American Motors

American Motors Corporation
Industry Automotive
Successor Eagle (Chrysler)
Founded January 14, 1954
Defunct 1988
Headquarters Southfield, Michigan, United States
Key people
  • Automobiles
  • Military vehicles
  • Buses and delivery vehicles
  • Sport utility vehicles
  • Major home appliances
  • Commercial refrigeration
  • Lawn care products

American Motors Corporation (AMC) was an American automobile company formed by the 1954 merger of Nash-Kelvinator Corporation and Hudson Motor Car Company. At the time, it was the largest corporate merger in U.S. history.

George W. Mason was the architect of the merger to reap benefits from the strengths of the two firms to battle the much larger “Big Three” automakers (General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler). Within a year, George W. Romney, future governor of Michigan, took over, reorganizing the company and focusing AMC’s future on a new small car line. By the end of 1957 the original Nash and Hudson brands were completely phased out. The company struggled at first, but Rambler sales took off. A Rambler won the 1959 Mobil Economy Run and by 1960, was the third most popular brand of automobile in the United States, behind Ford and Chevrolet. After two model years (1963 and 1964) of only producing compact cars, AMC focused back to larger and more profitable cars like the Ambassador line from the perceived negative of the Rambler‘s economy car image. In the face of deteriorating financial and market positions, Roy D. Chapin, Jr., took charge to revitalize the company, and designer Richard A. Teague economized by developing several vehicles from common stampings. While prices and costs were cut, new and more sporty automobiles were introduced, and from 1968 AMC became known for the Javelin and AMX muscle cars.

AMC purchased Kaiser’s Jeep utility vehicle operations in 1970 to complement their existing passenger car business. Beginning in the early 1970s, they moved towards all-new compact car designs based on the Hornet, including the Hornet itself and the Gremlin. Other new models in the 1970s included the Matador and Pacer. In an effort to create a more efficient cost structure, in the 1979 model year, AMC eliminated the Matador line and then in the 1980 model year, eliminated the Pacer, focusing almost exclusively on their Hornet-based cars and the Jeep line. While the new lines of the late 1970s, such as the Spirit and Concord, were variations on the Hornet’s platform, the company continued with innovations on existing designs: the 4-wheel-drive AMC Eagle, introduced in 1979, was one of the first true crossovers.

From 1980, AMC partnered with France’s Renault to help finance their manufacturing operations, obtain much-needed capital, and source subcompact vehicles. By 1983 Renault had a controlling interest in AMC. In the 1983 model year, the AMC brand focused entirely on AWD autos; the company stopped producing two wheel drive cars. AMC facilities were used to produce Renault Alliance and Encore compact and subcompact cars. In 1985 Chrysler entered an agreement with AMC to produce Dodge Diplomats and Plymouth Furys as well as Dodge Omnis and Plymouth Horizons in AMC’s Kenosha, Wisconsin plant. At the time, AMC had excess manufacturing capacity thus contract manufacturing for Chrysler made sense. In 1987, after further new vehicle development that included the Medallion (a re-badged Renault 21) and Giorgietto Giugiaro’s Italdesign new full-size front-drive sedan that became the Eagle Premier, Renault sold its 47% ownership stake in AMC to Chrysler. Chrysler made a public offer to purchase all the remaining outstanding shares of AMC stock on the NYSE. Renault left the US market completely as a brand in 1987. The Renault Medallion was sold through the newly formed Jeep Eagle Division of Chrysler as an Eagle, not a Renault. AMC’s badge would be used on the Eagle Sports Wagon through the 1988 model year, then be eliminated entirely. The Jeep/Eagle division of Chrysler Corporation was formed from the AMC Jeep Renault dealer network. The Jeep and Eagle vehicles were marketed primarily by former AMC dealers. Ultimately, the Eagle Brand of car would be phased out like Chrysler’s DeSoto, Plymouth, and Imperial by 1998.


In January 1954, Nash-Kelvinator Corporation began acquisition of the Hudson Motor Car Company (in what was called a merger). The new corporation would be called American Motors Corporation. (An earlier corporation with the same name, co-founded by Louis Chevrolet, had existed in New Jersey from 1916 through 1922 before merging into the Bessemer–American Motors Corporation.)

The Nash-Kelvinator/Hudson deal was a straight stock transfer (three shares of Hudson listed at 11⅛, for two shares of AMC and one share of Nash-Kelvinator listed at 17⅜, for one share of AMC) and finalized in the spring of 1954, forming the fourth-biggest auto company in the U.S. with assets of US$355 million and more than $100 million in working capital. The new company retained Hudson CEO A.E. Barit as a consultant and he took a seat on the Board of Directors. Nash’s George W. Mason became President and CEO.


 American Motors dealership sign

Mason, the architect of the merger, believed that the survival of the US’ remaining independent automakers depended on their joining in one multibrand company capable of challenging the “Big Three” – General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler – as an equal. The “frantic 1953–54 Ford/GM price war” had a devastating impact on the remaining “independent” automakers. The reasons for the merger between Nash and Hudson included helping cut costs and strengthen their sales organizations to meet the intense competition expected from autos’ Big Three.

One quick result from the merger was the doubling up with Nash on purchasing and production, allowing Hudson to cut prices an average of $155 on the Wasp line, up to $204 on the more expensive Hornet models. After the merger, AMC had its first profitable quarter during the second three months of 1955, earning $1,592,307, compared to a loss of $3,848,667 during the same period in the previous year. Mason also entered into informal discussions with James J. Nance of Packard to outline his strategic vision. Interim plans were made for AMC to buy Packard Ultramatic automatic transmissions and Packard V8 engines for certain AMC products.

In 1954, Packard acquired Studebaker. The new Studebaker-Packard Corporation (S-P) made the new 320 cu in (5.2 L) Packard V8 engine and Packard’s Ultramatic automatic transmission available to AMC for its 1955 Nash Ambassador and Hudson Hornet models. When Mason died in 1954, George W. Romney succeeded him. Ironically, Romney had once been offered Nance’s job. In 1948, Romney received offers from Packard for the post of chief operating officer and from Nash for the number two position in the company. Although the Packard offer would have paid more, Romney decided to work under Mason because he thought Nash had a brighter future. S-P President James Nance refused to consider merging with AMC unless he could take the top position (Mason and Nance were former competitors as heads of the Kelvinator and Hotpoint, respectively), and a week after Mason’s death Romney announced, “there are no mergers under way either directly or indirectly.” Romney agreed with Mason’s commitment to buy S-P products. Mason and Nance had agreed that in return S-P would endeavor to purchase parts from American Motors, but S-P did not do so. As the Packard engines and transmissions were comparatively expensive, AMC began development of its own V8. AMC also spent US$40 million developing its Double Safe Single Unit monocoque, which debuted in the 1956 model year. In mid-1956, the 352 cu in (5.8 L) Packard V8 and TwinUltramatic transmission were phased out and replaced by AMC’s new V8 and by GM Hydra-Matic and Borg-Warner transmissions.

By 1964, Studebaker production in the United States had ended, and its Canadian operations ceased in 1966. The “Big Three”, plus the smaller AMC, Kaiser Jeep, International Harvester, Avanti, and Checker companies were the remaining North American auto manufacturers.

Product development in the 1950s

Rambler American 1st-generation black sedan

 Rambler American

1958 Rambler sedan pink and white NJ

 1958 Rambler sedan

Product consolidation

American Motors combined the Nash and Hudson product lines under a common manufacturing strategy in 1955, with the production of Nashes and Hudsons consolidated at Kenosha. The Detroit Hudson plant was converted to military contract production and eventually sold. The separate Nash and Hudson dealer networks were retained. The Hudsons were redesigned to bring them in harmony with Nash body styles.

The fast-selling Rambler model was sold as both a Nash and a Hudson in 1955 and 1956. These badge-engineered Ramblers, along with similar Metropolitans, were identical save for hubcaps, nameplates, and other minor trim details.

The pre-existing full-size Nash product line was continued and the Nash Statesman and Ambassador were restyled as the “new” Hudson Wasp and Hudson Hornet. Although the cars shared the same body shell, they were at least as different from one another as Chevrolet and Pontiac. Hudsons and Nashes each used their own engines as they had previously: the Hudson Hornet continued to offer the 308 cu in (5.0 L) I6 that had powered the (NASCAR) champion during the early 1950s; the Wasp now used the former engine of the Hudson Jet.

The Nash Ambassador and Statesman continued with overhead- valve and L-head sixes respectively. Hudson and Nash cars had different front suspensions. Trunk lids were interchangeable but other body panels, rear window glass, dash panels and braking systems were different. The Hudson Hornet and Wasp, and their Nash counterparts, had improved ride and visibility; also better fuel economy owing to the lighter unitized Nash body.

For the 1958 model year, the Nash and Hudson brands were dropped. Rambler became a marque in its own right and the mainstay of the company. The popular British-built Metrooolitan subcompact continued as a standalone brand until it was discontinued in 1961. The prototype 1958 Nash Ambassador / Hudson Hornet, built on a stretched Rambler platform, was renamed at the last minute as “Ambassador by Rambler”. To round out the model line AMC reintroduced the old 1955, 100 in (2,540 mm) wheelbase Nash Rambler as the new Rambler American with only a few modifications. This gave Rambler a compact lineup with 100 in (2,540 mm) American, 108 in (2,743 mm) Rambler Six and Rebel V8, as well as the 117 in (2,972 mm) Ambassador wheelbase vehicles.

The “dinosaur-fighter”

Sales of Ramblers soared in the late 1950s in part because American Motors focus on the compact car and its marketing efforts. These included sponsoring the hugely popular Walt Disney anthology television series and as an exhibitor at the Disneyland theme park in Anaheim, California. George Romney himself pitched the Rambler product in the television commercials.

While the “Big Three” introduced ever-larger cars, AMC followed a “dinosaur-fighter” strategy. George W. Romney‘s leadership focused the company on the compact car, a fuel-efficient vehicle 20 years before there was a real need for them. This gave Romney a high profile in the media. Two core strategic factors came into play: (1) the use of shared components in AMC products and (2) a refusal to participate in the Big Three’s restyling race. This cost-control policy helped Rambler develop a reputation as solid economy cars. Company officials were confident in the changing market and in 1959 announced a $10 million (US$81,175,799 in 2016 dollars) expansion of its Kenosha complex (to increase annual straight-time capacity from 300,000 to 440,000 cars). A letter to shareholders in 1959 claimed that the introduction of new compact cars by AMC’s large domestic competitors (for the 1960 model year) “signals the end of big-car domination in the U.S.” and that AMC predicts small-car sales in the U.S. may reach 3 million units by 1963.

American Motors was also beginning to experiment in non-gasoline powered automobiles. On April 1, 1959, AMC and Sonotone Corporation announced a joint research effort to consider producing an electric car that was to be powered by a “self-charging” battery. Sonotone had the technology for making sintered plate nickel–cadmium batteries that can be recharged very rapidly and are lighter than a typical automobile lead–acid battery.

In 1959, AMC hired designer Richard A. Teague who had previously worked for General Motors, Packard, and Chrysler; after Edmund E. Anderson left the company in 1961, Teague was named principal designer and in 1964, Vice President.

Changing focus in the 1960


1964 Rambler American 440-H

 1964 Rambler American 440-H

1964 Rambler Classic 770

 1964 Rambler Classic 770

1965 fastback Marlin

 1965 fastback Marlin

1967 Ambassador 990

 1967 Ambassador 990

1969 American Motors AMX

 1969 American Motors AMX

In an effort to stay competitive, American Motors produced a wide range of products during the 1960s, and added innovations long before the “Big Three” introduced them.

For example, the Rambler Classic was equipped with a standard tandem master cylinder in 1962, six years before U.S. safety regulations required that safety feature.

Rambler also was an early pioneer in offering an automatic shift indicator sequence (P R N D2 D1 L, where if one selected “D2”, the car started in second gear, while “1” started in first gear) on its “Flash-O-Matic” transmission which is similar to today’s “PRNODSL”, made mandatory in 1968, which requires a neutral position between reverse and drive, while General Motors still offered a shift selector that had reverse immediately next to low gear (PNDSLR) well into the 1960s.

In 1964, the Classic was equipped with standard dual reclining front seats nearly a decade before the Big Three offered them as options. Bendix disc brakes were made optional on the Classic in 1965, while the Big Three didn’t offer them until 1969 on many models.

In the early part of the decade, sales were strong, thanks in no small part to the company’s history of building small cars, which came into vogue in 1961. In both 1960 and 1961, Ramblers ranked in third place among domestic automobile sales, up from third on the strength of small-car sales, even in the face of a lot of new competition. Romney’s strategic focus was very successful as reflected in the firm’s healthy profits year after year. The company became completely debt-free. The financial success allowed the company to reach an agreement on August 26, 1961 with the United Auto Workers for a profit sharing plan that was new in the automobile industry. Its new three-year labor contract also included generous annual improvement pay increases, as well as automatic cost-of-living raises. However, in 1962, Romney resigned to run for Governor of Michigan. His replacement was Roy Abernethy, AMC’s successful sales executive.

Abernethy believed that AMC’s reputation of building reliable economical cars could be translated into a new strategy that could follow AMC buyers as they traded up into larger, more expensive vehicles. AMC in reality had produced large cars throughout most of its history, The Rambler Ambassadors were every bit as large as a Full Sized Ford or Chevy. There was only an absence of Full Sized cars from the AMC lineup in 1963 and 1964 The first cars bearing his signature were the 1965 models. These were a longer Ambassador series and new convertibles for the larger models. During mid-year a fastback, called the Marlin, was added. It competed directly with cars like the Dodge Charger, AMC’s “family-sized” car emphasized personal-luxury. Abernethy also called for the de-emphasis of the Rambler brand. The 1966 Marlin and Ambassador lost their Rambler nameplates, and were badged as “American Motors” products. The new models shared fewer parts among each other and were more expensive to build.

Tough choices

The continuing quest “in the business world’s toughest race – the grinding contest against the Big Three automobile makers” also meant annual styling changes requiring large expenditures. American Motors’ management total confidence “that the new 1965 models would stem a bothersome decline” actually began falling behind in share of sales. Moreover, a new line of redesigned cars in the full and mid-sized markets was launched in the fall of 1966. The cars won acclaim for their fluid styling, and Abernethy’s ideas did work as Ambassador Sales increased significantly. The dated designs of the Rambler Americans, however, hurt its sales which offset gains from Ambassador sales. There were quality control problems with the introduction of the new full-sized cars, as well as persistent rumors of the company’s demise because of their precarious cash flow. Consumer Reports negative ratings for AMC’s Safety didn’t help either.

American Motors did not have their own electric car program as did the Big Three, and after some negotiation a contract was drawn in 1967 with Gulton Industries to develop a new battery based on lithium and a speed controller designed by Victor Wouk. A nickel-cadmium battery powered 1969 Rambler station wagon demonstrated the power systems that according to the scientist was a “wonderful car”. This was also the start of other “plug-in”-type experimental AMC vehicles developed with Gulton – the Amitron and the Electron.

Abernethy was ousted from AMC on January 9, 1967 and damage control fell to the new CEO, Roy D. Chapin Jr. (son of Hudson Motors founder Roy D. Chapin). Chapin quickly instituted changes to AMC’s offerings and tried to regain market share by focusing on younger demographic markets. Chapin’s first decision was to cut the price of the Rambler to within US$200 of the basic Volkswagen Beetle. Innovative marketing ideas included making air conditioning standard on all 1968 Ambassador models (available as a delete option). This made AMC the first U.S. automaker to make air conditioning standard equipment on a line of cars, preceding even luxury makes such as Lincoln, Imperial, and Cadillac.

The company introduced exciting entries for the decade’s muscle car boom, most notably the AMX, while the Javelin served as the company’s entrant into the sporty “pony car” market created by the Ford Mustang. Additional operating cash was derived in 1968 through the sale of Kelvinator Appliance, once one of the firm’s core operating units.

The Rambler brand was completely dropped after the 1969 model year in North America, although it continued to be used in several overseas markets as either a model or brand name, with the last use in Mexico in 1983. From 1970, AMC was the brand used for all American Motors passenger cars; and all vehicles from that date bore the AMC name and the new corporate logo. However, the names American Motors and AMC were used interchangeably in corporate literature well into the 1980s. The branding issue was further complicated when the company’s Eagle all-wheel drive passenger cars were marketed as the American Eagle in the 1980s.

