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PACKARDS

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  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,529
    AFter ther merger, Packard discovered to its horror that STudebaker had disguised its financial situation; after a miserable sales year in '56, S-P brokered a management deal with Curtiss-Wright, and I think it was Curtiss-Wright who essentially demanded the termination of Packard. Not sure but that's how I remember it.

    As for the merger into a "Big Four", once Mason of Nash-Kelvinator died, the new president Romney was not interested in a merger of the 4 companies.

    This is also why a Nash Metropolitan looks like it has refrigerator doors :P

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  • aldwaldw Posts: 82
    Depends on which was the larger brand and held more market share, that would be the best determinator between Studebaker and Nash.
  • uplanderguyuplanderguy Kent, OHPosts: 7,494
    A couple other quotes from the April 21, 1956 issue of Business Week:

    "The Packard-Clipper end of the business has been the heaviest loser. According to one report, Packard has already been offered to Ford Motor Co. and turned down. Packard-Clipper Div. just announced a $3 million promotion campaign, biggest in its history".

    "One proposal that Wall Street hears is under study is to sell the Packard engine plant at Utica, Mich., to a truck manufacturer, move Packard assembly to a smaller plant, and put the huge Detroit plant up for sale. Headquarters would be moved to South Bend, Ind., Studebaker's home, and the Studebaker nucleus itself might be sold to some company that could use a tax loss."

    I can't remember where...maybe it was the '56 Annual Report, maybe not...but I remember reading that sale of the big East Grand Boulevard Packard plant brought in only $750,000. By the '55 model year, production already had moved out of there and into a small former Chrysler plant on Conner Blvd.

    Bill P.
  • uplanderguyuplanderguy Kent, OHPosts: 7,494
    I agree with your "Three P's " assessment. But don't forget about the Studebaker Presidents of the early '30's, cars recognized as "Classics" by the Classic Car Club of America. Richard Langworth states in his introduction to "The Illustrated Studebaker Buyer's Guide", quote,

    "The Studebaker President was one of the most glorious cars of the Golden Age and set countless records on road and track. It was also beautifully styled, impeccably engineered, and a better road car than such highly respected "Classics" (as defined by the CCCA) as Packard, Cadillac, and Pierce Arrow--and I have this on the authority of people who have owned all four".

    Bill P.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,529
    It's fun to rewrite history but as Richard himself implies, the car at no time had the respect and prestige of the Three Ps.

    Nice car, though, very nice and a few models bring serious money today, but without V-12s and V-16s, it's really not in the same class as a Packard, Cadillac or Pierce. Hollywood stars and European heads of state and Saudi princes did not rush out to buy Studebakers but they did buy Packards.

    They are more in the Buick class IMO, or perhaps LaSalle.

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  • texasestexases Posts: 5,531
    Rodney's popping up all over, isn't he?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,529
    soliciting cars for sale is not permitted in the forums. Post removed. Please continue your discussion!

    MrShiftright
    Host

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  • fintailfintail Posts: 33,560
    Damn, I wanted to buy that Delage ;)
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,187
    "...I always looked at a Hudson as being a bit upscale. But which would have been the bottom feeder...Studebaker or Nash?"

    I think there was too much overlap between Hudson, Nash, and Studebaker to create a viable competitor against the Big Three. If Hudson, Nash, Packard and Studebaker had combined into one company, Packard could have gone against Cadillac, Lincoln, and Imperial by dropping the medium price models. It would have been more challenging to sort out how to position Hudson, Nash and Studebaker. Even though many of their models competed price-wise, they were very different cars, with different philosophies. They really didn't complement each other, which is important for a successful merger. That may be why the merger never happened.

    If Willys had been added to the merger mix, that brand could have been the bottom feeder.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,529
    I think if you look at production figures, product lines, styling, technology, etc., it would become somewhat apparent in MY crystal ball at least that GM and Ford would have rolled right over #4 of the Big Four. I mean, Chrysler *barely* survived in the next decade, and they were pumping out Hemis, fins, doing big splashes on TV, breaking records and saying up to snuff technically (the first alternator, torsion bar suspension, etc) in the late 50s, early 60s.

    GM's stuff was so sexy, so modern---they were just whumping the competition and slapping Ford and Chrysler silly in terms of market share.

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  • grbeckgrbeck Posts: 2,361
    The truth is probably more frightening - Studebaker's leaders had no idea of how sick their company really was.

