Retro Rides: What if Packard was still in business?

It’s a pity Packards are no longer produced. It would be interesting if that longtime carmarker was still in business these days.

At the time of the firm’s demise, Packard had been around since 1899. For many years the company successfully courted luxury-car buyers, even in Depression-era times when money was tight. Packard merged late in its life with the Studebaker Corp. and the marque bowed out 56 years ago.

Packards were noted for their long and narrow grille shells. These grilles had an arched and angular top for much of the brand’s life. Cars today carry over distinctive styling features from year to year but that’s nothing new. Packard wrote the book on accenting certain characteristics and did it for years.

I remember Packards from the late 1940s and early 1950s. At the time they might have been perceived as old or stodgy but nowadays I wouldn’t say they are frumpy at all.

In the 1920s and 1930s big lumbering Packard roadsters had an angular, Rolls Royce-like grille. Cormorant-like hood ornaments also added to the Packard style.

Our neighbors across the street had a two-tone green 1950 Packard Clipper four-door sedan. It had a rounded, jelly bean shape with heavy, ribbed wraparound front bumpers. Early 1950s Packard convertibles certainly deserve a second or third look.

The 1952 Packard had a wide-mouth grille with lots of chrome. It was a massive presence. The carmaker’s designs morphed into sharper, less-rounded contours in the late 1950s, thanks to the Studebaker influence.

Today Packards lend themselves well to some minor customizing and more modern paint and graphics packages.

Several tasteful customizing efforts have been manifested in recent years on the Packard Caribbean convertible. The V-shaped taillights and tailfins on late 1950s Packards are prized by customizers and look pretty good on just about any car, Packards included.

With the innovation Packards exhibited in design over the years, I’m sure the company would be producing some cutting-edge designs if it were still alive today.

One of the last Packards produced was the 1957 Hawk hardtop, based on Studebaker Golden Hawk designs. At the time auto fanciers pooh-poohed the flat fish mouth-style grille but I think it was a winner and collectors would agree.

Late 1950s Packards had edgy designs with crisp fender contours. Packard also lavished lots of attention on its interiors, which oozed luxury.

I don’t recall seeing any vintage Packards on the local car collector scene for several decades. There is at least one forlorn 1950 Packard four-door sedan that has been languishing in a field in the Franklin area for decades.

It’s a shame they aren’t around anymore.