Chapin expanded American Motors product line in 1970 through the purchase of the Kaiser-Jeep Corporation (formerly Willys-Overland) from Kaiser Industries. This added the iconic Jeep brand of light trucks and SUVs, as well as Kaiser-Jeep’s lucrative government contracts – notably the M151 MUTT line of military Jeeps and the DJ-Series postal Jeeps. AMC also expanded their international network. The military and special products business was reconstituted as American Motors General Products Division, later reorganized as AM General.

1970s product developments

1972 AMC Gremlin X

 1972 Gremlin X

1984 AM General transit bus

 AM General transit bus

1974 Matador X Coupe

 1974 Matador X Coupe

1975 AMC Pacer

 1975 AMC Pacer

1976 AMC Hornet Sportabout

 1976 Hornet Sportabout

Jeep Cherokee SJ Chief S f

 Jeep Cherokee (SJ) Chief S

1979 AMC Spirit GT V8 Russet FR

 1979 Spirit GT

In 1970, AMC consolidated all passenger cars under one distinct brand identity and debuted the Hornet range of compact cars.

The Hornet and the later Gremlin shared platforms. The Gremlin, the first North American-built subcompact, sold more than 670,000 units from 1970–1978. The Hornet became AMC’s best-selling passenger car since the Rambler Classic, with more than 860,000 units sold by the time production ended in 1977.

The new mid-sized AMC Matador replaced the Rebel in 1971, using an advertising campaign that asked, “What’s a Matador?” In 1972, AMC won the tender for Los Angeles Police Department cruisers, and Matadors were used by the department from 1972 to 1975, replacing the Plymouth Satellite. American Motors supplied Mark VII Limited owner Jack Webb with two Matadors for use in his popular television series Adam-12, increasing the cars’ public profile.

In 1973, AMC signed a licensing agreement with Curtiss-Wright to build Wankel engines for cars and Jeeps.

Starting in 1974, the Matador sedan and station wagon were mildly refreshed, with new boxier front ends. The Matador two-door hardtop, known as the “flying brick” due to its poor aerodynamics in NASCAR competition, was replaced at great cost with a sleek, smoothly shaped, and radically styled two-door coupe. The model received praise for its design, including “Best Styled Car of 1974” by Car and Driver magazine, customer satisfaction, and sold almost 100,000 coupes over a five-year period. The Matador Coupe shared few components with the Matador sedan and station wagon other than suspension, drive train, some trim, and interior parts.

The Ambassador was redesigned and stretched 7 inches (178 mm) to become the biggest ever, just as the 1973 Arab Oil Embargo sparked gasoline rationing across the nation. The additional length was due to a new front end design and stronger energy absorbing bumpers required of all automobiles sold in the U.S. Sales of all large cars fell due to economic problems and rising gasoline prices. The full-sized Ambassador was discontinued as AMC’s flagship line after the 1974 model year. Nash and AMC made Ambassadors from 1927 to 1974, the longest use of the same model name for any AMC product and, at the time, the longest continuously used nameplate in the industry.

In 1974, AMC’s AM General subsidiary began building urban transit buses in cooperation with Flyer Industries of Winnipeg, Manitoba. The Metropolitan coach had sold 5,212 units when production ceased in 1978.

The AMC Pacer, an innovative all-new model introduced in March 1975 and billed as “the first wide small car”, was a subcompact designed to provide the comfort of a full-sized car. Its pre-production development coincided with two changes in U.S. Federal passenger auto laws: first, the reduction in permissible emissions for passenger auto engines, which the Pacer would have met with the Wankel-type engine it was designed for, as the Wankel’s compact dimensions allowed space for extensive emission control equipment in the engine bay; second, a tightening of U.S. passenger auto safety laws, which accounted for the Pacer’s designed-in safety features, e.g. internal door beams. These, together with the wide body and large glass area, added considerable weight.

With the advent of the Arab Oil Embargo of 1973, General Motors aborted the Wankel rotary engine around which the Pacer had been designed, as its fuel consumption exceeded that of conventional engines with similar power. Therefore, AMC’s existing 258 and 232 cu in (4.2 and 3.8 L) AMC Straight-6 engines were used in the Pacer instead. Fuel economy was better than a rotary, but still relatively poor in light of the new focus on energy efficiency. Also, as the Pacer shared few components other than drivetrain with other AMC cars, it was expensive to make and the cost increased when sales fell steeply after the first two years.

Development and production costs for the Pacer and Matador Coupe drained capital which might otherwise have been invested in updating the more popular Hornet and Gremlin lines, so that toward the end of the 1970s the company faced the growing energy crisis with aged products that were uncompetitive in hotly contested markets. However, “AMC used cars, as far back as 1967, had the advantage of good warranty coverage … so most owners were conscious of low-cost car maintenance … AMC units [became] some of the very best buys on the used car market” by 1975.

The 1977 Gremlin had redesigned headlights, grille, rear hatch and fascia. For economy in the fuel crisis, AMC offered the car with a more fuel-efficient Volkswagen-designed Audi 4-cylinder engine 2.0 L (122 cu in). The engine was expensive for AMC to build and the Gremlin retained the less costly but also less economical 232 cu in (3.8 L) as standard equipment.

The AMX nameplate was revived in 1977. It was a sporty appearance package on the Hornet hatchback featuring upgrades, as well as the 258 cu in (4.2 L) inline six as standard with a choice of three-speed automatic or four-speed manual transmissions. The 304 cu in (5.0 L) V8 engine was optional with the automatic transmission.

As all Matadors now received standard equipment that was formerly optional (e.g. power steering, automatic transmission), the “Brougham” package was dropped. Optional on the Matador coupe was a landau vinyl roof with opera windows, and top-line Barcelonas offered new two-tone paint.

For 1978, the Hornet platform was redesigned with an adaptation of the new Gremlin front-end design and renamed AMC Concord. AMC targeted it at the emerging “premium compact” market segment, paying particular attention to ride and handling, standard equipment, trim, and interior luxury.

Gremlins borrowed the Concord instrument panel, as well as a Hornet AMX-inspired GT sports appearance package and a new striping treatment for X models.

The AMC Pacer hood was modified to clear a V8 engine, and a Sports package replaced the former X package. With falling sales of Matador Coupes, sedans and wagons, their 304 cu in (5.0 L) V8 engine was dropped, leaving only the 258 cu in (4.2 L) Inline-6 (standard on coupes and sedans) and the 360 cu in (5.9 L) V8 (optional on coupes and sedans, standard on wagons). The two-tone Barcelona luxury package was offered on Matador sedans, and two-tone red paint introduced as an additional Barcelona option. Matador production ceased at the end of the model year with total sales of 10,576 units. The Matador was no longer attractive as automakers struggled to overcome economic woes including continuing fuel price increases and double digit domestic inflation.[45]

In 1979, the Spirit sedan replaced the Gremlin. A new fastback version of the car, the Spirit Liftback, proved successful.

In December, Pacer production ceased after a small run of 1980 models was built to use up parts stock.

Concords received a new front end treatment, and in their final season, hatchbacks became available in DL trim. On May 1, 1979, AMC marked the 25th anniversary of the Nash-Hudson merger with “Silver Anniversary” editions of the AMC Concord and Jeep CJ in two-tone silver (Jeeps then accounted for around 50 percent of the company’s sales and most of their profits); and introduced LeCar, a U.S. version of the small, fuel-efficient Renault 5, in dealer showrooms.

Concord and Spirit models were dropped after 1983.

Financial developments, Renault partnership

Late 1970s to early 1980s

1978 AMC Concord

 1978 AMC Concord

1979 AMC Spirit liftback

 AMC Spirit liftback

1981 AMC Concord

 1981 AMC Concord

Jeep Grand Wagoneer

 Jeep Grand Wagoneer

In February 1977, Time magazine reported that although AMC had lost $73.8 million in the previous two fiscal years, U.S. banks had agreed to a year’s extension for a $72.5 million credit that had expired in January; that Stockholders had received no dividends since 1974; and that Pacer sales did not match expectations. However, Time noted record Jeep sales and a backlog of orders for AM General’s buses.

Also in 1977, Gerald C. Meyers was appointed chairman and chief executive.

On March 31, 1978, AMC and Renault announced a sweeping agreement for the joint manufacture and distribution of cars and trucks that would achieve benefits for both. A month later, AMC announced that it would halt the production of standard urban transit buses after about 4,300 were sold by its AM General subsidiary during three years. In May 1978, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ordered the recall of all AMC’s 1976 cars (except those conforming to California emissions regulations) – some 270,000 vehicles— plus 40,000 1975 and 1976 Jeeps and mini trucks, for correction of a fault in the pollution control system. Total cost was estimated at up to $3 million—more than AMC had earned the previous quarter.

American Motors lost an estimated $65 million on its conventional (non-Jeep) cars for the fiscal year ended September 30, 1978, but strong Jeep sales helped the company to an overall $36.7 million profit on sales of $2.6 billion. However, AMC faced costly engineering work to bring their Jeeps into compliance with a federal directive for all 4-wheel-drive vehicles to average 15 mpg-US (16 L/100 km; 18 mpg-imp) by 1981.

A year later, with its share of the American market at 1.83%, the company struck a deal with Renault, the nationally owned French automaker. AMC would receive a $150 million cash injection, $50 million in credits, and also the rights to start building the Renault 5 in 1982. (A deal for Renault products to be sold through the AMC-Jeep dealer network had already been made in 1979.) In return, Renault acquired a 22.5% interest in AMC. This was not the first time the two companies had worked together. Lacking its own prestige model line in the early 1960s, Renault assembled CKD kits and marketed Rambler cars in France.

In 1979, AMC announced a record $83.9 million profit on sales of $3.1 billion (US$10,107,336,084 in 2016 dollars) for the fiscal year ending in September—this despite an economic downturn, soaring energy prices, rising American unemployment, automobile plants shutting down, and an American market trend towards imported cars. In October, the company’s car sales surged 37%, while they sank 21% for the industry as a whole.

However, a drop in Jeep sales caused by the declining economy and soaring energy prices began to constrict AMC’s cash flow. At the same time, pressure increased on the company’s non-Jeep product lines. The face-lifts and rebranding of AMC’s once-innovative and successful cars were not enough in a competitive landscape that had changed dramatically. No longer was the threat limited to the Big Three automakers (General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler). The Japanese manufacturers (Honda, Toyota, Nissan) used streamlined production methods such as outsourcing and Just In Time (JIT) supply-chain management. They had new, highly efficient assembly plants in the United States. And now they targeted the heart of AMC’s passenger product line: small cars.

While Americans turned to the new imports in increasing numbers, AMC continued its struggle at the inefficient and aging Kenosha, Wisconsin facilities—the oldest continuously operating automobile plant in the world, where components and unfinished bodies still had to be transported across the city.

In early 1980, the banks refused AMC further credit. Lacking both capital and resources for the new, truly modern products it needed to offer, the company turned to Renault for a $90 million loan (US$258,477,383 in 2016 dollars). By September that year, AMC’s U.S. market share had fallen to 1.7%, and in November sales dropped 19.1%. AMC warned stockholders that the company could be bankrupted if they did not approve a plan for Renault to acquire as much as 59% of the company. On December 16, 1980, AMC shareholders “overwhelmingly approved making the French Government-owned Renault” their company’s principal owner.

In January 1982 the company’s former president W. Paul Tippett Jr. replaced Gerald C. Meyers as CEO, and Jose Dedeurwaerder, a Renault executive, became president. Dedeurwaerder brought a broad perspective at this critical time: as an engineer and international business executive with 23 years at Renault, he is credited with streamlining many of AMC’s arcane management techniques. He also instituted important improvements in plant layouts, as well as in cost and quality control.

Renault, having increased their stake in the company several times to keep it solvent, eventually owned 49% in 1983. This development effectively ended AMC’s run as a truly American car company.

New ownership and new management heralded a new product venture for AMC: a line of modern front-wheel drive cars, designed by Renault, to be produced at Kenosha.

1980s product developments

AMC Eagle

1981 AMC Eagle Wagon.

 1981 AMC Eagle Wagon.

In August 1979, for the 1980 model year, AMC introduced four-wheel drive versions of the Spirit and Concord, calling the collective line the AMC Eagle. Eagles rapidly became one of the company’s best-known products and is considered one of the first “crossover SUVs“. Eagles used the 2-wheel drive body shells mounted on an all-new platform developed by American Motors in the late 1970s. Featuring an innovative full-time four-wheel drive system, it sold best in snow-prone areas. Sales started strongly but declined over time. While the two-wheel drive Spirit and Concord were both discontinued after 1983 as the company concentrated on its new Renault Alliance, the Eagle survived for five years longer, albeit only in station wagon form, into the 1988 model year. This meant the four-wheel drive Eagle was the lone representative of the AMC brand from 1984–1988. All the company’s remaining output was branded Renault or Jeep. The last AMC Eagle was built on December 14, 1987.

Renault Alliance

Later Alliance model with AMC badging in place of Renault alliance

 Later Alliance model with AMC badging in place of Renault

The Renault Alliance was the first joint product of the AMC-Renault partnership. Introduced in 1983, the Alliance was a front-wheel drive Renault 9 compact restyled for the American market by Richard Teague and produced by AMC at Kenosha. The car was initially badged as a Renault, and some cars carried both Renault and AMC badges, however most 1986 and all 1987 models had only AMC branding; it was available as a sedan with two or four doors, a hatchback (introduced in 1984 and badged as Encore), a two-door convertible and, for the final 1987 model year, a higher-performance version of the 2-door sedan and convertible sold as the GTA.

The new model, introduced at a time of increased interest in small cars, won several awards including Motor Trend Car of the Year. Motor Trend declared: “The Alliance may well be the best-assembled first-year car we’ve ever seen. Way to go Renault!” The Alliance was listed as number one on Car and Driver‘s list of Ten Best cars for 1983, The positive reception and sales of 200,000 Alliances by 1984 was hindered by the availability of only two body styles. The Alliance was a European-designed car and not fully suited to U.S. market demands. The distribution network was also not well supported, which led to lower quality delivered by dealerships with “disastrous consequences” for the image of the automobiles, as well as high warranty costs. Alliance production ended in June 1987.


Jeep Cherokee Laredo

 Jeep Cherokee Laredo

Jeep Comanche Pioneer

 Jeep Comanche Pioneer

More beneficial to AMC’s future was the introduction of an all-new line of compact Jeep Cherokee and Wagoneer models in the autumn of 1983 for the 1984 model year. The popularity of these downsized Jeeps pioneered a new market segment for what later became defined as the sport utility vehicle (SUV). They initially used the AMC 150 C.I.D. (2.5L) OHV four-cylinder engine with a carburetor, and a General Motors-built 2.8 L (171 cu in) carbureted V6 was optional. In 1986, throttle-body injection replaced the carburetor on the 2.5 L I4 engines. A Renault 2.1 L (128 cu in) Turbo-Diesel I4 diesel was also offered. Starting with the 1987 models, a 4.0 L (244 cu in) I6 engine, derived from the older 258 cu in (4.23 L) I6 with a new head design and an electronic fuel injection system, replaced the outsourced V6. American Motors’ “new” engine was designed with help from Renault and incorporated Renault-Bendix (Renix) parts for fuel and ignition management. The 4.0 developed an outstanding reputation for reliability and toughness. Retained by Chrysler after the buyout, the design continued to be improved and refined until its discontinuation at the end of the 2006 model year. The 4.0 engine saw extensive application in XJ Cherokees and Wagoneers, Grand Cherokees, and Wranglers, and many of those engines saw (or are seeing) extremely long lives, quite a few exceeding 300,000 mi (480,000 km). The XJ Cherokee itself was built by Chrysler until the end of the 2001 model year in the U.S. and until 2005 in China.

Three other designs continued to be used after the Chrysler buyout: the Grand Wagoneer full-size luxury SUV, the full-sized J-series pickups, built on the same chassis as the earlier SJ model Wagoneers and Cherokees that dated from 1963 with the AMC 360 cu in (5.9 L) V8, and the Jeep Comanche (MJ) compact pickup, which debuted in 1986. Unlike most sport-utility vehicles which are based on adapted pickup truck designs, the Cherokee XJ SUV came first and the Comanche was designed as a later pickup truck version.

Production of the full-sized pickups ceased after 1987. The Grand Wagoneer and 360 V8 engine were dropped after 1991 (the last American-made vehicle whose engine used a carburetor for fuel delivery), and the Comanche bowed after 1992.

