch the front fender vents, tidy up the C pillar, move the B pillar back and eliminate one of the shut lines between the doors and it looks better.
Studebaker did ditch the fender vents in 1958 (except on the Hawk), but waited until 1963 to get rid of the double door shut lines. They also mucked with the C pillar every year from 1961 to 1964, eventually giving it a normal forward thrust.
The clearest explanation of Packard’s demise is in ‘The Fall of the Packard Motor Car Co.’ by James Ward.
Late for the party. July 2017. Just found wagon #630 in Daytona Beach. I have documentation that it was in Harrah’s Reno, NV car collection and sold in Sept 30, 1984.
It’s complete, runs and someone ditched the Super charger. But I’m going to try to bring it back as stock as possible. Have all kinds of whisperers saying do a Chevy SB. No, the Stude 289 was a great motor. In fact , they now credit Studebaker as creating the muscle car movement with the 56 Golden Hawk. The country sedan had the same engine.
Haven’t found one gray-haired ‘ol fart who can tell me what brand this wagon is until they read it on the hood. This is my bucket list car. Anybody have any leads on the supercharger, let me know
additional photo car #630
Looking back the 1957 Clipper was a competitive middle priced car, certainly not a Packard in the true sense. The Connor Ave plant might have been the issue. Briggs made Packard bodies there since before WW 2, when Walter Briggs died the Briggs family had to sell the plant to pay taxes. Chrysler bought it from the Briggs family and informed Packard that they would no longer make bodies for Packard, therefore Packard had to lease it to maintain their supply of bodies (which were trucked over to East Grand Blvd) , Packard engineering people believed a single story plant was the key to their future, and they moved the entire operation over to Conner starting with the 1955 new models. The interesting part was Connor a tad over 1M sq ft at best could make 65,000 tp 70,000 cars a year, yet Packard could make enough cars there to make the engine plant profitable., The whole Conner deal was preordained to fail, Utica Engine plant needed to make 85,000 engines a year to break even. What Packard should have done was move keep the senor line at East Grand Blvd, with body’s from Connor and moved the Clipper bodied Studebakers to South Bend maybe in 1955 or 1956. If they did that there would have been no need to share senior bodies with Clipper, and the Clipper would then have truly been a separate middle priced line, instead of a cheaper bodied Packard.
Once the buying public gets down on a make of car, there is no “coming back” no matter what they try.
Not always true – though it’s before my time, I’ve read that Pontiac was regarded as dowdy and old by the mid-1950s, but fresh engineering, new styling, a new logo, new racing-inspired car names, and great advertising completely revamped their image by 1963 and put them in third place in U.S. sales, behind only Ford and Chevy (unfortunately, they squandered all of that in later decades). I do remember when Hyundais were considered laughably poorly built and unreliable, something only a cheapskate would drive. Look at them now.
Pontiac and Hyundai are more like the exceptions that prove the rule. Pontiac did make a comeback in the sixties from the old lady’s car with the wide metal trim running down the middle of the hood. But once musclecar performance died out, they had a tough go of it, ultimately culminating with the sorry Aztek, which most credit with putting the final nail into the Pontiac coffin.
But there’s no denying that Hyundai has made an amazing recovery from the hoary old days of the $4995 1985 Hyundai Excel. Fortunately, those old Excels didn’t have any one fatal flaw; they were just overall generally craptacular cars and got something of a pass thanks to that low, throwaway price.
I know they weren’t released until the next year but, damn, does that look like nothing more than a Studebaker Scotsman with the JC Whitney catalog thrown at it.
I mean, imagine buying a brand new 1957 Packard, then seeing a ’58 Scotsman pull up right beside the very next year.
The Scotsman was sold in 1957 too, albeit with a late intro.
I hope Studebaker dealers kept any remaining ’57 Packards parked far away from the Scotsmans in their inventory to keep any (of the few) prospective buyers noticing the similarity.
If not for the short success of the upcoming Lark, I can sure see Studebaker closing the doors right then.
Parole officer in my home town owned a black sedan. Usually parked on the street near City Hall. Walked past it everyday on my way to Jr. High School in the early 60’s. Kept it nice. He got an offer from someone who was building a customized Ford shoebox for the taillights and rear fender caps that was worth more than the book value of the entire car at the time. Having those fender caps made frenching in the lights relatively easy. Saw the Packard after that minus the lights and caps with what looked like round lights from a truck. When President Kennedy was assassinated, we got dismissed early from school and I recall seeing this black Packard on my walk home. They say that everyone who was alive that day remembers what they were doing. That’s part of what I remember. Saw the Ford several times later. Guy who owned a body shop south of town did a great job. I think it still exists.
In my mind the only way Packard could have saved itself was with a V-12 to differentiate it’s senior models from its juniors. Seniors – “Packard Twelve”, juniors “Packard 8”, with perhaps a longer hood to accomodate the V-12, and visually differentiate the seniors from the juniors. That probably would have required them junking the Ultramatic and replacing it with the DG from B-W, as I don’t think the Ultramatic could have taken the torque of a V-12. Supposedly retired chief engineer Jesse Vincent was working on a V-12 version of the introduced 1955 V-8. But to regain the lead from Cadillac they had to leapfrog Cadillac, and the V-12 would have been the only way to do that – the Torsion-Level, though innovative, was too subtle to really communicate to buyers that “Packard was Back”.
“I coulda had class! I coulda been a contender! I coulda been somebody!”
On The Waterfront, 1954
Both Packard and Studebaker did quite a lot of development work after the war. Considering them together, did they design and build a greater content of their cars themselves as AMC or even Chrysler? Two separate automatic transmissions, Two OHV V-8 engines, Two post-war suspension systems. In addition to the Studebaker mechanical power steering of 1953 and lots of body changes. Even with combined volume and better compatibility then they had, would have been a rough road. Now, if they had started several years sooner…
Also Packard developed power steering and air conditioning systems for 1953.
They did do a pretty good job of replicating the rear of the “real” ’56 Clipper, here’s the back end of my former ’56, compare with the rear shot of the turquoise ’57 above. The ’55/56s were truly big cars, and to the traditional “man who owns one” the ’57 would have come across as pathetic in comparison.