Design History: Packard’s Request, Almost Fulfilled By Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes-Benz W122 Prototype

While Googling for some info in the W120 Mercedes (180/190) unique platform-frame chassis, I encountered these photos of a curious prototype, designated W122, and featuring a rather suspiciously familiar looking headlight treatment, complete with the hooded headlight theme. My first thought ? A Mercedes-Benz plan to be a part of the Packard’s rejuvenation sometimes in the late 1950s? Or, at least, to capitalize on its hard earned legacy, which is still largely the same thing. Never going to happen in real life.

So, the year is 1956; just two years later the final Packard (umm, Packardbaker, but you all know the story) will roll off the assembly line, and Studebaker-Packard dealership network will be selling cars produced by Mercedes-Benz. Even after killing Packard outright, they still used its good name to attract clientele to these new offerings:


And now, just imagine that. The year is 1957 (or 1958), and a new car is on offer at Packard dealerships – the trim-sized Packard Clipper. Not just a new car, but a new kind of car – a compact luxury car which combines European size and ease of handling, a thoroughly sophisticated design and a build quality to match (or even exceed) the well-known Packard’s high standard of craftsmanship. In a few years, it is joined by a larger and even more advanced one (W111-based), as well as some custom-bodied sports cars (Facel-Vega sourced), with European flavor and American power to offer…

Well; the Germans from Mercedes-Benz would’ve never let it happen, wouldn’t they ? They even made Studebaker-Packard drop the plans of selling Facel-Vegas as Packards in a last-ditch effort to revive that once-glorious brand. Moreover – it is doubtful that the market was ready for such a concept as a compact luxury car in the late 1950s – even with all that newly found interest in smaller, imported cars during the Eisenhower recession. But at least they almost made a car which could’ve been a Packard in everything but name (quite unlike the 1957-58 Packards-in-name-only). Almost.

W122 Prototype Front End

The W122 didn’t make it into production. The description of these photos blames the conflict of interests between the (small, but prospering) Mercedes-Benz and the recently-acquired (large, but almost bankrupt) Auto-Union/DKW in 1958 for that (sounds almost like the Packard-Studebaker story, doesn’t it ? But with quite the opposite end) – as well as the relative obsolesce of the W120 platform it was built upon, especially in contrast with the all-new W111 with its innovative and advanced safety features.

Mercedes W111 Design_Flosse

Anyway, in my opinion this concept front end treatment looks much better than the production W111’s one, with its ovoid-shaped headlights – not to mention the US-market version with stacked round headlights. Well, of course I may by biased as a long-time fan of both hooded headlights and Packard itself.

Packard Request

And, the Request ? If you didn’t know, that was a name given by Packard to one of its show-cars, which combined 1955 Packard’s hooded headlights with a grille inspired by the company’s cars from the glory days of the 1930’s. Just like the W122.