1985 and the final buyout

Marketplace and management changes

There were significant changes in 1985 as the market moved away from AMC’s small models. With fuel relatively cheap again, buyers turned to larger more powerful automobiles and AMC was unprepared for this development. Even the venerable Jeep CJ-5 was dropped after a 60 Minutes TV news magazine exposé of rollover tendencies under extreme conditions. AMC also confronted an angry work force. Labor was taking revenge, and reports circulated about sabotage of vehicles on the assembly lines because of the failure to receive promised wage increases. There were rumors that the aging Kenosha plant was to be shut down. At the same time, Chrysler was having trouble meeting demand for its M-body rear-drive models (Dodge Diplomat, Plymouth Gran Fury and Chrysler Fifth Avenue). Because they were assembled using the old “gate and buck system” and the tooling could be easily moved, Chrysler could supply the components and control the quality, while AMC assembled the car. Therefore, Lee Iacocca and Joe Cappy reached an agreement to use some of AMC’s idle plant capacity in Kenosha.

These problems came in the midst of a transfer of power at AMC from Paul Tippet to a French executive, Pierre Semerena. The new management responded with tactical moves by selling the lawn care Wheel Horse Products Division and signing an agreement to build Jeeps in the People’s Republic of China. The Pentagon had problems with AM General, a significant defense contractor, being managed by a partially French-government-owned firm. The U.S. government would not allow a foreign government to own a significant portion of an important defense supplier. As a result, the profitable AM General Division was sold. Another milestone was the departure of Dick Teague: AMC’s design vice president for 26 years, he was responsible for many Jeep and AMC designs including the Rambler American, Javelin, Hornet, Gremlin, Pacer, and Matador coupe.

Problems at Renault and the assassination

American Motors’ major stockholder, Renault, itself was experiencing financial troubles of its own in France. The investment in AMC (including construction of a new Canadian assembly plant in Brampton, Ontario) forced cuts at home, resulting in the closure of several French plants and mass layoffs. Renault was down to just three alternatives regarding its American holdings: (1) They could declare AMC officially bankrupt thereby lose its investment; (2) They could come up with more money, but Renault management perceived AMC as a bottomless pit; or (3) AMC could be put up for sale and the French could get back part of their investment. Against these detractions, Renault’s chairman, Georges Besse, continued to champion the French firm’s future in the North American market; pointing to the company’s completion of the newest and most-advanced automotive assembly plant in North America, then known as Bramalea Assembly, as well as the recent introduction of the thoroughly modern, fuel-injected 4.0 L and 2.5 L engines. In addition, Jeep vehicles were riding an unprecedented surge in demand. It seemed to Besse and others that AMC was on course for profitability.

However, on November 17, 1986, Georges Besse, who had a high profile among French capitalists, was assassinated by Action Directe, a clandestine militant extremist group variously described as communist, anarchist and Maoist, which professed strong sympathies for the proletariat and the aspirations of the Third World. The murder was carried out by members of Action Directe’s Pierre Overney Commando (named after a Maoist militant killed by a Renault factory guard). The group stated that the murder was in retaliation for Besse having sacked tens of thousands of workers – 34,000 from the French aluminum producer PUK-Péchiney and 25,000 from Renault.

Chrysler purchase AMC Stock

Under pressure from Renault executives following Besse’s death, Renault’s new president, Raymond Levy set out to repair employee relations and divest the company of its investment in American Motors. Renault owned 46.1% of AMC’s outstanding shares of stock.

The earlier agreement between Chrysler and AMC in 1985, under which AMC would produce M-body chassis rear-drive large cars for two years from 1986–88, fed the rumor that Chrysler was about to buy AMC. According to the head of manufacturing for Chrysler at the time, Stephan Sharf, the existing relationship with AMC producing a car for a competitor facilitated the negotiations.

Jeep Grand Cherokee 1st.

 The Jeep Grand Cherokee was the driving force behind Chrysler’s buyout of AMC; Lee Iacocca wanted the design. Chrysler completed development and released it to the public in late 1992, and continues to use the nameplate today.

On March 9, 1987, Chrysler agreed to buy Renault’s share in AMC, plus all the remaining shares, for about US$1.5 billion (US$3,124,340,949 in 2016 dollars). AMC became the Jeep-Eagle division of Chrysler. It was the Jeep brand that Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca really wanted – in particular the ZJ Grand Cherokee, then under development by Jeep engineers, which ultimately proved highly profitable for Chrysler (the nameplate remains in production today). However, the buyout included other attractive deal sweeteners for Chrysler. Among them was the world-class, brand-new manufacturing plant in Bramalea, Ontario, which offered Iacocca an unprecedented opportunity to increase his company’s production capacity at a fire-sale price. AMC had designed and built the plant in anticipation of building the Renault 25 based Eagle Premier. Additional profitable acquisitions were the AMC dealer network (the addition of which strengthened Chrysler’s retail distribution – many AMC dealers switched to selling Chrysler products); and AMC’s underrated organization and management talent – which Chrysler quickly assimilated (numerous leading Chrysler engineers and executives were ex-AMC). AMC was fully merged as of March 29, 1990.

The sale came at a time when the automotive press was enthusiastic about the proposed 1988 lineup of Renault, Eagle and Jeep vehicles, and reports that the financial outlook for the tiny automaker were improving. AMC quarterly results for all of 1987 were positive, Chrysler purchased AMC at a time the company appeared to be in very good financial position with its new product line.

The sale marked Renault‘s withdrawal from the North American market (excluding Mexico) in the 1988 model year. However, the French company has since returned to that market with its subsequent purchase of a US$5.4 billion controlling stake in Nissan in March 1999. In contrast to the AMC/Renault partnership, Carlos Ghosn, CEO and President of Renault of France and Nissan of Japan, is guiding the Renault-Nissan alliance away from national identities.

Business legacy

American Motors was forced to constantly innovate for 33 years until Chrysler absorbed it in 1987. The lessons learned from this experience were integrated into the company that bought AMC. The organization, strategies, as well as several key executives allowed Chrysler to gain an edge on the competition. Even today, the lessons gained from the AMC experience continue to provide benefits to other firms in the industry. There are a number of legacies from AMC’s business strategies.

AMC had an ability to formulate strategies that were often evaluated by industry critics as “strokes of brilliance”. According to Roy D. Chapin Jr., AMC realized they were up against the giants of the industry, so to compete successfully they had to be able to move quickly and with ingenuity. An essential strategy practiced by AMC was to rely on outside vendors to supply components in which they had differential advantages. This approach was finally accepted within the U.S. auto industry, but only after each of the Big Three experienced the failure of attempting to be self-sufficient.

The smallest domestic automaker did not have “the massive R&D budgets of General Motors, Ford, and foreign competitors … [thus] AMC placed R&D emphasis on bolstering the product life cycle of its prime products (particularly Jeeps).” In 1985, AMC originated product lifecycle management (PLM) as a strategic business approach according to Sidney Hill, Jr., executive editor for Manufacturing Business Technology, in an effort to better compete against its much larger rivals by ramping up its product development process.

Another example of AMC’s agility was the ability of management to squeeze money out of reluctant bankers, even in the face of bankruptcy. These core abilities helped save the company from collapse and after each obstacle, give it the wherewithal to keep it operating. Ironically, AMC was never stronger than just before its demise.

AMC’s managers anticipated important trends in the automotive industry. It preached fuel efficiency in the 1950s, long before most auto buyers demanded it. Led by AMC’s Rambler and several European cars, the small car innovation reduced the Big Three’s market share from 93% in 1957 to 82% in 1959. The company inherited foreign manufacturing and sales partnerships from Nash and continued developing business relations, decades before most of the international consolidations among automobile makers took place. AMC was the first U.S. automaker to establish ownership agreement with a foreign automaker, Renault. Although small in size, AMC was able to introduce numerous industry innovations. Starting in 1957, AMC was the only U.S. manufacturer to totally immerse all automobile bodies in primer paint for protection against rust, until competitors adopted the practice in 1964. Even one of AMC’s most expensive new product investments (the Pacer) established many features that were later adopted by the auto industry worldwide. These included aerodynamic body design, space-efficient interiors, aircraft style doors, and a large greenhouse for visibility. AMC was also effective in other areas such as marketing by introducing low rate financing. AMC’s four-wheel drive vehicles established the foundation for the modern SUV market segments, and “classic” Jeep models continue to be the benchmark in this field. Roy D. Chapin drew on his experiences as a hunter and fisherman and marketed the Jeep brand successfully to people with like interests. The brand developed a cult appeal that continues.

The purchase of AMC was instrumental in reviving Chrysler. According to Robert Lutz, former President of Chrysler, the AMC acquisition was a big and risky undertaking. The purchase was part of Chrysler’s strategic “retreat-cum-diversification” plan that he states did not have the right focus. Initially the goal was to obtain the world-renowned Jeep brand. However, Lutz discovered that the decision to buy AMC turned out to be a gold mine for Chrysler. At that time, Chrysler’s management was attempting to find a model to improve structure and operations, “something that would help get our minds unstuck and thinking beyond the old paradigms that we were so familiar with“. In this transformation, “Chrysler’s acquisition of AMC was one of the all-time great moments in corporate serendipity” according to Lutz “that most definitely played a key role in demonstrating how to accomplish change“.

According to Lutz (1993), while AMC had its share of problems, it was far from being a bunch of “brain-dead losers”. He describes the “troops” at AMC as more like the Wake Island Marines in battle, “with almost no resources, and fighting a vastly superior enemy, they were able to roll out an impressive succession of new products”. After first reacting with anger to the purchase, Chrysler managers soon anticipated the benefits. To further solidify the organizational competencies held by AMC, Lee Iacocca agreed to retain former AMC units, such as engineering, completely intact. In addition, AMC’s lead engineer, François Castaing, was made head of all engineering at Chrysler. In an unthinkable strategic move, Castaing completely dismantled the entrenched Chrysler groups. In their place AMC’s “platform team” was implemented. These were close-knit cross-functional groups responsible for the whole vehicle, as contrasted with Chrysler’s highly functional structure. In this capacity, Castaing’s strategy was to eliminate the corporate administrative overhead bureaucracy. This move shifted corporate culture and agitated veteran executives who believed that Chrysler’s reputation as “the engineering company” was being destroyed. Yet, according to the popular press, by the 1980s Chrysler’s reputation was totally shot, and in Lutz’s view only dramatic action was going to change that. In summary, Chrysler’s purchase of AMC laid the critical foundation to help re-establish a strategy for its revival in the 1990s.

Top managers at Chrysler after the AMC buyout appeared to have made errors similar to those by AMC. For example, Chrysler invested heavily in new untested models while not keeping up its profitable high-volume lines.

After the DaimlerChrysler merger, the combined company also encountered the problem of having too many platforms. It also failed to achieve synergies by sharing components and from Chrysler’s paperless design and supplier capabilities. Mercedes-Benz managers were protective of their designs and components and “advanced R&D was clearly put under German direction.” This policy increased production costs. They could have observed the experience of the Nash and Hudson merger designed to achieve manufacturing efficiencies and savings from component sharing. The first product combining Chrysler and Mercedes technology and engineering with a Mercedes name was in 2006, eight years after DaimlerChrysler AG was created.

The AMC influence also continued at General Motors. GM recruited a new executive team to turn itself from near bankruptcy in the early 2000s. Among the new strategists at GM was Lutz who brought an understanding of the importance of passion in the product design. Lutz implemented a new thinking at GM that incorporated the systems and structures that originated from AMC’s lean and focused operations.

Renault implemented the lessons it learned from its investment in AMC. The French firm took a parallel approach as it did with its initial ownership of AMC and applied it to resurrect the money-losing Nissan automaker in Japan.

In 2009, in a deal brokered by the Obama administration, Italian automaker Fiat initiated a white knight takeover of Chrysler to save the struggling automaker from liquidation. The deal was immediately compared to the AMC-Renault deal; Some commentators noted the irony in that Chrysler now faced the same fate that AMC faced 30 years earlier, while others expressed skepticism of whether the Italian firm could save Chrysler, given how the Renault deal failed. However, there have been key differences between the two; Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne became CEO of Chrysler as part of the deal and immediately began globally integrating Fiat and Chrysler’s assets and product lines; The Fiat-Chrysler merger doesn’t face the political opposition the AMC-Renault deal did since Fiat is entirely private and independent and the US Government supported the merger; Most importantly, while AMC proved to be a continuous money-loser for Renault, Chrysler returned to profitability fairly quickly and has since become an important source of revenue and profits for Fiat, which has been struggling to maintain volume and profitability amid the European debt crisis. The two firms would later fully marge to create Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in 2014.

Legacy of products

Passenger automobiles

Eagle Premier

 Eagle Premier

Chrysler revived the “Spirit” name dropped by AMC after 1983 for use on one of its A platform cars, (the Dodge Spirit) from 1989–1995. The planned Renault Medallion was sold as the Eagle Medallion in 1988 and 1989. A Renault/AMC concept, the Summit, was produced by Mitsubishi Motors beginning in 1989. The planned all-new 1988 Renault Premier, a joint development effort between American Motors and Renault, and for which theBrampton Assembly plant (Brampton, Ontario—originally called the Bramalea Plant) was built, was sold by Chrysler as the 1988–1992 Eagle Premier, with a rebadged Dodge Monaco variant available from 1990–1992. The full-sized Premier’s platform was far more advanced than anything Chrysler was building at the time. After some re-engineering and a re-designation to Chrysler code LH, the Eagle Premier went on to form the backbone of Chrysler’s passenger car lineup during the 1990s as the Chrysler Concorde (a revived model name that was briefly used by Plymouth in 1951 and 1952), Chrysler New Yorker, Chrysler LHS, Dodge Intrepid, and Eagle Vision. Plymouth almost received their own rendition of the LH platform, which was to be called the Accolade, but Chrysler decided to nix this idea not long before LH production started. The Chrysler 300M was likewise a Premier/LH-derived car and was initially to have been the next-generation Eagle Vision, until the Eagle brand was dropped after 1998.

Jeep vehicles

Jeep Comanche Chief

 Jeep Comanche

Chrysler marketed the SJ Jeep Grand Wagoneer until 1991, leaving it almost entirely unaltered from the final AMC rendition before the buyout. The Jeep Comanche pickup truck remained until 1992, while the Cherokee remained until 2001 in the U.S. (the XJ Cherokee was produced in China through 2006 as the Cherokee 2500 [2.5L] and Cherokee 4000 [4.0L]). Although it was not introduced until 1993, the Jeep Grand Cherokee was initially an AMC-developed vehicle.

Traces of AMC remained within. AMC’s Toledo, Ohio plants continued to manufacture the Jeep Wrangler and Liberty, as well as parts and components for Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep vehicles (although Toledo Machining and Forge was closed in 2005). AMC’s main plant in Wisconsin, albeit heavily downsized, operated as the Kenosha Engine Plant, producing engines for several Chrysler Group products including the Wrangler. The plant was closed as part of the post bailout restructuring of Chrysler in October 2010. The 4.0 litres (242 cu in) engine was used until the 2006 model year by DaimlerChrysler in the Jeep Wrangler. AMC’s technologically advanced Bramalea Assembly and Stamping Plants in Brampton, Ontario later produced the LX-cars – the Dodge Charger and the Chrysler 300, and the now discontinued Dodge Magnum.

In terms of AMC-related parts, some were used as late as 2006, when the Jeep Wrangler (the last new product introduced by AMC before the Chrysler deal) was still using the AMC Straight-6 engine in some models, as well as the recessed “paddle” door handles that were used since the 1968 model year by AMC. Both were retired when the Wrangler was completely redesigned for the 2007 model year.

AM General, sold by American Motors in 1982, is still in business building the American Motors-designed Humvee for American and allied militaries. AM General also built the now-discontinued civilian variant – the H1 – and manufactured a Chevrolet Tahoe-derived companion, the H2, under contract to GM, who acquired the rights to the civilian Hummer brand in 1999. GM was forced to phase out the Hummer brand in early 2010 as a part of its bankruptcy restructuring after offering it for sale, but failing to find a suitable buyer.

Although Chrysler introduced new logos for its brands in the 1990s and again in 2010 after the Fiat Group took control of the company, Jeep still uses the AMC-era logo introduced shortly after AMC’s purchase of the brand in 1970. Until the Chrysler purchase, Jeep’s logo also featured the AMC emblem.

Legacy of divisions and facilities

Former divisions

During its history, American Motors bought or created, then later sold and divested itself of several specialized divisions, some which continue to exist today:

Kelvinator, the subdivision of Nash-Kelvinator, was sold by American Motors in 1968 to White Consolidated Industries and subsequently became part of Electrolux. The Kelvinator Company is still in business.