    After the merger, Packard's controller visited South Bend and was horrified to discover that Studebaker's break-even point was well over 300,000 vehicles! The company had only hit that figure once before (1950). When he confronted Studebaker's top management with this information, they dismissed it, noting that the company had made money on lower volume in other years.

    What Studebaker management missed is that, one, during the early 1950s, their labor costs had drifted far out of line with the Big 3; two, their factory was increasingly antiquated and less productive than competitors' facilities; and three, beginning with the Ford Blitz of 1953, discounts by ALL car companies were necessary to move the metal.

    Studebaker had made money on lower volume during the postwar sellers' market, when demand outstripped supply, and it could charge more for its vehicles and maintain volume. Once the postwar sellers' market ended, factors one and two reared their ugly heads with a vengeance. Studebaker also didn't take into account that a fair percentage of its total profit was coming from defense work.

    A Studebaker staffer "costed out" a 1953 Commander Starliner using GM's cost structure. He discovered that GM could have sold it for LESS than the cost of a Chevrolet. Studebaker had to sell it at Buick prices, and was still not making any money!

    The entire merger had been conducted on a "friendly" basis. Neither side spent much time examining the other's books. If anything, Packard management could be accused of not exercising due diligence prior to the merger. If this happened today, there would probably be shareholder lawsuits galore.

    The real blow to Studebaker-Packard came when the insurance companies that Nance thought would extend the company credit to redo its lines for 1957 took one look at the company's rapidly deteriorating condition in 1955 and said "no." At that point, the company was finished. But 1956 was an election year, and incumbent President Eisenhower didn't want what would have been the biggest industrial bankruptcy in the nation's history to occur during an election year. (Hmmm...does this sound familiar?) Hence, he "encouraged" Curtiss-Wright to help out Studebaker-Packard. Curtiss-Wright coveted Studebaker-Packard's defense business, and it wanted to use the company's losses for tax write-off purposes.

    Roy Hurley of Curtiss-Wright looked at the company with an accountant's eye, and realized that, with the collapse of Packard sales in 1956, and its lower volume, it made sense to rationalize production in South Bend. He also realized that it made sense from a financial standpoint to base future Packards on Studebaker bodies and mechanicals, as opposed to the other way around. Thus, Packard's Detroit plant was closed, its new V-8 engine plant sold, and those moves killed the true Packard car.

    Packard never really recovered its footing in the postwar years, even though its production feats during World War II rivaled those of GM, Ford and Chrysler. Unfortunately, Packard's president during this time was George Christopher, brought in from GM to prepare for the mass production of the 120. He foolishly abandoned true luxury cars, and after the war, when Packard could have made a bid to return to its luxury roots, he emphasized dull medium-priced models, and approved really bad styling for the 1948-50 models.

    He refused to restyle the "pregnant elephant" 1948-50 cars until it was too late. By then, Cadillac had come out with the 1-2-3 punch of the 1948 tailfinned cars, the 1949 V-8 engine, and the 1949 Coupe de Ville, and it had a lead in the luxury market that Packard (and Lincoln and Chrysler Imperial) could not overcome. The early postwar Packards were well made and well-engineered, but park a 1949 Packard next to a 1949 Cadillac - it's no contest as to which is better looking, or more "youthful" and exciting.

    In many ways, Packard represented the "old wealth" that was swept away by the Great Depression and World War II. It was a conservative car with impeccable quality and low-key, but recognizable, styling. I recall reading that someone once said that Packards of the 1920s and 1930s were the best American cars ever made.

    Cadillac appealed to the "new" rich (rising industrialists, Hollywood stars, athletes) who were brash, wanted to show off their success, and did not necessarily come from one of the old families or from society.

    Times changed, and Packard didn't - or coudn't.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,187
    Very interesting account, grbeck.

    One thing I've wondered about many times is why, with good engineers and a reputation for engineering and innovation, Packard stuck with a flathead engine, with a relatively low compression, until 1955. I mention this more out of curiosity than criticism, because I have a soft spot for the domestic independents.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,529
    Well other companies stuck with flatheads even longer, like Chrysler and AMC.

    But in all three of those cases, I think undercapitalization is the best answer. It costs a lot of money to develop an engine from scratch. And the '55 Packard V-8 was very problematic. Even Rolls Royce had tremendous problems with its first V-8s.

    Lucky Chevy hit a home run however with the small block.

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  • uplanderguyuplanderguy Kent, OHPosts: 7,494
    This is a small thing maybe, but I never understood why Packard stuck with vacuum windshield wipers right up to the end...particularly in their price class. Even Studebaker trucks had electric wipers starting in '55.

