Reviled by Packard purists, ignored by the collector car world, the final Studebaker-based Packards of 1957-58 have earned the unfortunate name “Packardbaker.” Here’s their short, sad, and interesting story. There very nearly was no Packard for 1957.
On June 25, 1956, the last of the Detroit-built Packards rolled off the assembly line on Conner Avenue. On the following day, company president James Nance resigned, unable to persuade the bankers to advance any more funding for new products and tooling. On August 20, with all the other possibilities exhausted and time running out, the Studebaker-Packard board elected to throw together a skeleton lineup of ’57 Packard models. These cars would be closely based on existing Studebaker products and built in the Studebaker plant in South Bend, Indiana.
This last-ditch, last-minute effort was attempted mainly to satisfy the few remaining dealer commitments, keep the Packard name alive in the marketplace, and buy time for a reorganization that, as things turned out, never arrived. The Studebaker-based Packard lineup—soon to earn the name “Spackard” or more commonly, “Packardbaker”—made its debut on January 31, 1957.
There was but one model line for 1957 and it was designated the Packard Clipper, a tacit admission that these were not true senior Packards. Only two body styles were offered: the four-door Town Sedan (lead photo at top) and the Country Sedan, a four-door wagon. The four-door was a mildly facelifted Studebaker President, of course, while the wagon, based on the Studebaker Broadmoor, gave Packard its first wagon model since 1950. Just one engine was available and it was Studebaker’s most powerful, the 289 CID V8 with McCulloch supercharger usually found in the Golden Hawk, and it was good for 275 hp.
With barely 90 days to work with and virtually no budget, the styling team, led by Richard A. Teague, tacked on classic Packard design cues wherever they could. Among other imaginative tricks, somehow they managed to graft the fabulous ’56 Packard tail lamp assemblies to the aging Studebaker sheet metal. But if you look a little more closely, the wagon’s 1953-vintage greenhouse is all too evident.
Priced near $3,000 and carrying more standard trimmings, the Packards sold for around $400 more than comparable Studebaker models. Sales amounted to only 3,940 Town Sedans (Model 57L-Y8) and 869 Country Sedans (57L-P8). But given the shortened ’57 model year and the rapidly vanishing Packard dealer network, maybe it’s a wonder they sold as many as they did.
For 1958, the Clipper label was dropped and two more body styles were added to the line, a two-door hardtop (above) based on the new-for-’58 Studebaker Starlight roof, and the Packard Hawk, a variation on the Studebaker Hawk theme (below). The previous sedan and wagon models continued largely unchanged except for the addition of awkward fender extensions to house quad headlamps, the hot Motor City styling trend of 1958. The normally-aspirated version of the 289 CID V8 was now standard on all models except the Hawk, which retained the McCulloch VS-57S blower setup.
The Packard Hawk (58L-K9) is known in some parts as the “Hurley Hawk” after Roy T. Hurley, Studebaker-Packard chairman and CEO at Curtiss-Wright Corporation, which effectively controlled S-P at the time. Hurley admired a Ferrari he saw on a visit to Europe and asked Duncan McRae, S-P design chief, to work some Italian styling flourishes into a Packard-badged Hawk design. As the story goes, McRae assumed the request was for a one-off special and was as surprised as anyone when it turned up on the production schedule. Along with a wide, Ferrari-esque grille, McRae added vinyl-upholstered door tops and a faux spare tire to the deck lid.
The addition of a Hawk model to the lineup did little to boost sales. Only 588 units found buyers, for total of 2,622 cars in Model Year 1958 and a grand total of 7,431 for the two years of South Bend-built Packards combined. Volume was far too miniscule to carry on, obviously, and the Packardbakers were discontinued on July 13, 1958.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.
The Ford Motor Company pulled out all the stops to introduce the Edsel to the American public. Here we take a quick look back at The Edsel Show, the carmaker’s star-studded TV spectacular of 1957.
Formally introduced on September 4, 1957—“E Day,” as it was called—the Edsel received one of the grandest consumer product rollouts in history. The Ford Motor Company pumped out a media blizzard of print, sound, television, and film properties to promote the bold new car line, but arguably, the most memorable element of the campaign came on October 13 with The Edsel Show. A CBS Television variety special hosted by Bing Crosby, the one-hour extravaganza starred the biggest entertainment personalities of the day, including Frank Sinatra, Rosemary Clooney, Louis Armstrong, and Bob Hope. The Edsel may have been a flop, but The Edsel Show is celebrated as one of the great moments in the Golden Age of Television.
