Thursday, October 28, 2010

Ask The Man Who Owns One

Fading Glory, originally uploaded by William 74.

In the 1920's and 30's, Packard had a reputation for being the top of the heap among American luxury car manufacturers, despite being an independent and lacking the backing of one of Detroit's major manufacturers. Their cars combined elegant styling with hand built quality and reliability into a luxurious package, a trend that continued post war when the company-like most-simply updated a prewar model. By the early 1950's, Packard had updated it's styling, but without the financial backing of a company such as General Motors or Ford, they couldn't afford yearly model changes, and simply opted to gently massage their existing shapes. By the middle of the decade their cars were looking decidedly frumpy, conservative cars for conservative people.

That all changed in 1955. Stylist Richard Teague was called on to completely revamp the company's lineup, a task he succeeded at. Gone were the rounded forms and antiquated postwar austerity, and in were modern sharp lines and jazzy two tone paint. Packard also took the opportunity to revamp the car's mechanical bits, with all new suspension and the company's first modern V-8 engines. Luxury touches abounded, with pushbutton automatic transmissions, air conditioning, and electric windows. Packard was back.

It didn't last, though. Plagued with reliability issues with the transmissions and electric gearboxes, Packard sales fell through 1955 and '56, consistently lagging behind Lincoln, Chrysler, and the new king, Cadillac. By 1957 the company had merged with Studebaker of South Bend, and the cars were more Stude than Pack, and by 1959 the name was gone completely.

This car is a Four Hundred, which was the two door coupe model built during those two glorious years (the other two were the four-door Patrician and the sexy Caribbean convertible). It's a very elegant car, and it looks great in two tone black and white, with a red interior. I have no idea why it's sitting there, quietly returning to ground, but I imagine it must have been a serious mechanical malady. But there it is, with a quiet dignity, holding it's head high, the end of an era.

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