In the 1950s, dream cars from the Motor City usually looked into the future, but the Packard Request looked into the company’s glorious past.
According to Packard designer Richard A. Teague, the 1955 Request show car came to be when company president James Nance asked him to create a modern vehicle that incorporated the vertical Packard radiator shell. “Just hundreds of people asked for a return to the classic Packard grille,” Teague told author George Hamlin for Special Interest Autos magazine decades later. “Dealers, people on the outside. They would write in. These people just felt that the wide horizontal grille (which was by then industry vogue) didn’t carry the same impression, the Packard feeling, that the old grille did.”
Hence the show car’s name, which Teague selected himself: Packard Request. So while most factory dream cars of the ’50s were attempts to reach into the future, the Request was an effort to revisit the grand old company’s past glories.
Initial drawings and clay studies were based on the production 1954 Packard, then transferred to the updated ’55 sheet metal package (the illustrations above are from Popular Mechanics, February 1955). As Teague noted, the job was far more complex than simply pasting a traditional stand-up grille shell onto a modern front end. Considerable finesse was required to make it look right. Teague credited fellow Packard stylist Dick Collier for establishing the essential look.
Construction of the Request was assigned to Creative Industries of Detroit, the Motor City’s leading specialist in prototypes and special projects for the automakers. A not-quite complete 400 two-door hardtop was plucked off the assembly line at Conner Avenue and sent to Creative, where the unique front end and other features were fabricated and installed. While the hood was fiberglass, the massive split front bumpers and grille assembly were formed from heavy-gauge steel and reportedly weighed more than 400 lbs. Other touches included custom-built tail lamps and Caribbean-style interior and exterior trim pieces.
Once completed, the Request was sent out to tour the 1955 car show circuit, where by all accounts it was a popular attraction. But by then, of course, Packard styling was already headed off in an entirely different direction, the one represented by the Ghia-built 1956 Predictor dream car. And as we know now, unfortunately, the company didn’t have long to live anyway. Somehow, in the disorder and confusion as the company shut down its Detroit operations in 1956 and production was moved to Indiana, the car simply disappeared, as the story goes.
The one-off show car wasn’t seen again until decades later in Oregon, where it was recovered and restored. Today the Request resides in the collection of Packard mega-enthusiast Ralph Marano. Below is one more look at the Request with designer Richard Teague, left, and William T. Graves, Packard’s vice president of engineering.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.