Jeep is now a brand of the Chrysler Group. Many Jeep models retained the mechanical specifications and styling cues that were developed by AMC well into the 1990s or even into the first decade of the 2000s.

AM General is now owned by MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings and the Renco Group. It was organized as an LLC in August 2004.

Wheel Horse Products Division is now owned by the Toro Company.

Beijing Jeep was established by AMC in 1983 to produce Jeeps for the burgeoning Chinese market; the joint venture was inherited by Chrysler and continues under the ownership of the new Chrysler. AMC’s trials with the venture were the subject of a fairly well known book on the venture, “Beijing Jeep”, by James Mann.


AMC World Headquarters (1954–1975) was located at 14250 Plymouth Road in Detroit and was widely known as the Plymouth Road Office Center (PROC). In 1975, AMC moved its headquarters from the facility on Plymouth Road to a newly constructed building on Northwestern Highway in Southfield, Michigan known as the American Center.

The initial building had been built in 1926–27 by the Electric Refrigeration Corporation (subsequently Nash-Kelvinator) with design by Amedeo Leoni, industrial layout by Wallace McKenzie, and tower enclosure and industrial units by William E. Kapp, of SHG. The original 600,000 sq ft (56,000 m2) three-story factory and four-story administration building had been headquarters to Nash-Kelvinator from 1937–1954 as well as a factory for refrigerators, electric ranges, and commercial refrigeration—as well as airplane propellers for the U.S. military effort during World War II.

During World War II, the U.S. War Department contracted with Nash-Kelvinator to produce 900 Sikorsky R-6 model helicopters. As part of that contract, a 4.5 acres (1.8 ha) site north of the factory was used as the smallest airport in the world as a flight testing base. Nash-Kelvinator produced about fifty R-6s a month during the war. When the contract was terminated at the end of the war, a total of 262 helicopters had been constructed.

During Chrysler’s occupancy of the complex, it was known Jeep and (Dodge) Truck Engineering (JTE), including facilities for Body on Frame (BoF) work as well as testing facilities and labs. The buildings included 1,500,000 square feet (140,000 m2), approximately one third devoted to engineering and computer functions.[93]

As of 2007, Chrysler still employed over 1,600 people at the complex, moving those operations in mid-2009 to the Chrysler Technology Center. PROC was made available for sale by Chrysler in early 2010.

  • American Center – AMC’s corporate headquarters in Southfield, Michigan is still standing, still open, and still called “American Center”. The original “American Center” signage at the top of the building remained until 2005, although the AMC logo has been removed. The signage has since been changed to Charter One. The 25-story building is rented to several different organizations and companies as office space. After the Chrysler acquisition, Chrysler Financial occupied as much as 175,000 square feet (16,300 m2) of the building.
  • Toledo South Assembly Plants – Torn down in 2007 by Chrysler. Until it was demolished, still visible on most of the signage on the outside of the factories were areas where Chrysler painted over the AMC logo.
  • Toledo Forge  – Torn down by Chrysler in 2007.
  • Brampton (formerly Bramalea) Assembly and Satellite Stamping Plants. – still in use by Chrysler. AMC designed this US$260 million (US$592,203,716 in 2016 dollars), 2,500,000-square-foot (230,000 m2) plant, which was operational by 1986. This plant was designed and built by AMC for the specific purpose of building the Eagle Premier. Like the older Brampton plant (see “Former Factory Facilities”, below), this factory was also part of American Motors Canada, Inc., and with the Chrysler buy-out in 1987, became part of Chrysler Canada Limited. The plant currently builds the LX series of vehicles including the Chrysler 300, the Dodge Charger. Also Producing a slightly modified version of the lX series; renamed the LC series; supporting the Dodge Challenger nameplate.
  • Kenosha “Main” Plant – Portions of the Kenosha Main Plant (later Chrysler’s Kenosha Engine plant with some new additions) at 52nd Street and 30th Avenue continued to be run by Chrysler as an engine-production factory. This plant closed in October 2010 as part of Chrysler LLC’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy procedure which resulted from the automotive industry crisis. Demolition of the plant began in early December 2012.
  • Canadian Fabricated Products Ltd. – An AMC division (part of AMC Canada, Ltd.) in Stratford, Ontario; established 1971 and sold post-buyout by DaimlerChrysler in 1994; produced automotive interior trim.
  • Guelph Products – An AMC division (also part of AMC Canada, Ltd.) in Guelph, Ontario; opened in 1987, and subsequently sold by Chrysler in early 1993; the operation supplied moulded plastic components to the Brampton Assembly Plant.
  • Coleman Products Corporation – An AMC subsidiary in Coleman, Wisconsin. Manufactured automotive wiring harnesses for AMC and other automakers. (Not the same as Coleman Company)
  • Evart Products Co. – An AMC subsidiary in Evart, Michigan. The plant was established in 1953 with 25 workers and eventually expanded to over 1,200, becoming Osceola County’s largest employer. This factory manufactured injection molded plastic parts (notably, grilles) for AMC (supplying 90% of in-house needs), as well as for other automakers. In 1966, Products Wire Harness was built. After Chrysler’s purchase of AMC, Collins & Aikman took over the factory.
  • Mercury Plastics Co. – Mercury Plastics operated a plant at 34501 Harper Ave., Mt. Clemens, Michigan. The company was acquired in 1973 for 611,111 shares of AMC stock. The company produced plastic parts for AMC, as well as for uses in other industries.
  • Windsor Plastics Co. – Windsor Plastics, 601 North Congress Avenue, Evansville, Indiana was acquired in 1970. The division produced plastic parts for AMC and other industries. The company was sold to Guardian Industries in 1982, and underwent a name change to Guardian Automotive Trim, Inc. It is still in operation today. The original factory in Evansville continues to manufacture plastic parts for the OEM and aftermarket automotive industries. Items manufactured include grilles, bezels, and other parts.
  • The AMC Proving Grounds – The former 300 acres (1.2 km2; 0.47 sq mi) AMC Proving Grounds in Burlington, Wisconsin had initially been Nash’s test track and subsequently became Jeep’s test facilities (after AMC’s acquisition of Willys in the 1970s). The grounds fell into disuse after Chrysler’s takeover of AMC in 1987 and subsequently became the engineering and test facility for MGA Research. The company rents out this proving grounds to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), for “ride-and-drive” events by automakers, as well as for movies and commercials.
  • Axle tooling equipment – sold in 1985 to Dana Holding Corporation, and they named the AMC-15 axles as Dana 35. Dana manufactured the AMC-20 axles for AM General‘s Hummer H1. The company also continues to produce the AMC-15 axle as well; however they have been upgraded from AMC’s original design with multiple variations (including front axle designs).
  • Holmes Foundry, Ltd. – AMC’s block-casting foundry was a major AMC factory which is now completely obliterated. Holmes had its main office and foundry at 200 Exmouth Street, Sarnia, Ontario, Canada. Holmes was established in 1918, by Mr. J. S. Blunt, and was called Holmes Blunt Limited. In the early years, Ford Motor Company contracted the plant for a steady supply of engine casting blocks. This factory had a reputation locally as a dirty, dangerous place to work. The company had three divisions, all operating on one site at the edge of Sarnia. Beginning in 1962, AMC contracted with Holmes Foundry to supply AMC with cylinder block castings. American Motors acquired 25% interest in the foundry in January 1966. In July 1970, AMC acquired 100% of Holmes Foundry through an exchange of shares, making it a wholly owned subsidiary. However, it was not until October 1981 that Holmes Foundry finally became a Division of American Motors, Canada. As part of its acquisition of AMC in 1987, Chrysler Corporation took ownership of the Holmes facility and its manufacturing business, but closed the operation on September 16, 1988. The industrial facilities were cleaned of their environmental contaminants in 2005, in preparation for a new highway interchange to be built on the site.
  • Kenosha “Lakefront” (Kenosha, Wisconsin) Plant – The AMC plant in downtown Kenosha along Lake Michigan was razed, and after reclamation the land was used for new development. At the company’s inception in 1954, the plant covered 3,195,000 sq ft (296,800 m2) and together with the Milwaukee plant had an annual production capacity of 350,000 cars.
  • Milwaukee Body (Milwaukee, Wisconsin) Plant – AMC inherited a 1,600,000 sq ft (150,000 m2) body plant in Milwaukee from Nash. The plant was the main body plant for Seaman Body Company, which did a lot of business with Nash and other makers assembling bodies of various designs. For AMC, the plant was sometimes an internal headache. For instance, in late 1961, George Romney himself stormed through the plant and threatened to close it and eliminate its 9,000 jobs due to labor problems. The plant survived until the Chrysler buyout. Chrysler later decided to dispose of the factory. Upon closure, the site was named as a Superfund site. The factory was demolished and the site rehabilitated and redeveloped.
  • Danforth Ave (Toronto, Ontario) Plant – Inherited from Nash. This plant was purchased by Nash from Ford of Canada in 1946. The first Canadian-built Nash rolled off the line in April, 1950. Upon the formation of American Motors in 1954, the plant assembled 1955 Nash and Hudson Ramblers (2- and 4-door sedans); as well as Nash Canadian Statesman and Hudson Wasp (4door sedans). In 1956, the plant continued to assemble Nash and Hudson Rambler (4-door sedans and wagons) and the Nash Canadian Statesman (4-door sedan); but The Hudson Wasp was imported. That same year, American Motors Sales (Canada) Limited was formed – taking over Nash Motors of Canada Limited and Hudson Motors of Canada Limited. In 1957, AMC assembled the Rambler Six and Rambler Rebel V8 at the Danforth plant; but in July, 1957, AMC closed the plant and imported Ramblers into Canada until 1961. The structure remains today as the Shoppers World Danforth Target store.
  • Tilbury, Ontario Assembly Plant – Another plant AMC inherited from the 1954 merger; this one via Hudson. Specifically, it was a contract with CHATCO Steel Products which actually owned the plant. American Motors ceased Hudson production at the Tilbury plant in 1955.
  • Brampton Assembly Plant – AMC opened a plant in 1960 in Brampton, Ontario, Canada. It was part of American Motors Canada, Inc. Rambler Drive, a small street just west of this plant, still exists and leads into a residential subdivision that was built in the 1960s. In 1987, with the Chrysler buy-out, the division and the plant were absorbed as well, becoming part of Chrysler Canada Limited. The plant was closed in 1994 and sold to Wal-Mart for use as their Canadian warehouse. This plant/warehouse was demolished in 2004 and redeveloped in 2007 with multiple smaller commercial buildings now onsite; a new Lowes Home Improvement Warehouse now takes up the largest section of this commercial development. Note that this is a separate facility from the current Brampton (formerly Bramalea) Assembly and Satellite Stamping Plants nearby.

In October 2006 its recent tenant, Union Stamping and Assembly, declared bankruptcy.

Earlier use of the name

The era of 1900 to 1925 saw various corporations, in several U.S. states, use similar “American” names, such as American Motor Carriage Company (Ohio, 1902–1903), American Automobile Manufacturing Company (Indiana, 1911–1912), and American Motors Incorporated (New York, 1919–1920). In 1916, An earlier “American Motors Corporation”, apparently unrelated to the more famous later corporation of the same name, was formed in 1916 in Newark, New Jersey, with Louis Chevrolet as vice president and chief engineer. By 1918 it was producing cars in a plant at Plainfield, New Jersey. In 1923 it merged with the Bessemer Motor Truck Company of Pennsylvania into Bessemer–American Motors Corporation, which lasted less than a year before merging with the Winther and Northway companies into Amalgamated Motors. The latter company apparently ceased soon after.

Later reuse of trademark

A new company was formed in Palmdale, California, in 2001. A registration for the American Motors trademarks was filed in 2001 by this California-based firm. The company’s website specifically claimed no affiliation to the previous American Motors, but used AMC’s history and logos on its website. The website is now dead, and the company’s claims to AMC’s trademarks expired in 2005.

The new Chrysler LLC holds a live registration for the name “American Motors”, which was applied for in 2005. The AMC trademark, complete with “A-mark” – as was originally used in 1970 and through the late-1980s – was registered and published for comment by Chrysler as of 2010.

AMC passenger cars

1969 AMC SC Rambler Hurst B-scheme exterior finish at Potomac Ramblers Club meet 2of2

 1969 SC/Rambler

1982 AMC Eagle

 1982 Eagle SX/4

1957 Rambler Rebel hardtop rfd-Cecil'10

 1957 Rambler Rebel

1970 AMC The Machine 2-door muscle car in RWB trim by lake

 1970 The Machine



 1976 Matador coupe

1971 AMC Ambassador 2-door hardtop coupe

 1971 Ambassador

1974 AMC Ambassador Brougham 4-door sedan beige

 1974 Ambassador
1957 Nash Metropolitan Series III Hardtop1957 Nash Metropolitan Series III Hardtop1955–1962: Metropolitan*

1975 AMC Gremlin
1975 AMC Gremlin 1970–1978: AMC Gremlin**

1979–1983: AMC Spirit

1987 AMC Eagle wagon burgundy-woodgrain NJ

1987 AMC Eagle wagon burgundy-woodgrain NJ

1981–1983: AMC Eagle (SX/4 and Kammback)

1985 Renault Alliance convirtible photographed in College Park, Maryland, USA.

1985 Renault Alliance convirtible photographed in College Park, Maryland, USA.

1983–1987: Renault Alliance based on the Renault 9.

1985 Encore 2-door hatchback

1985 Encore 2-door hatchback

1984–1987: Renault Encore – based on the Renault 11.

* – The Metropolitan was introduced by Nash in 1954.
** – The Gremlin was the company’s first modern subcompact.


AMC engines

199 six-cylinder

343 4-bbl V8

390 Go Pac V8

Main article: List of AMC engines
  • 1954–1956:
    • 184 cu in (3.0 L) Nash I6 (Rambler)
    • 196 cu in (3.2 L) Nash L head I6 (Rambler/AMC I6)
    • 252 cu in (4.1 L) Nash I6
    • 320 cu in (5.2 L) Packard built V8
    • 352 cu in (5.8 L) Packard built V8 (used only 1956)
  • 1956–1966:
    • 196 cu in (3.2 L) Rambler I6/AMC I6 (L head and OHV version-ended 1965)
    • 199 cu in (3.3 L) Typhoon Six I6 (Starting in 1966)
    • 232 cu in (3.8 L) Typhoon Six I6 (Beginning in 1964)
    • 250 cu in (4.1 L) AMC V8 (Ending in 1961)
    • 287 cu in (4.7 L) AMC V8 (Beginning in 1963)
    • 327 cu in (5.4 L) AMC V8 (also used by Kaiser Jeep 1965–1967)
  • 1967–1970:
    • 199 cu in (3.3 L) Typhoon Six I6
    • 232 cu in (3.8 L) Typhoon Six I6
    • 290 cu in (4.8 L) AMC V8 (Ending in 1969)
    • 304 cu in (5.0 L) AMC V8 (Beginning in 1970)
    • 343 cu in (5.6 L) AMC V8 (Ending in 1969)
    • 360 cu in (5.9 L) AMC V8 (Beginning in 1970)
    • 390 cu in (6.4 L) AMC V8
  • 1971–1980:
    • 121 cu in (2.0 L) AMC I4 1
    • 232 cu in (3.8 L) AMC I6
    • 258 cu in (4.2 L) AMC I6
    • 304 cu in (5.0 L) AMC V8
    • 360 cu in (5.9 L) AMC V8 (Ending in 1978 for automobiles and through 1991 in Jeeps)
    • 401 cu in (6.6 L) AMC V8 (Ending in 1974 as a regular production order in automobiles; was available in fleet/police use until at least 1975, in 1975 89 units were installed in Matadors; 4 coupes and 85 sedans-wagons. Available in full-size Jeeps through 1979, also used by International Harvester in 1974 in 1200 series pickups & Travelall during a strike at International Harvester, though IH called the engine a 400 CID)
  • 1980–1983:
  • 1984–1986:
    • 2.5 litres (150 cu in) AMC I4
    • 258 cu in (4.2 L) AMC I6
  • 1987:
    • 2.5 litres (150 cu in) AMC I4
    • 258 cu in (4.2 L) AMC I6
    • 4.0 litres (242 cu in) AMC I6
  • 1988–1989:
    • 2.5 litres (150 cu in) AMC I4
    • 258 cu in (4.2 L) AMC I6
    • 3.0 litres (183 cu in) PRV V6

Also: Kaiser Jeeps used the AMC 327, Buick 225 (“Dauntless V6”), Buick 350 (“Dauntless V8”), Willys 134 I4 (“Hurricane”). The Downsized Jeep XJ Cherokee/Wagoneer used the Chevrolet 2.8 Litre V6 in 1983–1984.

