The Packard Predictor

You might think that
development of a
concept car as the
last gasp to save a
failing luxury car
company sounds
like a bit of a long shot –
– and it turns out to have
been just that for the
Packard line.

Actually, it was an
investment that they
could ill afford  —

— losing money left and
right after swallowing up
the larger, but nearly
bankrupt Studebaker
Corporation –

– and is best remembered
as the last of the bad
corporate decisions that
Packard executives were
free to make.

The long history of Packard
(since 1899) and reputation
for quality was quickly being
washed away, especially after
the death of the merger’s
chief architect, George Mason,
(of Nash-Kelvinator fame) who
had envisioned the combination
as the start of creating a
competitive “Big Four” car
maker.

Still, the company’s management was hopeful,
and introduced the
new concept car at the
1956 Chicago Auto Fair.

The one-off car was
originally conceived by chief
designer William Schmidt
and designated the ‘Projector’
in the early 1950’s –

the layout and build of the
car was left to famed Packard
stylist Dick Teague,

and the body was created in
Turin, Italy by Ghia –

— before it was equipped with
a 352 c.i. 260 HP V-8 back
in Detroit.

True to it’s name, the Predictor
integrated many advanced
features, including an almost
bullet proof transmission –
(Packard had previously
been having a lot of quality
issues with their transmissions)
– a pushbutton controlled
Twin-Ultramatic 2-speed
planetary automatic with
torque converter and direct
drive lockup.

Some more goodies were
hidden headlights, an
electrified deck-lid, roof
panels, and windows.

Features of the car ended
up appearing in later
competitors cars
( borrowed – or down-right
swiped from the Predictor )
as wide ranging as the sloped
back-glass on a 1958 Lincoln
Continental, tail-light details
on a 1957 Plymouth, roof line
on a 1959 Mercury, roll-top
panels similar to the T-Tops
on a 1968 Corvette, grill trim
on a 1958 Ford Edsel, etc, etc,
not to mention the road stance
of a 1960’s Pontiac, and the
‘planned platform sharing’
idea that is now employed
by all the major manufacturers
today.

Also, it’s dramatic tail-fins
were styling cues used in many
cars after the Predictor, running
through the early 1960’s.

The car may very well have
saved the company –
but it was too late, and
Packard-built automobiles
disappeared from the
market in 1957- with the
remainder of it’s assets
going back into a revamped
but also ill-fated Studebaker
Corporation.

The fully functional Predictor
concept car can still be seen
as part of the Studebaker
National Museum in South
Bend, Indiana.

HOY !

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What Wasn’t New In 1946

” Packard —
Brand New For 1946 “.

That’s what a brochure
for the first post-war Packard automobiles
said.

But,
as everybody knows –
civilian motor car production
was cut off in early 1942 ,
subsequent to the U.S. entry
into World War II, and new
car development and design
hadn’t yet restarted in time
for the 1946 models.

So,
which was it?

Simply put,
they lied, like
any ‘good’ advertising
agency did back then.

Put in their parlance,
they made lemonade
out of already squeezed
lemons.

I’m usually shocked when
it’s so obvious, but these
examples from the 1946
Packard advertising brochure
really take the cake.

Packard officials later
admitted there was
little or no ‘new’ content
in the 1946 models- and in
the “Standard Catalog of
American Cars, 1946-1975,”
G. Marshall Naul noted:
“The 1946 Packards were
an extension of the 1942 Clipper line with practically no changes.”

And of course, plenty of
automotively-savvy folks
caught on right quick —

Which caused Packard to
take a different tack —

In a later ad , they explained
their reasons for all the
non-changes in the ‘all-new’
Packard ‘strategy’ :

1. “By continuing to build this superlatively fine motor car over into 1947, we do not have to stop production to ‘tool up’ for changes. This means more cars sooner for people who are so eager to become Packard owners.”

2. “By continuing the present styling,
Packard fully protects the motorist
who buys today’s new Packard.
He
knows that the stunning new Packard he buys today
will not become ‘dated’

in appearance tomorrow.”

3. “The stacks of orders now on hand are gratifying evidence that today’s new Packard is the car America wants.”

4. “Because of its advanced Clipper
styling, today’s new Packard is not
only conceded to be the best-looking
car on the road, but is actually
ahead of its time.”

5. “No car we have ever built, in all our 46-year history, ever won such spontaneous, enthusiastic, nationwide acclaim as today’s beautiful new Packard Clipper.”

Still, with all these non-reasons,
they managed to convince
over 30,000 folks to buy a
‘brand-new’ Packard in 1946.

But one wonders if this
kind of overtly-false advertising destroyed the car-maker’s credibility with buyers in the end —

— which came for Packard in 1957.

!! HOY !!