At a recent classic car show, the lone Packard on display was a beautifully restored 1949 Packard Super Eight Victoria convertible. It was truly a sight to behold, in absolute Concours condition. However, isn’t it always more delightful to spot a true classic in the wild, even if it’s a little rough around the edges? I was far more impressed by this Packard I spotted in Colonia Roma Norte in Mexico City, which I believe is a 1950 Eight Touring Sedan.
Forgive me if I’ve gotten the year wrong. I must confess, my knowledge of 1950s cars is limited. After all, this Packard was manufactured before either of my parents were born.
The hood ornament appears to be the giveaway in identifying this Packard – the Eight had this jet plane-style “Goddess of Speed” ornament, while the more prestigious Super and Custom models had elaborate cormorant ornaments.
The previous year was noteworthy for Packard in that it was the first year their new, in-house Ultramatic auto transmission was introduced, the first in-house automatic of any of the independents. Initially available only on high-end Packards, by 1950 it was an option across the entire line.
By 1950, the post-war sellers’ market was beginning to slow, particularly for mid-priced and luxury vehicles, and Packard’s cars were looking very out-of-date. It didn’t help that a raft of domestic lines had received extensive redesigns the year before while Packard was stuck with a 1941-vintage “bathtub” body. Packard dealers had bristled that a new design was taking so long and that their lots were being choked with unsold stock, buyers responding to the dated Packard line with apathy.
In a market that was becoming increasingly hungry for annual styling changes, the ’50 Packard was an anachronism. Sales skidded down by around 20k units in 1950. Even in the face of sagging sales, the president of Packard, George Christopher, announced the ’51 Packard would be yet another subtle refresh of the ageing bathtub body. There was a palace coup. As the decade drew to a close, Skinflint Christopher was out and Hugh Ferry was in. The anti-Christopher contingent within Packard saw the investment in a new body as being a much more prudent use of capital – of which Packard still had a bit to play with – than Christopher’s emergency price cuts and loans to struggling dealers.
An entirely new, more modern, and rather fetching body was introduced for 1951. Sadly, Packard’s financial situation was becoming increasingly precarious and the ’51 ended up being the last new vehicle designed by Packard.