1 AMC contracted with Volkswagen to buy tooling for the Audi 2.0 L OHC I4. Major parts (block, crankshaft, head assembly) were initially purchased from Audi and shipped to the U.S. where final assembly was accomplished by AMC at a plant purchased specifically for production of this engine. Sales never reached numbers to justify taking over total production. AMC made several changes to the engine. They were prevented from using the Volkswagen or Audi names in association with the AMC assembled version by contractual agreement.


1970 AMC Javelin SST with Go package in bitter sweet orange

 Javelin with “Go” package

1958 Ambassador 4-d hardtop wagon 1

 Ambassador hardtop wagon

1964 Rambler American 440 convertible-red NJ

 Rambler American convertible

AMC models historically regarded by hobbyists as particularly “collectible” include the Javelin, AMX, and performance specials such as the 1957 Rambler Rebel, 1965–67 Marlin, 1969 Hurst SC/Rambler, 1970 Rebel Machine, and 1971 Hornet SC/360. These models enjoyed limited popularity when new, resulting in low production figures. In January 2007, the AMC AMX was “really taking off in the muscle car market” according to the editors ofHemmings Classic Car, and it had “left its mark among AMC collectors’ minds as a great alternative” to higher-priced Hemi-powered muscle cars.

The early Javelin (1968–70) stands out from the Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler pony cars. Car expert Jack Nerad noted in a 2007 article “several fully restored AMX models” listed for sale at “little more than half the price of a comparable Buick Gran Sport, Chevrolet Chevelle, Olds 4-4-2 or Pontiac GTO” in support of the author’s opinion that the 1971–74 Javelin was “clearly an outstanding alternative muscle car for the enthusiast on a budget.”

According to James C. Mays, automotive historian and author of The Savvy Guide to Buying Collector Cars at Auction, the “Wow! Factor” is an important and measurable pleasure to an owner whether their car is driven or sits in a climate-controlled garage. His “Wow! Factor” includes examples of a bright red 1969 AMX that according to its owner “is just a fast Rambler”, but draws more people at events than the more prestigious Ferraris and Lamborghinis, as well as a “million-dollar moment” when a Rambler owner was serenaded with the “Beep Beep” song by The Playmates while fueling at a travel plaza. Moreover, the author’s collector car, a 1969 Ambassador station wagon, made friends as strangers came to greet and host him as if “long lost kin”. Mays points out the ready availability of parts for AMC engines and his experiences in having service done on Ramblers without being charged for the work in exchange for the experience of driving a “sassy Rambler” (a 1966 American convertible) and having pictures taken with it.

Other AMC models, once somewhat ignored by the hobby, are now considered “future collectibles”. Examples include the 1959 Ambassador 4-door hardtop station wagon, of which only 578 were produced, and the Jeep Scrambler CJ8, a combined pickup truck-Jeep, of which only a few thousand were produced.

Hemmings Classic Car magazine included the 1969–70 Rebel SST and the 1974–78 Matador coupe in their 2008 list of “dollar-for-pound [weight]” cars that could be bought in show-quality condition for a comparatively modest outlay, The writer also noted that “most of AMC’s ’70s lineup” qualified for inclusion on the list.

The AMC Gremlin is described to have “a cult-like following in today’s collectible car market. The Gremlin shares components with some other AMC models its repair and restoration can be relatively inexpensive compared with other “historic cars”.

The AMC Pacer increased in value according to a Pacer owner who is the CEO of a major insurance provider for collector car owners.

There are active Rambler and AMC car clubs in the U.S. and elsewhere (examples in External Links).

Hot Rod Magazine revival April Fool’s joke

In April 2008, Hot Rod Magazine released an article claiming that American Motors was in the process of being revived. The vehicles in the works were to be the AMX, Matador, Ambassador, Pacer, and Gremlin. Illustrated with drawings of the concept cars entering production and accompanied by plentiful information, it was a popular article, although it was later revealed to be an April Fools’ joke.

See also


  1. ^ Jump up to:a b c

My personal photo collection:

1959 AMC Rambler Station Wagon1960 AMC Rambler American Wagon1961 AMC Metropolitan 562, 2-Door Coupe1965 AMC Rambler Marlin1966 American Motors Cavalier1966 American Motors Vixen1967 AMC AMX III Concept Car - to become a Javelin Frt Qtr BW1968 Amc ambassador sedan1968 Amc ambassador sw1968 Amc amitron1968 AMC AMX Cut-Away Frt Qtr BW1968 Amc amx gt1968 Amc amx1968 AMC AMX-R Prototype1968 Amc javelin karmann1968 Amc javelin sst sport coupe1968 Amc javelin1968 Amc rebel (2)1968 Amc rebel1968 Amc rebel_7701968 Amc rebel_sw1969 AMC Ambassador SST 4d Limo1969 Amc ambassador sst hardtop1969 AMC Ambassador Sst Station Wagon Bw1969 Amc amx II tyl1969 Amc amx II1969 Amc amx11969 AMC Dick Teague Styling Proposal for 1971 AMX BW1969 Amc Line-10-11ambassador_sst1969 Amc Line-24-25javelin1969 Amc rebel sst hardtop1970 AMC Gremlin-white-A-6401970 AMC Rebel Station Wagon Greengreen1970 AMC Rebel1971 AMC AMX prototype-fV mx1971 AMC AMX prototype-fVl mx1971 AMC AMX prototype-fVl2 mx1971 Amc Matador Station Wagon Bw Max1974 AMC's1975 AMC Pacer (2)1975 AMC Pacer Patrol Car (2)1975 AMC Pacer Patrol Car1975 AMC Pacer1975 AMC Pacer-X Hatchback Coupe1975 AMC Pacer-X Sport Hatchback Coupe1976 AMC Pacer pickoupe1976 AMC Pacer D-L Hatchback Sport Coupe r3q1976 AMC Pacer DL Sport Coupe1976 AMC Pacer Hatchback Sport Coupe1976 AMC Pacer Wagon yellow1976 AMC Pacer. ajpg1976 AMC Pacer. b1976 amc pacer1977 AMC Pacer 2dr Station Wagon1977 AMC Pacer DL Station Wagon1978 AMC Pacer Interior & Dashboard1978 AMC Pacer Wagon-black1979 AMC Pacer Limited Hatchback Sport Coupe1979 AMC Pacer Wagon-red1980 AMC Concord 2 door1980 AMC Pacer Wagon1980 AMC Pacer1981-83 AMC Eagle SX4American-motors.svg

That’s it

PACKARD Automobile Company Detroit USA 1899 –


Automobile company
Industry Manufacturing
Fate folded
Founded 1899
Founder James Ward Packard, William Doud Packard, George L. Weiss
Defunct 1958
Headquarters Detroit, Michigan, US
Key people
Henry B. Joy
Products Automobile

Packard was an American luxury automobile marque built by the Packard Motor Car Company of Detroit, Michigan, and later by the Studebaker-Packard Corporation of South Bend, Indiana. The first Packard automobiles were produced in 1899, and the last in 1958.



Packard was founded by James Ward Packard, his brother William, and their partner, George Lewis Weiss, in the city of Warren, Ohio, where 400 Packard automobiles were built at their factory on Dana Street Northeast, from 1899 to 1903. A mechanical engineer, James Packard believed they could build a better horseless carriage than the Winton cars owned by Weiss, an important Winton stockholder, after Packard complained to Alexander Winton and offered suggestions for improvement, which were ignored; Packard’s first car was built in Warren, Ohio, on November 6, 1899.

In September, 1900, the Ohio Automobile Company was founded to produce Packard automobiles. These quickly gained an excellent reputation and the name was changed on October 13, 1902, to the Packard Motor Car Company.

All Packards had a single-cylinder engine until 1903. From the very beginning, Packard featured innovations, including the modern steering wheel and, years later, the first production 12-cylinder engine and air-conditioning in a passenger car.

While the Black Motor Company‘s Black went as low as $375, Western Tool Works‘ Gale Model A roadster was $500, the high-volume Oldsmobile Runabout went for $650, and the Cole 30 and Cole Runabout were US$1,500, Packard concentrated on cars with prices starting at $2,600. The marque developed a following among wealthy purchasers both in the United States and abroad.

Henry Bourne Joy, a member of one of Detroit‘s oldest and wealthiest families, bought a Packard. Impressed by its reliability, he visited the Packards and soon enlisted a group of investors—including Truman Handy Newberry and Russell A. Alger Jr. On October 2, 1902, this group refinanced and renamed the New York and Ohio Automobile Company as the Packard Motor Car Company, with James Packard as president. Alger later served as vice president. Packard moved operations to Detroit soon after, and Joy became general manager (and laterchairman of the board). An original Packard, reputedly the first manufactured, was donated by a grateful James Packard to his alma mater, Lehigh University, and is preserved there in the Packard Laboratory. Another is on display at the Packard Museum in Warren, Ohio.

The 3,500,000-square-foot (330,000 m2) Packard plant on East Grand Boulevard in Detroit was located on over 40 acres (16 ha) of land. Designed by Albert Kahn Associates, it included the first use of reinforced concrete for industrial construction in Detroit and was considered the most modern automobile manufacturing facility in the world when opened in 1903. Its skilled craftsmen practiced over 80 trades. The dilapidated plant still stands, despite repeated fires. Architect Kahn also designed the Packard Proving Grounds at Utica, Michigan.


1916 Packard First Series Twin-Six Touring 1-35

Packard First Series Twin-Six Touring 1-35, 1916

Rolls Royce equiped with Kégresse system
Rolls Royce equiped with Kégresse system
Russian imperial state limousine (a 1916 Packard Twin-6 touring car) equipped with Kegresse track (1917)

1927 Packard Fourth Series Six Model 426 Runabout (Roadster)

Packard Fourth Series Six Model 426 Runabout (Roadster), 1927

From this beginning, through and beyond the 1930s, Packard-built vehicles were perceived as highly competitive among high-priced luxury American automobiles. The company was commonly referred to as being one of the “Three P’s” of American motordom royalty, along with Pierce-Arrow of Buffalo, New York and Peerless of Cleveland, Ohio. For most of its history, Packard was guided by its President and General Manager James Alvan Macauley, who also served as President of the National Automobile Manufacturers Association. Inducted into the Automobile Hall of Fame, Macauley made Packard the number one designer and producer of luxury automobiles in the United States. The marque was also highly competitive abroad, with markets in 61 countries. Gross income for the company was $21,889,000 in 1928. Macauley was also responsible for the iconic Packard slogan, “Ask the Man Who Owns One”.

In the 1920s, Packard exported more cars than any other in its price class, and in 1930, sold almost twice as many abroad as any other marque priced over $2000. In 1931, 10 Packards were owned by Japan’s royal family. Between 1924 and 1930, Packard was also the top-selling luxury brand.

In addition to excellent luxury cars, Packard built trucks. A Packard truck carrying a three-ton load drove from New York City to San Francisco between 8 July and 24 August 1912. The same year, Packard had service depots in 104 cities.

The Packard Motor Corporation Building at Philadelphia, also designed by Albert Kahn, was built in 1910-1911. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

By 1931, Packards were also being produced in Canada.


1930 Packard Deluxe Eight roadster

1930 Packard Deluxe Eight roadster

Entering the 1930s, Packard attempted to beat the stock market crash and subsequent Great Depression by manufacturing ever more opulent and expensive cars than it had prior to October 1929. While the Eight five-seater sedan had been the company’s top-seller for years, the Twin Six, designed by Vincent, was introduced for 1932, with prices starting at $3,650 at the factory gate; in 1933, it would be renamed the Packard Twelve, a name it retained for the remainder of its run (through 1939). Also in 1931, Packard pioneered a system it called Ride Control, which made the hydraulic shock absorbers adjustable from within the car. For one year only, 1932, Packard fielded an upper-medium-priced car, the Light Eight, at a base price of $1,750 (about $27,933 in 2014), or $735 ($11,732) less than the standard Eight.

1931 Ninth Series model 840

1931 Ninth Series model 840

As an independent automaker, Packard did not have the luxury of a larger corporate structure absorbing its losses, as Cadillac did with GM and Lincoln with Ford. However, Packard did have a better cash position than other independent luxury marques. Peerless ceased production in 1932, changing the Cleveland manufacturing plant from producing cars to brewing beer for Carling Black Label Beer. By 1938, Franklin, Marmon, Ruxton, Stearns-Knight, Stutz, Duesenberg, and Pierce-Arrow had all closed.

1932 Ninth Series De Luxe Eight model 904 sedan-limousine

A 1932 Ninth Series De Luxe Eight model 904 sedan-limousine

Packard also had one other advantage that some other luxury automakers did not: a single production line. By maintaining a single line and interchangeability between models, Packard was able to keep its costs down. Packard did not change cars as often as other manufacturers did at the time. Rather than introducing new models annually, Packard began using its own “Series” formula for differentiating its model changeovers in 1923. New model series did not debut on a strictly annual basis, with some series lasting nearly two years, and others lasting as short a time as seven months. In the long run, though, Packard averaged around one new series per year. By 1930, Packard automobiles were considered part of its Seventh Series. By 1942, Packard was in its Twentieth Series. The “Thirteenth Series” was omitted.

1934 Eleventh Series Eight model 1101 convertible sedan

1934 Eleventh Series Eight model 1101 convertible sedan

To address the Depression, Packard started producing more affordable cars in the medium-price range. In 1935, the company introduced its first car under $1000, the 120. Sales more than tripled that year and doubled again in 1936. To produce the 120, Packard built and equipped an entirely separate factory. By 1936, Packard’s labor force was divided nearly evenly between the high-priced “Senior” lines (Twelve, Super Eight, and Eight) and the medium-priced “Junior” models, although more than 10 times more Juniors were produced than Seniors. This was because the 120 models were built using thoroughly modern mass production techniques, while the Senior Packards used a great deal more hand labor and traditional craftsmanship. Although Packard almost certainly could not have survived the Depression without the highly successful Junior models, they did have the effect of diminishing the Senior models’ exclusive image among those few who could still afford an expensive luxury car. The 120 models were more modern in basic design than the Senior models; for example, the 1935 Packard 120 featured independent front suspension and hydraulic brakes, features that would not appear on the Senior Packards until 1937.


1939 Packard Packard Twelve, 17th series

1939 Packard Packard Twelve, 17th series

1941 Packard 180 Formal Sedan

1941 Packard Custom Super Eight One-Eighty Formal sedan; 19th series, Model 1907

1941 Packard Station Wagon advertisement either One-Ten Model 1900 or One-Twenty Model 1901

1941 Packard Station Wagon advertisement; either One-Ten Model 1900 or One-Twenty Model 1901

Packard was still the premier luxury automobile, even though the majority of cars being built were the 120 and Super Eight model ranges. Hoping to catch still more of the market, Packard decided to issue the Packard 115C in 1937, which was powered by Packard’s first six-cylinder engine since the Fifth Series cars in 1928. While the move to introduce the Six, priced at around $1200, was brilliant, for the car arrived just in time for the 1938 recession, it also tagged Packards as something less exclusive than they had been in the public’s mind, and in the long run hurt Packard’s reputation of building some of America’s finest luxury cars. The Six, redesignated 110 in 1940–41, continued for three years after the war, with many serving as taxicabs.

In 1939, Packard introduced Econo-Drive, a kind of overdrive, claimed able to reduce engine speed 27.8%; it could be engaged at any speed over 30 mph (48 km/h). The same year, the company introduced a fifth, transverse shock absorber and made column shift (known as Handishift) available on the 120 and Six.


In 1942, the Packard Motor Car Company converted to 100% war production. During World War II, Packard again built airplane engines, licensing the Merlin engine from Rolls-Royce as the V-1650, which powered the famous P-51 Mustang fighter, ironically known as the “Cadillac of the Skies” by GIs in WWII. Packard also built 1350-, 1400-, and 1500-hp V-12 marine engines for American PT boats (each boat used three) and some of Britain’s patrol boats. Packard ranked 18th among United States corporations in the value of wartime production contracts.

By the end of the war in Europe, Packard Motor Car Company had produced over 55,000 combat engines. Sales in 1944 were $455,118,600. By May 6, 1945, Packard had a backlog on war orders of $568,000,000.