    Bill P.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,187
    While what you said regarding Chrysler and AMC is correct, it's also true that these manufacturers, and Studebaker, featured OHV and flathead engines, rather than flatheads only. Chrysler introduced its 331 (same as Cadillac)180 hp (20 more than Cadillac) hemi V8 in 1950, for the 1951 model year. I think the Nash Ambassador's OHV I-6 dated back to the '40s, and maybe earlier.

    The only other American company that I can think of that stayed with flatheads exclusively until the mid-'50s is Hudson.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,529
    Possibly it was also because of the excellent low-end torque Packard got out of their flatheads. Packard and Hudson made flatheads that generally performed as well as SOME of the early V8s. Hudson's flatheads were kicking butt on the race track long after they should have been able to do that.

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  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,187
    Well, I think you're right; Packards and Hudsons managed to be competitive on performance, overall, through '54 with their old, massaged engines. The average owner of, say, a '51-'54 Packard was probably pleased with his car's performance, as were Hudson owners.

    I think a large part of the success on the track of those "fabulous Hudson Hornets" was attributable to their chasses, and the "step-down design's" low center of gravity.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,529
    they handled remarkably well. Most 50s American cars were really awful to drive fast.

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  • lemkolemko Posts: 15,144
    Even Chevrolet had problems with the early 265 V-8s. I heard they had oil burning problems. One solution given to dealers was to pour some Bon Ami down the carb to "scuff-up" the cylinders to prevent oil blow by.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,529
    How utterly barbaric.

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  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,897
    The Chevy smallblock also ended up being overly heavy. Low reciprocating mass, yes, but the entire engine was still pretty chunky. The reason for this is that the original design was too fragile, so instead of just redesigning it correctly, they just sort of added bracing here and there, after the fact. Supposedly they tended to be weak in the bottom end...crankshaft area and such, even after the beefing up.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,187
    The latest issue (October '09) of Collectible Automobile has an article that speculates on what the 2010 Packards would be like if the company had survived. The article is entitled "Packard for 2010." I've wondered what the models of the domestic independent auto makers would be like today. Anyway, the article is an entertaining fantasy. For example, it speculates that the top models would feature a V12 engine.
  • berriberri Posts: 4,159
    Brooks Stevens had some interesting designs had Studebaker hung on another year or two. I think they would have translated nicely into Packard had it still been around. If you think D3 has union problems, its nothing compared to what Studebaker ran into over the years.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,529
    I don't see a V12 engine as making any sense in 2010 myself. I would see Packard in 2010 as more of a small volume manufacturer of conservative tastes, maybe making cars for exclusive livery.

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  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,187
    I agree with your comment about the V12 engine, and was about to include words to that effect with my message, but then decided to not include my personal opinion. Even though this is a fantasy article, it's difficult to exclude real world considerations from your thoughts.

    On your second point, since this is just a fantasy, I'd prefer to let my fantasy of the 2010 Packard remain similar to what it actually was; a brand that a not-so-small number of upper-medium and luxury car buyers would choose. Kind of like Lexus.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,529
    That might be a reasonable dream. Packard was always a very conservative company. Never took big chances but always refined what it already knew how to do. I only commented on the V12 because I was wondering how the magazine could be so out of touch with reality in 2010--but then, they were just "dreaming", so they have a right to spin that any way they want.

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  • fintailfintail Posts: 33,560
    I look at Packard also as maybe occupying the same position in the US market that MB has - especially with the E-class sized cars and above. Usually conservative styling, lots of cachet.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,529
    True, but maybe without all of MBs over-engineering. Packards in their time were not technically complex vehicles. I suspect their vision was "to be ahead of one's time but not very far ahead, so as to suffer for it".

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  • fintailfintail Posts: 33,560
    Maybe over-engineered like a W124 or W126 rather than a W220.

    The embrace of V12s and the embrace of a specific radiator shell/grille theme is a nice coincidence, too.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,187
    For most luxury car buyers, over engineering is a positive. For me it's a negative. I appreciate the high quality, luxury, style and driving dynamics associated with luxury models, but don't care for excessive features, some of which detract from, rather than enhance, the driving experience. The new German luxury brands have gone beyond my needs and desires in terms of features. What would get me to take out my wallet would be a decontented A-4, 3-Series or 5-Series, or C or E-Class. Keep the basic quality and goodness, but spare me such things as backup-up and lane change alerts, to name just two of many things I'd delete. I'm not holding my breath.
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