The Edsel Show is historically significant from another angle—as the oldest example of videotape in existence. (Host Bing Crosby was an investor in the early technology.) For the surviving videotape we can thank Kris Trexler, an Emmy-winning Hollywood production guy who also happens to be a car enthusiast and an Edsel man. Kris tracked down and preserved the sole remaining copy of the show. For the story of the videotape, Kris’s car collection, and some fascinating TV history, be sure to visit his website, King of the Road.
If you enjoy classic musical variety, you’ll definitely want to watch Kris’s complete, unabridged version of The Edsel Show on Youtube. You’ll appreciate the quality of the recording, which is far superior to the clunky kinescope technology of the period, and to see Sinatra, Clooney, Satchmo, and company performing together is a gift in itself. But because cars are what we do at Mac’s Motor City Garage, we’ve snipped one of the extended-length Edsel commercials from the videotape (with Kris’s permission, of course) to share here. In this clip, all four Edsel models for 1958 are given the star treatment: Ranger, Pacer, Corsair, and the top-of-the-line Citation, with flowery exposition by announcer Warren Hull. And now, a word from our sponsor.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.
The GTX was Plymouth’s deluxe entry in the ’60s muscle car wars, offering style and comfort—and an optional 426 Hemi V8, too. Here’s the original 1967 sales pitch.
Before there was a Road Runner, there was the Plymouth Belvedere GTX, the brand’s first official entry in the ’60s muscle car wars. Introduced in September of 1966 as a 1967 model, the GTX was a fully equipped muscle car, boasting deluxe exterior trim and badges and an upmarket interior with bucket seats and a floor-shift console. The list price reflected the extensive list of standard features: $3,178, several hundred dollars more than the bare-bones Road Runner introduced for ’68. Of course, once the red-hot Road Runner arrived, it outsold the more expensive GTX by more than two to one. In more recent years, automotive writers have dubbed the GTX the “gentleman’s muscle car.”
Despite the posh equipment, the GTX was as potent as any in the muscle car category, with a standard 440 CID Super Commando V8 with 375 hp and a choice of Torqueflite automatic and four-speed manual transmissions. Of course, optional at extra cost ($564) was the mighty 426 Street Hemi V8, laughably underrated at 425 hp. (According to factory records, 720 such beasts were produced.) At that moment, the Street Hemi was pretty much the king of the heap at the drag strips and drive-ins. But in this original 1967 commercial spot, the GTX is presented not as a hairy drag strip monster but as a fun and sporty lifestyle tool. Enjoy the video.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage
Here’s a rare find: a nicely preserved 1963 factory film covering the history of the Chrysler Turbine program and the introduction of the sensational Turbine Ghia prototypes.
For this awesome film we thank the Detroit Historical Society, where it has been safely preserved in the organization’s Detroit History Video Archive. Originally produced by the Chrysler Corporation in beautiful color with Hollywood-quality production values, the film tells the story of the automaker’s passenger car turbine program, from its inception in March of 1954 to the introduction of the sensational Chrysler Turbine Ghia prototypes by company president Lynn Townsend on October 29, 1963.
Narrator of the 20-minute film, gifted with the bold title Tomorrow is Today, is Art Gilmore, a familiar voice to baby boomers raised on 1960s television. The announcer on countless TV series and specials in the golden age of TV, Gilmore often served as the voice of Chrysler in the automaker’s commercial presentations. Memorable scenes in our film-to-video include:
+ A simple but functional animated tutorial on turbine engine theory and operation
+ Chrysler’s rarely filmed vice-president of design Elwood Engel sketching out the basic Turbine Ghia shape on his artist’s pad
+ A visit with the father of Chrysler’s turbine program, George J. Huebner, who was also a key participant in the Chrysler missile program
+ Beautiful footage of the Turbine Ghia in testing on the big 5.0-mile oval at Chrysler’s Chelsea Proving Grounds.
+ Chrysler president Lynn Townsend introducing the 1963 turbine test program with selected consumers.
Of the 55 Ghia-bodied Chrysler Turbine cars produced (five engineering prototypes and 50 consumer test cars) only nine examples still exist, most of them in non-running condition. (Check our tag cloud on the main page for more Chrysler Turbine stories.) Here’s a choice opportunity to learn more about these rare and beautiful cars and see them in action. Video below.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.