1950-55 Packard dealer in New York State

Packard dealer in New York State, ca. 1950-1955

By the end of World War II, Packard was in excellent financial condition, but several management mistakes became ever more visible as time went on. Like other U.S. auto companies, Packard resumed civilian car production in late 1945, labeling them as 1946 models by modestly updating their 1942 models. As only tooling for the Clipper was at hand, the Senior-series cars were not rescheduled. One version of the story is that the Senior dies were left out in the elements to rust and were no longer usable. Another long-rumored tale is that Roosevelt gave Stalin the dies to the Senior series, but the ZiS-110 state limousines were a separate design.

Although the postwar Packards sold well, the ability to distinguish expensive models from lower-priced models disappeared as all Packards, whether sixes or eights, became virtually alike in styling. Further, amid a booming seller’s market, management had decided to direct the company more to volume middle-class models, thus concentrating on selling lower-priced cars instead of more expensive — and more profitable — models. Worse, they also tried to enter the taxi cab and fleet car market. The idea was to gain volume for the years ahead, but that target was missed: Packard simply was not big enough to offer a real challenge to the Big Three, and they lacked the deep pockets with which a parent company could shelter them, as well as the model lineup through which to spread the pricing.

As a result, Packard’s image as a luxury brand was further diluted. As Packard lost buyers of expensive cars, it could not find enough customers for the lesser models to compensate. The shortage of raw materials immediately after the war – which was felt by all manufacturers – hurt Packard more with its volume business than it would have had it had focused on the luxury specialty car market.

1949 Packard Convertible Coupé

1949 Packard convertible coupé

The Clipper became outdated as the new envelope bodies started appearing led by Studebaker and Kaiser-Frazer. Had they been a European car maker, this would have meant nothing; they could have continued to offer the classic shape not so different from the later Rolls-Royce with its vertical grill. Although Packard was in solid financial shape as the war ended, they had not sold enough cars to pay the cost of tooling for the 1941 design. While most automakers were able to come out with new vehicles for 1948-49, Packard could not until 1951. They therefore updated by adding sheet metal to the existing body (which added 200 lb (91 kg) of curb weight). Six-cylinder cars were dropped for the home market, and a convertible was added. These new designs hid their relationship to the Clipper. Even that name was dropped — for a while.

The design chosen was a “bathtub” type. While this was considered futuristic during the war and the concept was taken further with the 1949 Nash – and survived for decades in the Saab 92-96 in Europe – the 1948-1950 Packard styling was polarizing. To some it was sleek and blended classic with modern; others nicknamed it the “pregnant elephant.” Test driver for Modern Mechanix, Tom McCahill, referred to the newly designed Packard as “a goat” and “a dowager in a Queen Mary hat”. Still, in this era, demand for any car was high, and Packard sold 92,000 vehicles for 1948 and 116,000 of the 1949 models.

1950 Packard Eight 4-Door Sedan

1950 Packard Eight four-door sedan

Packard outsold Cadillac until about 1950; most sales were the midrange volume models. A buyer of a Super Eight paying a premium price did not enjoy seeing a lesser automobile with nearly all the Super Eight’s features, with just slight distinction in exterior styling. During this time, Cadillac was among the earliest U.S. makers to offer an automatic transmission (the Hydramatic in 1941), but Packard caught up with the Ultramatic, offered on top models in 1949 and all models from 1950 onward. Packard’s Ultramatic automatic transmission was the only one developed by an independent automaker was smoother than the GM Hydramatic, though acceleration was sluggish and owners were often tempted to put it into low gear for faster starts, which put extra strain on the transmission. However, while the Ultramatic was competitive, Packard was not able to immediately respond to Cadillac’s introduction of a powerful overhead valve V8 in 1949. Also, when a new body style was added in addition to standard sedans, coupes, and convertibles, Packard introduced a station wagon instead of a two-door hardtop in response to Cadillac’s Coupe DeVille. The Station Sedan, a wagon-like body that was mostly steel, with good deal of decorative wood in the back; only 3,864 were sold over its three years of production. Although the Custom Clippers and Custom Eights were built in its old tradition with craftsmanship and the best materials, all was not well. The combination of the lower priced Packards undermining sales and prestige of their higher end brethren, controversial styling, and some questionable marketing decisions, Packard seemed to lose focus on the luxury car market – relinquishing to a rising Cadillac. In 1950, sales dropped to 42,000 cars for the model year. When Packard’s president George T. Christopher announced the “bathtub” would get another facelift for 1951, influential parts of the management revolted. Christopher was forced to resign and loyal Packard treasurer Hugh Ferry became president.

1951 Packard 300

1951 Packard 300

The 1951 Packards were completely redesigned. Designer John Reinhart introduced a high-waisted, more squared-off profile that fit the contemporary styling trends of the era – very different from the design of 1948-50. New styling features included a one-piece windshield, a wrap-around rear window, small tailfins on the long-wheelbase models, a full-width grill, and “guideline fenders” with the hood and front fenders at the same height. The 122-inch (3,099 mm) wheelbase supported low-end 200-series standard and Deluxe two- and four-doors, and 250-series Mayfair hardtop coupes (Packard’s first) and convertibles. Upmarket 300 and Patrician 400 models rode a 127-inch (3,226 mm) wheelbase. The 200-series models were again low-end models and now included a low priced business coupe.

The 250, 300, and 400/Patricians were Packard’s flagship models and comprised the majority of production for that year. The Patrician was now the top-shelf Packard, replacing the Custom Eight line. Original plans were to equip it with a 356 cu in (5.8 L) engine, but the company decided that sales would probably not be high enough to justify producing the larger, more expensive power plant, and so instead the debored 327 cu in (5.4 L) (previously the middle engine) was used instead. While the smaller powerplant and offered nearly equal performance in the new Packards to the 356, the move was seen by some as further denigrating Packard’s image as a luxury car.

Since 1951 was a quiet year with little new from the other auto manufacturers, Packard’s redesigned lineup sold nearly 101,000 cars. The 1951 Packards were a quirky mixture of the modern (the automatic transmissions) and aging (still using flathead inline eights when OHV V8 engines were rapidly becoming the norm). No domestic car lines had OHV V8s in 1948, but by 1955, every car line offered a version. The Packard inline eight, despite being an older design that lacked the power of Cadillac’s engines, was very smooth. When combined with an Ultramatic transmission, the drivetrain made for a nearly quiet and smooth experience on the road. However, it struggled to keep pace with the horsepower race. In May 1952, aging Packard president Hugh Ferry resigned and was succeeded by James J. Nance, a marketing hotshot recruited from Hotpoint to turn the stagnant company around (its main factory on Detroit’s East Grand Boulevard was operating at only 50% capacity). Nance worked to snag Korean War military contracts and turn around Packard’s badly diluted image. He declared that from now on, Packard would cease producing midpriced cars and build only luxury models to compete with Cadillac. As part of this strategy, Nance unveiled a low-production (only 750 made) glamour model for 1953, the Caribbean convertible. Competing directly with the other novelty ragtops of that year (Buick Skylark, Oldsmobile Fiesta, and Cadillac Eldorado), it was equally well received, and outsold its competition. However, overall sales declined in 1953. While the limited edition luxury models as the Caribbean convertible and the Patrician 400 Sedan, and the Derham custom formal sedan brought back some of the lost prestige from better days, the “high pocket” styling that had looked new two years earlier was no longer bringing people into the showrooms for the bread and butter Packards.

1953 Packard Caribbean convertible, Water Mill

1953 Packard Caribbean convertible

While American independent manufacturers like Packard did well during the early postwar period, supply had caught up with demand and by the early 1950s and they were increasingly challenged as the “Big Three” – General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler – battled intensely for sales in the economy, medium-priced, and luxury markets. Those independents that remained alive in the early ’50s, merged. In 1953, Kaiser merged with Willys to become Kaiser-Willys. Nash and Hudson became American Motors (AMC). The strategy for these mergers included cutting costs and strengthening their sales organizations to meet the intense competition from the Big Three.

In 1953-54, Ford and GM waged a brutal sales war, cutting prices and forcing cars on dealers. While this had little effect on either company, it gravely damaged the independent automakers. Nash president George Mason thus proposed that the four major independents (Nash, Hudson, Packard, and Studebaker) all merge into one large outfit to be named American Motors Corporation. Mason held informal discussions with Nance to outline his strategic vision, and an agreement was reached for AMC to buy Packard’s Ultramatic transmissions and V8 engines, and they were used in 1955 Hudsons and Nashes. However, SPC’s Nance refused to consider merging with AMC unless he could take the top command position (Mason and Nance were former competitors as heads of the Kelvinator and Hotpoint appliance companies, respectively), but Mason’s grand vision of a Big Four American auto industry ended in October 1954 with his sudden death from a heart attack. A week after the death of Mason, the new president of AMC, George W. Romney, announced “there are no mergers under way either directly or indirectly.” Nevertheless, Romney continued with Mason’s commitment to buy components from SPC. Although Mason and Nance had previously agreed that SPC would purchase parts from AMC, it did not do so. Moreover, Packard’s engines and transmissions were comparatively expensive, so AMC began development of its own V8 engine, and replaced the outsourced unit by mid-1956. Although Nash and Hudson merged along with Studebaker and Packard joining, the four-way merger Mason hoped for did not materialize. The S-P marriage (really a Packard buyout), proved to be a crippling mistake. Although Packard was still in fair financial shape, Studebaker was not, struggling with high overhead and production costs and needing the impossible figure of 250,000 cars a year to break even. Due diligence was placed behind “merger fever,” and the deal was rushed. it became clear after the merger that Studebaker’s deteriorating financial situation put Packard’s survival at risk.

Nance had hoped for a total redesign in 1954, but the necessary time and money were lacking. Packard that year (total production 89,796) comprised the bread-and-butter Clipper line (the 250 series was dropped), Mayfair hardtop coupes and convertibles, and a new entry level long-wheelbase sedan named Cavalier. Among the Clippers was a novelty pillared coupe, the Sportster, styled to resemble a hardtop.

With time and money again lacking, 1954 styling was unchanged except for modified headlights and taillights, essentially trim items. A new hardtop named Pacific was added to the flagship Patrician series and all higher-end Packards sported a bored-out 359-cid engine. Air conditioning became available for the first time since 1942. Packard had introduced air conditioning in the 1930s. Clippers (which comprised over 80% of production) also got a hardtop model, Super Panama, but sales tanked, falling to only 31,000 cars.

1955 Packard Patrician

1955 Packard Patrician

The revolutionary new model Nance hoped for was delayed until 1955, partially because of Packard’s merger with Studebaker. Packard stylist Richard A. Teague was called upon by Nance to design the 1955 line, and to Teague’s credit, the 1955 Packard was indeed a sensation when it appeared. Not only was the body completely updated and modernized, but the suspension also was totally new, with torsion bars front and rear, along with an electric control that kept the car level regardless of load or road conditions. Crowning this stunning new design was Packard’s brand new ultra-modern overhead-valve V8, displacing 352 cu in (5.8 l), replacing the old, heavy, cast-iron side-valve straight-eight that had been used for decades. In addition, Packard offered the entire host of power, comfort, and convenience features, such as power steering and brakes, electric window lifts, and air conditioning (even in the Caribbean convertible), a Packard exclusive at the time. Sales rebounded to 101,000 for 1955, although that was a very strong year across the industry.

As the 1955 models went into production, an old problem flared up. Back in 1941, Packard had outsourced its bodies to Briggs Manufacturing. In December 1953, Briggs was sold to Chrysler, who notified Packard that they would need to find a new body supplier after the 1954 model year ended. Packard then leased a building on Conner Avenue from Chrysler, and moved its body-making and final assembly there. The facility proved too small and caused endless tie-ups and quality problems. Packard would have fared better building the bodies in its old, but amply sized main facility on East Grand Boulevard. Bad quality control hurt the company’s image and caused sales to plummet for 1956, though the problems had largely been resolved by that point. Additionally, a “brain drain” of talent away from Packard was underway, most notably John Z. DeLorean.

1956 Packard Clipper

1956 Packard Clipper

For 1956, the Clipper became a separate make, with Clipper Custom and Deluxe models available. Now the Packard-Clipper business model was a mirror to Lincoln-Mercury. “Senior” Packards were built in four body styles, each with a unique model name. Patrician was used for the four-door top of the line sedans, Four Hundred for the hardtop coupes, and Caribbean for the convertible and vinyl-roof two-door hardtop. In the spring of 1956, the Executive was introduced. Coming in a four-door sedan and a two-door hardtop, the Executive was aimed at the buyer who wanted a luxury car but could not justify Packard’s pricing. It was an intermediate model using the Packard name and the Senior models’ front end, but using the Clipper platform and rear fenders. This was to some confusing and went against what James Nance had been attempting for several years to accomplish, the separation of the Clipper line from Packard. However, as late as the cars’ introduction to the market, was there was reasoning for in 1957 this car was to be continued. It then became a baseline Packard on the all-new 1957 Senior shell. Clippers would share bodies with Studebaker from 1957.

Despite the new 1955/56 design, Cadillac continued to lead the luxury market, followed by Lincoln, Packard, and Imperial. Reliability problems with the automatic transmission and all electrical accessories further eroded the public’s opinion of Packard. Sales were good for 1955 compared to 1954. The year was also an industry banner year. Packard’s sales slid in 1956 due to the fit and finish of the 1955 models, and mechanical issues relating to the new engineering features. These defects cost Packard millions in recalls and tarnished a newly won image just in its infancy. Along with Studebaker sales dragging Packard down, things looked more terminal than ever for SPC.

Packard Ultramatic transmission control pod

Packard Ultramatic transmission control pod

For 1956, Teague kept the basic 1955 design, and added more styling touches to the body such as then−fashionable three toning. Headlamps hooded in a more radical style in the front fenders and a slight shuffling of chrome distinguished the 1956 models. “Electronic Push-button Ultramatic,” which located transmission push buttons on a stalk on the steering column, proved trouble-prone, adding to the car’s negative reputation, possibly soon to become an orphan. Model series remained the same, but the V8 was now enlarged to 374 cu in (6.1 L) for Senior series, the largest in the industry. In the top-of-the-line Caribbean, that engine produced 310 hp (230 kW). Clippers continued to use the 352 engine. There were plans for an all−new 1957 line of Senior Packards based on the showcar Predictor. Clippers and Studebakers would also share many inner and outer body panels. (A private presentation of this 1957 new-car program was made to Wall Street’s investment bankers at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York in January of 1956.) These models were in many ways far advanced from what would be produced by any automaker at the time, save Chrysler, which would soon feel public wrath for its own poor quality issues after rushing its all−new 1957 lines into production. Nance was dismissed and moved to Ford as the head of the new Mercury-Edsel-Lincoln division. Although Nance tried everything, the company failed to secure funding for new retooling, forcing Packard to share Studebaker platforms and body designs. With no funding to retool for the advanced new models envisioned, SPC’s fate was sealed; the large Packard was effectively dead in an executive decision to kill “the car we could not afford to lose”. The last fully-Packard-designed vehicle, a Patrician four-door sedan, rolled off the Conner Avenue assembly line on June 25, 1956.


1958 Packard

1958 Packard

In 1957, no more Packards were built in Detroit and the Clipper disappeared as a separate brand name. Instead, a Studebaker President-based car bearing the Packard Clipper nameplate appeared on the market, but sales were slow. Available in just two body styles, Town Sedan (four-door sedan) and Country Sedan (four-door station wagon), they were powered by Studebaker’s 289 cu in (4.7 l) V8 with a McCulloch supercharger, delivering the same 275 hp (205 kW) as the 1956 Clipper Custom, although at higher revolutions. Borrowing design cues from the 1956 Clipper (visual in the grille and dash), with wheel covers, tail lamps, and dials from 1956 along with the Packard cormorant hood mascot and trunk chrome trim from 1955 senior Packards, the 1957 Packard Clipper was more than a badge-engineered Studebaker – but also far from a Patrician. Had the company been able to invest more money to finish the transformation and position the car under a senior line of “true Packards,” it might have been a successful Clipper. However, standing alone the cars sold in very limited numbers – and a number of Packard dealers dropped their franchises while customers stayed away fearful of buying a car that could soon be an orphaned make even with huge price discounts. With the market flooded by inexpensive cars, minor automakers struggled to sell vehicles at loss leader prices to keep up with Ford and GM.[40] Also, a general decline in demand for large cars heralded an industry switch to compact cars such as the Studebaker Lark.

