I have never seen one of these in person, so I was delighted to find this near showroom-new example on eBay with lots of close-up detailed photos. I like to imagine myself seeing this car gleaming on the showroom floor at a Studebaker-Packard dealer in 1958, as J.P. Cavanaugh did in this post. So if you’ve ever been curious about these last-of-all Packards, step inside with me and take a look . . .
A little background: In 1954, Studebaker and Packard merge. President James Nance goes all out and presents to the market radically new 1955 Packards, with V-8 engines, Torsion-Level Ride, and new-looking bodies. Sales rebound to a somewhat respectable 55,000 units. But in 1956, few new buyers seem interested, and sales plummet to 28,799. Studebaker is also floundering, with sales well below their break-even point. Nance fails to obtain financial backing for an all-new ’57 line of Packards. He bails, and new management decrees that 1957-58 Packards will be based on the already-existing, top-of-the-line Studebaker President Classic.
In my lifetime, I have seen exactly THREE ’58 Packards, (but no ’57s). I took the photo above at a car show in 1999. This totally restored (or mint original) car was supposedly owned by Bewitched actress Elizabeth Montgomery. The other two were a black sedan at a ’50s event called Lead East in Parsippany, NJ, and a pale pink one with a smashed-in trunk parked (not running) off Route 10 just a few miles west of the Hilton were Lead East is annually held. I have never seen the ’58 hardtop, with its attractive roofline, nor the wagons, nor the elusive Packard Hawk.
The Packard Hawk is based on the Studebaker Golden Hawk, but with Packard-inspired body trim and super-luxury interior. It is said to be the fastest non-racing Packard in history, with its supercharged 289 cubic inch Studebaker-sourced V-8.
So now, let’s take a close look at this rare bird, with all its fine plumage:
Vooooommmm! Looks like it’s soaring, even standing still. This is the iconic Robert Bourke-designed Studebaker hardtop coupe of ’53, but so much jazzier!
The glorious P A C K A R D name spelled out across the front. A golden eagle. A sporty hood scoop (fake)–the ’58 Fords (and the 53-54 Packard Caribbeans) had those too.
It looks so voluptuous in this view! Parking/directional lights above headlights with their own set of fins. The famous Packard “cusps” in the hood (going back to 1904) are retained.
From this angle it looks European.
Distinctive rear view mirror with S-P emblem.
Here we get a better look at the “outside armrests”, which appear to be plastic, and I read were inspired by the cockpits of vintage airplanes.
You like gold? We’ve got lots of it right here!
Reminds me of a ’61 Imperial from the rear. The trunk is smoothly rounded down in place of the rather awkward-looking Studebaker trunk. Twin radio antennas are a Packard thing. Has the correct grilled exhaust tips, just like the magazine ad.
Yeah, it’s got the fake spare tire bulge. I’m really not a fan of that kind of stuff, but on this car, I can accept it.
Have a look inside . . .
Tan leather interior. This is really luxurious!
Functional European racing car-type instruments. Engine-turned dash panel. Tachometer and vacuum gauge.
Put a new decal on it and it becomes a Packard engine! For this car, the Stude V-8 is better than the 55-56 Packard V-8. It’s lighter, for one thing.
There’s the supercharger mounted atop the engine, with that jewelry-fine Packard badge on top. The supercharger gives faster acceleration when you floor it, but it makes some noise and can create problems. Consumer Reports stated, “It will give the mechanics a bad time.”
All this original literature comes with the car.
I promise not be promiscuous in my use of regular grade gasoline. If I owned this car, premium only!
1953-54 Caribbean-style brightwork surrounds the wheel arches. Special 14″ Packard wheelcovers with the red hexagon and five spinners.
Now if I compared this to the competing American 4-seater sporty coupes that I also like from the same era–for instance, the 1958-60 Thunderbirds, which would I choose? I’m very close to going with this Packard, and here’s why: First, the T-Birds, sharp and cool as they are, are rather common. Second, I like the looks of this Packard Hawk better than the Studebaker version with its “big schnoz” grille. Third, this is a truly unique, custom-bodied car which has a lot of flair. Most people won’t know what it is, and have never seen one. The market says that the Packard is the most desirable, according to NADA:
1958 Thunderbird: $16,600
1958 Studebaker Golden Hawk: $20,100
1958 Packard Hawk: $22,100
All prices are “Average Retail” condition. Yes, Packard leads in resale value, but it took 60 years for that to happen! “You can be certain you have made a sound investment in quality.”
**Special note**: To me, these NADA prices are just theoretical starting points in a negotiation–I would offer quite a bit less, and we dicker from there.
Now the 1957-58 Packards generally get a lot of criticism: “It’s not a true Packard, but a Studebaker underneath”; “The body trim parts look tacked on”–technically, these statements are true. But I think enough time has passed so that we do not judge this as we would a “used car” but as a fascinating relic of a truly romantic time in auto history.
Let’s face it–Studebaker and Packard merged. S-P had the rights to the Packard name, and were in the business of building cars. They tried their best (with a very limited budget) to put much of the Packard luxury tradition and Packard styling cues into their Studebaker-based offerings. And if anyone knows anything about pre-war cars, the idea of a Packard speedster is not a new one.
To say “They’re not true Packards” is like saying Dodges built after the Dodge Brothers were acquired by Chrysler are not true Dodges, or Lincolns built after Ford took them over are not true Lincolns. That “Bell & Howell” or “Hamilton Beach” appliance you buy at Walmart–does it have anything to do with those original American companies? No, the names are licensed, and the products are built in Chinese factories. But they are still recognized as being that brand. Products and manufacturing are always changing.
“The Packard Hawk is the car with a regal air that immediately distinguishes its owner as a man of position. Put yourself in that position.” Well, someday I might just do that. And I salute the 588 people out of 4,500,000 who, in 1958, decided that among ALL cars offered that year, THIS was the one for them!