Predictably, many Packard devotees were disappointed by the marque‘s perceived further loss of exclusivity and what they perceived as a reduction in quality. They joined competitors and media critics in christening the new models as ‘Packardbakers‘. The 1958 models were launched with no series name, simply as “Packard.” New body styles were introduced, a two-door hardtop joined the four-door sedan. A new premier model appeared with a sporting profile, the Packard Hawk was based on the Studebaker Golden Hawk and featured a new nose and a fake spare wheel molded in the trunk lid reminiscent of the concurrent Imperial. The 1958 Packards were amongst the first in the industry to be “facelifted” with plastic parts. The housing for the new dual headlights and the complete fins were fibreglass parts grafted on Studebaker bodies. Very little chrome was on the lower front clip. Designer Duncan McCrae managed to include the 1956 Clipper tail lights for one last time, this time in a fin, and under a canted fin, an wild – or to some bizarre – mixture. Added to the front of all but the Hawk were tacked on pods for dual headlights, in a desperate attempt to keep up with late-1950s styling cues. All Packards were given 14 in (36 cm) wheels to lower the profile. The public reaction was predictable and sales were almost nonexistent. The Studebaker factory was older than Packard’s Detroit plant, with higher production requirements, which added to dipping sales. A new compact car on which the company staked its survival, the Lark, was only a year away. They failed to sell in sufficient numbers to keep the marque afloat. Several makes were discontinued around this time. Not since the 1930s had so many makes disappeared: Packard, Edsel, Hudson, Nash, DeSoto, and Kaiser.

Concept Packards

1956 Packard Predictor concept, at the Studebaker National Museum

1956 Packard Predictor concept, at the Studebaker National Museum

During the 1950s, a number of “dream cars” were built by Packard in an attempt to keep the marque alive in the imaginations of the American car-buying public. Included in this category are the 1952 Pan American that led to the production Caribbean and the Panther (also known as Daytona), based on a 1954 platform. Shortly after the introduction of the Caribbean, Packard showed a prototype hardtop called the Balboa. It featured a reverse-slanted rear window that could be lowered for ventilation, a feature introduced in a production car by Mercury in 1957 and still in production in 1966. The Request was based on the 1955 Four Hundred hardtop, but featured a classic upright Packard fluted grille reminiscent of the prewar models. In addition, the 1957 engineering mule “Black Bess” was built to test new features for a future car. This car had a resemblance to the 1958 Edsel. It featured Packard’s return to a vertical grill. This grill was very narrow with the familiar ox-yoke shape that was characteristic for Packard, and with front fenders with dual headlights resembling Chrysler products from that era. The engineering mule Black Bess was destroyed by the company shortly after the Packard plant was shuttered. Of the 10 Requests built, only four were sold off the showroom floor. Richard A. Teague also designed the last Packard show car, the Predictor. This hardtop coupe’s design followed the lines of the planned 1957 cars. It had many unusual features, among them a roof section that opened either by opening a door or activating a switch, well ahead of later T-tops. The car had seats that rotated out, allowing the passenger easy access, a feature later used on some Chrysler and GM products. The Predictor also had the opera windows, or portholes, found on concurrent Thunderbirds. Other novel ideas were overhead switches—these were in the production Avanti—and a dash design that followed the hood profile, centering dials in the center console area. This feature has only recently been used on production cars. The Predictor survives and is on display at the Studebaker National Museum section of the Center for History in South Bend, Indiana.


One very unusual prototype, the Studebaker-Packard Astral, was made in 1957 and first unveiled at the South Bend Art Centre on January 12, 1958, and then at the March 1958 Geneva Motor Show. It had a single gyroscopic balanced wheel and the publicity data suggested it could be nuclear powered or have what the designers described as an ionic engine. No working prototype was ever made, nor was it likely that one was ever intended.

The Astral was designed by Edward E Herrmann, Studebaker-Packards director of interior design, as a project to give his team experience in working with glass-reinforced plastic. It was put on show at various Studebaker dealerships before being put into storage. Rediscovered 30 years later, the car was restored and put on display by the Studebaker museum.

The end

Studebaker-Packard pulled the Packard nameplate from the marketplace in 1959. It kept its name until 1962 when “Packard” was dropped off the corporation’s name at a time when it was introducing the all new Avanti, and a less anachronistic image was being sought, thus finishing the story of the great American Packard marque. Ironically, it was considered that the Packard name might be used for the new fiberglass sports car, as well as Pierce-Arrow, the make Studebaker controlled in the late 1920s and early 1930s.

In the late 1950s, Studebaker-Packard was approached by enthusiasts to rebadge the French car maker Facel-Vega‘s Excellence suicide-door, four-door hardtop as a ‘Packard’ for sale in North America, using stock Packard V8s, and identifying trim including red hexagonal wheel covers, cormorant hood ornament, and classic vertical ox-yoke grille. The proposition was rejected when Daimler-Benz threatened to pull out of its 1957 marketing and distribution agreement, which would have cost Studebaker-Packard more in revenue than they could have made from the badge-engineered Packard. Daimler-Benz had little of its own dealer network at the time and used this agreement to enter and become more established in the American market through SPC’s dealer network, and felt this car was a threat to their models. By acquiescing, SPC did themselves no favors and may have accelerated their exit from automobiles, and Mercedes-Benz protecting their own turf, helped ensure their future.

The revival[edit]

In the 1990s, Roy Gullickson revived the Packard nameplate by buying the trademark and building a prototype Packard Twelve for the 1999 model year. His goal was to produce 2,000 of them per year, but lack of investment funds stalled that plan indefinitely and the Twelve was sold at an auto auction in Plymouth, MI, in July 2014.

Packard automobile engines

Packard’s engineering staff designed and built excellent, reliable engines. Packard offered a 12-cylinder engine—the “Twin Six”—as well as a low-compression straight-eight, but never a 16-cylinder engine. After WWII, Packard continued with their successful straight-eight-cylinder flathead engines. While as fast as the new GM and Chrysler OHV V8s, they were perceived as obsolete by buyers. By waiting until 1955, Packard was almost the last U.S. automaker to introduce a high-compression V8 engine. The design was physically large and entirely conventional, copying many of the first-generation Cadillac, Buick, Oldsmobile, Pontiac, and Studebaker Kettering features. It was produced in 320 cu in (5.2 L) and 352 cu in (5.8 L) displacements. The Caribbean version had two four-barrel carburetors and produced 275 hp (205 kW). For 1956, a 374 cu in (6.1 L) version was used in the senior cars and the Caribbean two four-barrels produced 305 hp (227 kW).

In-house designed and built, their Ultramatic automatic transmission featured a lockup torque converter with two speeds. The early Ultramatics normally operated only in “high” with “low” having to be selected manually. Beginning with late 1954, the transmission could be set to operate only in “high” or to start in “low” and automatically shift into “high”. Packard’s last major development was the Bill Allison-invented Torsion-Level suspension, an electronically controlled four-wheel torsion-bar suspension that balanced the car’s height front to rear and side to side, having electric motors to compensate each spring independently. Contemporary American competitors had serious difficulties with this suspension concept, trying to accomplish the same with air-bag springs before dropping the idea.

Packard also made large aeronautical and marine engines. Chief engineer Jesse G. Vincent developed a V12 airplane engine called the “Liberty engine” that was used widely in entente air corps during World War I. Packard-powered boats and airplanes set several records during the 1920s. For Packard’s production of military and navy engines, see the Merlin engine and PT boats which contributed to the Allied victory in World War II. Packard also developed a jet-propulsion engine for the US Air Force, one of the reasons for the Curtiss-Wright take-over in 1956, as they wanted to sell their own jet.

Packard aircraft engines

During the first World War, Packard played a key role both in the design and the production of the Liberty L-12 engine.

In the interbellum, Packard built one of the world’s first diesel aviation engines, the 225-hp DR-980 radial. It powered the Stinson SM-8D, among others. It also powered a Bellanca CH-300 on a record endurance flight of over 84 hours, a record that stood for more than 50 years.

Packard automobile models

1907 Packard – The New York Times, November 6, 1907

1927 Packard magazine ad

  • Packard single-cylinder models:
  • 1899 Packard Model A Runabout, Wagen Nr. 1 (Werkbild, Anfang November 1899)
    • Packard Model A (1899–1900)
    • Packard Model B (1900)
    • Packard Model C (1901)
    • Packard Model E (1901)
    • Packard Model F (1901–1903)
    • Packard Model M (1904)
  • Packard six-cylinder models:
    • Packard Dominant Six (1912–1915)
    • Packard Single Six (1921–1924)
    • Packard Six (1925–1929)
    • Packard One-Ten

      1942 Packard Model 110 convertible

      1942 Packard Model 110 convertible

      The Packard One-Ten (also One Ten and 110) was a range of six-cylinder automobiles produced by the Packard Motor Car Company of Detroit, Michigan during the 1940 and 1941 model years. The One-Ten model designation replaced the Packard Six model name.

      Packard reintroduced a line of six-cylinder cars in 1937 after a ten-year absence as a response to the economic depression and ongoing recovery cycle in the United States. As an independent automaker, Packard could not look to other internal divisions to support its base of luxury models, so the inclusion of the Six, and the later 110 models, was necessary to aid in supporting the firm’s bottom line until better times returned.

      Critics of the Packard Six and One-Ten models have long maintained that the cars hurt Packard’s reputation of being America’s premier luxury marque. Still, the reintroduction of the Six couldn’t have come at a better time for the automaker, just prior to the nation’s 1938 economic depression. By offering the less expensive Packard, the company was able to attract buyers who would otherwise be unable to purchase the more expensive Packard models.

      Built on a shorter wheelbase than the senior Packards, the One-Ten was introduced in August 1939. The One-Ten was available in a broad range of Body styles, including both two and four-door sedans, station wagonand convertible. Total output for the 1940 model year was 62,300 units.

      Following its successful first year, the 1941 One-Ten model range was expanded, and a second trim level, the Deluxe was added. Packard also added a taxi line within the One-Ten model range. Options for the One-Ten included heater, radio, spotlight, and despite its low-line status, air conditioning.

      For 1942, Packard made a decision to retain numerical designated models within its senior line and the One-Ten reverted to being called Packard Six.

    • Packard 110
    • Packard 115 (1937)
    • Packard Six (1937–1949)
  • Packard Eight
    • Packard Single Eight & Eight (1924-)
    • Packard Custom Eight
    • Packard Light Eight

      1932 Packard Light Eight Model 900 4-door sedan

      Packard Light Eight Model 900 4-door sedan (1932)

      The Packard Light Eight (series 900) was an automobile model produced by the Packard Motor Car Company of Detroit, Michigan only during model year 1932. The Light Eight was planned as a new entry model. It competed in the upper middle-class with makes like LaSalle, the smaller Buicks and Chryslers, and the top-of-the offerings from Studebaker, Hudson, and Nash. The marketing objective was to add a new market segment for Packard during the depression.

      Packard did not use yearly model changes in these years. A new series appeared when management felt that there were enough running changes made. Therefore, the Light Eight was introduced during January 1932, together with the new V-12 (called “Twin Six” in its first year to honor the pioneer Packard model built from 1915 to 1923). Standard Eights and Super Eights followed in June 1932.


      Construction of the Light Eight followed the Packard tradition. It had a heavy frame with X-bracing, 8-inch (203 mm) deep side members, and the usual rear-wheel drive. Wheelbase was 127.75 inches (3,245 mm). Power came from a 320 cu in (5.2 L) straight eight engine with a compression ratio of 6:0, delivering 110 hp (82 kW; 112 PS). It had a vacuum-plate clutch and an angle set hypoid differential. Battery and toolboxes were mounted on the fenders. Full instrumentation was used.

      The car was distinguished by a grille that had the traditional ox-yoke shape, but also with a then fashionable “shovel” nose. Closed Light Eights had a quarter window layout that was not shared by other Packards.

      The Light Eight used the same engine as the Standard Eight, but was lighter – 4,115 lb (1,867 kg) for the sedan vs. 4,570 lb (2,073 kg) for the model 901 Standard Eight sedan. It was also a good performer for its day.

      Body styles

      The Light Eight series 900 was available in four body styles:

      Style # 553 4-door, 5-passenger Sedan
      Style # 558 2-door, 2/4-passenger Stationary (rumble seat) Coupe
      Style # 559 2-door, 2/4-passenger (rumble seat) Roadster Coupe
      Style # 563 2-door, 5-passenger Sedan Coupe (sometimes referred as a “Victoria” Coupe)

      Prices and options

      A Light Eight 4-door, 5-passenger Sedan was priced at US$1,750.00, compared to $2,485 for a similar Standard Eight Sedan. The three other Light Eight body styles cost $1,795.00 each. Packard managed to sell 6,785 units of its new model. In comparison, 7,669 units of the Standard Eight were sold during the shorter model run, from 23 June 1932, until 5 January 1933. The automaker had lower profits from the Light Eight compared with the Standard Eight.

      Options for the Light Eight included Dual sided or rear-mounted spare wheels, sidemount cover(s), cigar lighter, a right-hand tail-light, luggage rack, full rear bumper, and fender park lights, the latter was priced at $65.00.

      Market position

      The Light Eight was intended as Packard’s price leader at the entry level of the luxury car market. It was attractive to buyers, but it failed its main reason for existence, which was to lure away buyers from its rivals. Instead, it hurt sales of Packard’s volume line, the Standard Eight. Amidst the Great Depression, many prospects for a Standard Eight ended buying a Light Eight. Although it offered not as much luxury, it had many features found in Packard’s bigger model. It was powered by the same 110 hp (82 kW) engine as the Standard Eight; it had a wheelbase that was only 1.75-inch (44 mm) shorter – and its lower weight brought more performance. The Light Eight included Packard prestige at a much lower price.

      Packard learned its lesson quickly. There was no Light Eight for its 10th series (1933) line. It renamed the Standard Eight as simply the Eight and integrated a four-model subseries that was patterned after the Light Eight. Although the shovel nose was gone, the quarter window treatment remained, and the differential that was introduced with the Light Eight was now found in all Eights. This 1001 series was no longer available at low prices: they started at $2,150 for the sedan and went up to $2,250 for the roadster.

      The Light Eight brought the experience to Packard to build and market an upper middle-class model. In this sense, it is the predecessor for the automaker’s second try into this market segment, the Packard One-Twenty, that was introduced in 1935.


      1. Jump up^ “1932 Packard Light Eight Data Book”. pp. 44–45. Retrieved 2012-05-24.
      2. Jump up^ “1932 Packard Light Eight Data Book”. pp. 46–47. Retrieved 2012-05-24.
      • Kimes, Beverly Rae, editor: Packard: A History of the Motor Car and the Company. Automobile Quarterly Publications, ISBN 0-915038-11-0
      • Kimes, Beverly R. (editor), Clark, Henry A.: The Standard Catalog of American Cars 1805–1945. Krause Publications (1985), ISBN 0-87341-045-9

      External links

    • Packard Light Eight
    • Packard One-Twenty

      The Packard One-Twenty (also One Twenty and 120) was an automobile produced by the Packard Motor Car Company of Detroit, Michigan from 1935 to 1937 and from 1939 through the 1941 model years. The One-Twenty model designation was replaced by the Packard Eight model name during model years 1938 and 1942.

      The One-Twenty is an important car in Packard’s history because it signified the first time that Packard entered into the highly competitive mid-priced eight-cylinder car market. Packard enthusiasts view the production of the One-Twenty and the Six/One-Ten modelsas the start of Packard losing its hold on the market as the premier American luxury automotive brand.

      The introduction of the One-Twenty (and later the Six/One-Ten models) was a necessary move to keep Packard in business during the final years of the Great Depression. The reason the company decided to forgo the development of a companion brand name to sell the less expensive models may have been linked to its single production line capability at its Grand Avenue manufacturing plant as much as to the expense of launching a new brand of automobile. By making the One-Twenty a Packard, the car could be brought to market quickly, and would afford buyers the cachet of owning a Packard.

      The Safe-T-Flex suspension

      This car introduced the independent front suspension to the Packard line. Its so-called “Safe-T-Flex” suspension was an unequal upper and lower A-arm type with the largest possible lower A-arm composed of two different arms bolted together at a ninety-degree angle.

      The support arm was a heavy steel forging reaching a few degrees forward of lateral from the front wheel support to as close to the centerline of the car as is practicable. An integral pad socketed the helical spring, whose upper end reached a high frame cross-beam. A tubular, hence lighter, steel torque arm was bolted to the support arm somewhat inboard of the wheel to permit a sufficient steering arc. It reached the frame nearly at the dashboard with a spherical rubber bearing. The upper A-arm was conventionally welded and oriented parallel to the lower one. Between it and the frame was an old-fashioned horizontal shock absorber whose two cylinders were side by side.

      The support arm carried all the load; the torque arm carried the accelerating and decelerating torque; the upper A-arm controlled the camber. Advantages claimed for the system included superior maintenance of wheel alignment from the wide spread of the lower A-arm, a permanent fixing of the caster angle, and an increased percentage of the braking force transmitted to the frame through the torque arm.


      1936 Fourteenth Series Eight 120-B 998 Business Coupé

      1936 Fourteenth Series Eight 120-B 998 Business Coupé

      1936 Fourteenth Series Eight 120-B 997 Convertible Sedan

      1936 Fourteenth Series Eight 120-B 997 Convertible Sedan

      1937 Fifteenth Series Eight 120-C 1099 Convertible Coupé

      1937 Fifteenth Series Eight 120-C 1099 Convertible Coupé

      In its introduction year, the Packard One-Twenty was available in a broad array of body styles including two and four-door sedans, convertible and Club Coupe. The One-Twenty, weighing in at 3,688 lb (1,673 kg), was powered by Packard’s aluminum-head L-head inline eight producing 110 bhp (82 kW) at 3850 rpm. Prices ranged from $980 for the three-passenger business coupe to $1,095 for the Touring Sedan. Introduced in January 1935, the car was an immediate success with consumers, with Packard producing 24,995 One-Twentys, compared to 7,000 of all other type Packards for the year.

      For 1936 Packard increased the displacement on the L-head eight, increasing its output to 120 bhp (89 kW), making the car capable of reaching a top speed of 85 mph (137 km/h). The One-Twenty added a convertible four-door-sedan model which was the most expensive model in the range priced at $1,395. A total 55,042 units rolled off the line in 1936, the highest production that the One-Twenty would reach.

      In 1937, the One-Twenty went up-market as the company introduced the Packard Six, the first six-cylinder Packard in ten years. For 1937, the One-Twenty broadened its model range and was now available in “C” and “CD” trim levels. The line also added a wood-bodied station wagon, Touring Sedan and limousine built on a 138 in (3,500 mm) wheelbase and priced under $2,000. Introduced in September 1936, 50,100 units were produced during series production.

      For 1938, the One-Twenty name was dropped and its model folded into the Packard Eight model range, bringing the model name into parity with the Packard Six.


      Returning to the Packard model range, the One-Twenty continued to be offered in a full range of body styles from coupe to Touring Limousine, with prices for the model range between $1,099 and $1,856. New for the year was introduction of column shifting, which did away with the floor shifter. Introduced in September 1938, a total of 17,647 units were built during the recession year which saw all automotive production the 1937 model year.

      In 1939, the company introduced a fifth, transverse shock absorber and made column shift (known as Handishift) available on the 120. It also offered Packard’s Unimesh four-speed synchromesh transmission,  the same as in the Twelve (and already standard on the Eight),  as well as the new fourth-gear Econo-Drive overdrive, claimed to reduce engine speed 27.8%, and able to be engaged at any speed over 30 mph (48 km/h).

      The series name One-Twenty officially became hyphenated for model year 1940. Again, the One-Twenty came in a full array of body styles, including a semi-custom convertible Victoria by Howard “Dutch” Darrin. Introduced in August 1939, total model year output was 28,138 units.

      In its final year as a model, the One-Twenty lost a number of body styles to the expanded One-Ten line of cars. The One-Twenty was available in business coupé, club coupe, two-door sedan, four-door sedan, convertible coupe, convertible sedan, and two station wagon styles. Production sank to 17,100 units.

      For 1942, the One-Ten and One-Twenty were dropped as model names and their models folded into the Packard Six and Packard Eight lines. In its seven years in the Packard line-up, the One-Twenty saw a total production of 175,027 units.

      Notable vehicles

      On August 29, 1935, a Packard One-Twenty convertible driven by the Belgian king Leopold III crashed in Küssnacht, Switzerland, killing his wife Astrid of Sweden, Queen of the Belgians.

      Image Gallery


      1. ^ Jump up to:a b c “1936 Packard 120 Owner’s Manual” (pdf). December 1935. pp. 37–39. Retrieved 22 August 2015.
      2. Jump up^ Old Car Advertising Retrieved 12 September 2013
      3. Jump up^ Old Car Advertising Retrieved 12 September 2013
      4. Jump up^ “Directory Index: Packard/1937 Packard/1937_ Packard_120_Brochure”. Retrieved 2012-06-01.
      5. Jump up^ Old Car Advertising. Retrieved 5 October 2013
      6. Jump up^ Old Car Advertising; Old Car Advertising. Retrieved 16 September 2013.
      7. Jump up^ Old Car Advertising. Retrieved 5 October 2013
      8. Jump up^ Old Car Advertising; Old Car Advertising. Retrieved 16 September 2013.
      9. Jump up^ Old Car Advertising, Old Car Advertising. Retrieved 5 October 2013
      10. Jump up^,9171,748959,00.html
      • Kimes, Beverly R., Editor. Clark, Henry A. (1996). The Standard Catalog of American Cars 1805–1945. Kraus Publications. ISBN 0-87341-428-4.
      • Owner’s Information (manual) 1936 Packard 120
    • Packard 120 (1935–1942)
    • Packard 160
    • Packard 180
    • Packard Super Eight
  • Postwar Packards (including Clipper)
    • Packard 400, see Packard Four Hundred
    • Packard Caribbean

      The Packard Caribbean was a personal luxury car produced by the Packard Motor Car Company of Detroit, Michigan, during model years 1953 through 1956. Some of the Caribbean’s styling was derived from the Pan American Packard show car of the previous year. It was produced only as a convertible from 1953 to 1955, but a hardtop model was added in its final year of 1956.

      Packard Caribbean
      1954 Packard Caribbean

      1954 Packard Caribbean
      Production 1953-1956
      Body and chassis
      Body style 2-door convertible
      2-door hardtop
      Engine 327CID 4-bbl. L-head “Thunderbolt” 180 hp 8-cylinder (1953)
      352CID Dual 4-bbl. 275 hp V8 (1955)
      374CID Dual 4-bbl. 310 hp V8 (1956)
      Wheelbase 127 in (3,226 mm)
      Length 218.5 in (5,550 mm)
      Width 78 in (1,981 mm)
      Predecessor Packard Super Eight


      1953 Packard Caribbean Convertible

      1953 Packard Caribbean Convertible

      Introduced as part of the Packard Cavalier model range, the 1953 Caribbean was perhaps Packard’s most easily identified car because of its full cutout rear wheel housing and side trim, limited to a chrome band outline that stretched the entire length of the car. The band also helped to further delineate the car’s wheel openings. A steel continental spare tire was also standard. The hood featured a broad, low leaded-in hood scoop. Bodies for the Caribbean were modified by Mitchell-Bentley Corporation of Ionia, Michigan. Available “advertised” colors for the car were limited to Polaris Blue, Gulf Green Metallic, Maroon Metallic or Sahara Sand. However, a mere handful of special-ordered cars were built in Ivory or Black.

      Interiors of the Caribbean were richly upholstered in leather. Most Caribbeans were also generously optioned, although the Ultramatic transmission and power windows were optional cost items on the first year model.

      At total of 750 Caribbeans were built for the first model year, and these cars are highly sought after as collectible cars in the current collectible automobile market. Restored cars regularly sell in the six-figure ranges.


      1954 Packard Caribbean 2631

      1954 Packard Caribbean Convertible

      Beginning in 1954 the Caribbean was elevated to senior Packard status. The Caribbean continued to have its own unique styling features, however the full rear-wheel cut-outs were eliminated and the use of chrome/stainless trim became more liberal, and allowed for two-tone paint combinations. A four-way power seat was available. Like the Patrician, the Caribbean also gained heavier “finned” headlight housings, one of the visual cues applied to help differentiate the senior Packards from their lower priced brethren. The 359-cubic-inch (5,880 cc) straight eight senior engine was used in this final incarnation of Packard’s straight eight engine. A total of only 400 Caribbeans were produced for the model year, making 1954 the rarest year for the Caribbean.


      1955 Packard Caribbean Convertible

      1955 Packard Caribbean Convertible

      Model year 1955 saw the Caribbean line, now with V8 engine, fully adopt the Senior Packard line styling; the car was also available in two or three-tone paint patterns. Designer Richard Teague succeeded in restyling the old Packard Senior body into a sensational, modern-looking design. The single hood scoop was split into two units. The car also received Packard’s torsion level suspension. Production for 1955 stood at 500 units.


      1956 Packard Caribbean Convertible 5588

      1956 Packard Caribbean Convertible

      For 1956, the Caribbean was broken out into its own luxury series, and gained a hardtop model. Trim differences between the 1955 and 1956 cars were slight. Grille textures changed, and matched the ones used on concurrent Patricians, and the rear treatment, featuring Packard’s cathedral style taillights also continued. The headlights also received slightly more exaggerated hoods. Total model year production equaled 263 hardtops and 276 convertibles. The model was discontinued when Packard production ended in Detroit.

      1956 Packard Caribbean Hardtop

      1956 Packard Caribbean Hardtop


      1. Jump up^ Flory, Jr., J. “Kelly” (2008). American Cars, 1946-1959 Every Model Every Year. McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. ISBN 978-0-7864-3229-5.
      2. Jump up^ “Directory Index: Packard/1956 Packard/1956_Packard_Data_Book”. Retrieved 2012-06-01.
      3. Jump up^ “Directory Index: Packard/1955_Packard/1955_Packard_Owners_Manual”. Retrieved 2012-06-01.
      4. Jump up^ Gunnell, John A. (ed.). Standard Catalog of American Cars 1946-1975. krause publications. ISBN 0-87341-027-0.
      5. Jump up^ “Directory Index: Packard/1955_Packard/1955_Packard_Torsion_Ride_Folder”. Retrieved 2012-06-01.


      • Gunnell, John, Editor (1987). The Standard Catalog of American Cars 1946-1975. Kraus Publications. ISBN 0-87341-096-3.
        George, Vance- The Packard Club 53-54 Caribbean Roster Keeper
    • Packard Caribbean
    • Packard Cavalier

      Not to be confused with Chevrolet Cavalier.

      1953 Packard Cavalier Touring Sedan model 2602-2672 in Carolina Cream (26th series)

      1953 Packard Cavalier Touring Sedan model 2602-2672 in Carolina Cream (26th series)

      The Packard Cavalier is an automobile produced by the Packard Motor Car Company of Detroit, Michigan during 1953 and 1954. Produced only as a sedan, the Cavalier took the place of the Packard 300 model which was fielded in 1951 and 1952 as Packard’s mid-range priced vehicle.

      The 1953 Cavalier was easily identified from other Packards by its unique chrome side spear trim.

      Packard also created a Cavalier sub-series under which three other Packard models, marketed under various names were grouped:

      A convertible model, using Cavalier trim, was offered during the 1953 model year and was priced in a more affordable price range than the Caribbean.

      For 1954, the Cavalier was again offered as a four-door sedan only, but the range also lost its sub series, and the Caribbean was moved into the senior Packard line where it remained until Packard transferred manufacturing to South Bend in 1956.

      For the 1955 model year, the Cavalier name was retired and the line was absorbed into the Packard Clipper Custom series.


      • Gunnell, John, Editor (1987). The Standard Catalog of American Cars 1946-1975. Kraus Publications. ISBN 0-87341-096-3.
    • Packard Cavalier
    • Packard Clipper

      Packard Clipper
      Clipper (1956 only)
      1955 Packard Clipper Custom Touring Sedan Modell 5562 spätere Ausführung mit gebogenem vorderen Zierstab.

      1955 Packard Clipper Custom 4-door Sedan
      Production 1941 to 1942
      1946 to 1947
      1953 to 1955
      1956 (Clipper marque)

      The Packard Clipper is an automobile which was built by the Packard Motor Car Company (and by the later Studebaker-Packard Corporation) for models years 1941 to 1942, 1946 to 1947 and 1953 to 1957. For 1956 only, Clipper was classified as a stand-alone marque.

      The Clipper was introduced in April, 1941, as a mid-model year entry. It was available only as a four-door sedan.

      The Clipper name was reintroduced in 1953 for the automaker’s lowest-priced lineup. By 1955, the Clipper models were seen as diluting Packard’s marketing as a luxury automobile marque.

      For only the 1956 model year, the Clipper became a stand-alone make of automobile produced by the Studebaker-Packard Corporation. The Clipper lineup was aimed at the middle-price field of American automobiles that included Dodge, Oldsmobile, and Mercury. Following the closure of Packard’s Detroit, Michigan factory in 1956, the Clipper marque was discontinued, although the Clipper name was applied to 1957 Packards that were built at Studebaker’s South Bend, Indiana factory.


      1947 Packard Clipper Super Touring Sedan Modell 2103-1672 (1946) oder 2103-2172 (1947).

      1947 Packard Clipper Sedan

      By the end of the 1930s, Packard president Max M. Gilman realized that his best efforts to improve profitability during the last lean decade had not been enough. The Packard One-Twenty had arrived in 1935 and saved the company from immediate demise; the One-Ten had followed, achieving even higher volume. But despite a strong performance in revival year 1937, Packard sales had plummeted as the depression returned in 1938, and the 76,000 sales for the calendar year 1939 were hardly past the break-even point. To be precise, they netted the company a scant half million dollars. This precarious financial state combined with the new model developments among Packard’s rivals meant that Gilman needed something radically new, and that he needed it in a hurry if he wanted to save the company.

      Introduced a just eight months before the attack on Pearl Harbor, Packard’s hopes for the future rode on a new car design. The Packard Clipper represented a break from traditional styling and embodied an abrupt change in construction techniques. However, World War II intervened. It made the investment to produce one of the only all-new 1941 American cars impossible to realize in a normal marketplace.

      Initial reception

      The Clipper’s market timing could not have been worse. After only 16,600 of the 1941 models were made, and a few thousand 1942s, Detroit stopped building civilian automobiles to concentrate on defense production. By the time cars began rolling off the lines again in late 1945, the still sleek Clipper’s impact had been diminished by four years of war. The bright promise of its debut was limited by late introduction; what should have been its solid sophomore year was weakened by World War II. Its third and fourth years were postponed until 1946–47. Though Packard designer John Reinhart and other Company insiders wanted to retain and “sweeten (in Reinhart’s word)” the Clipper’s svelte lines, Packard management felt pressured by new postwar designs throughout the industry, introducing the mixed review “bathtub” or “pregnant elephant” 1948–50 Packards.

      There were only two other auto makers that introduced all-new 1941 models which were stopped short by the American entry into World War II and thus rendered obsolete before their time. Besides Packard, Ford brought out a much changed design for the 1941 model year — the restyled Ford and its Mercury clone. Nash also produced all-new 1941 models, using monocoque “unitized” construction for the first time. General Motors redesigned for 1942, arguably a piece of bad timing even worse than Packard’s, but the 1942s were so relatively few in number that they still looked reasonably new when GM resumed automotive production in 1946. The Ford/Mercury comparison is not apt either, primarily because these were quite different cars from Packards, with no pretence of luxury. Nor did their design history mirror the Clipper’s. The 1941 Fords and Mercurys were evolutionary developments, clearly related to the 1940s they replaced. The Clipper was such a dramatic break with previous Packard design as to preclude comparisons.

      After the war, while Packard opted to improve the Clipper, Ford chose a total restyle for Ford and Mercury in 1949. And, while the bulbous 1941–48 Fords, Mercurys and Nashes were replaced by superior modern designs, the elegant Clipper was replaced by a bulbous 1948 upgrade that, while well received in its initial year, aged quickly in comparison with the new models from the Big 3 and Nash. It is not entirely coincidental that a 1949 Mercury Eight which had cost $2,000 new was still worth $430 five years later, while a 1949 Packard Eight which had cost $2,200 new was worth only $375. Motor Trend’s Tom McCahill, who had raved about the Packard Clipper, called the 1948 Packard “a goat.”

      The Clipper’s timing was unfortunate. The state of the world being beyond Packard’s control, Clipper production came to a halt February 9, 1942, just as it was hitting its stride — just as Clipper styling had spread through the entire Packard model lineup.

      Style identity

      A full envelope body of genuinely modern mien was a long time coming at the Packard Motor Car Company. Cadillac was wearing pontoon fenders and flowing lines by 1934 and had adopted all-steel bodies by 1935. In 1936, Lincoln announced the Zephyr, with an all steel unit-body and a shape so advanced that derivations of it were still in production twelve years later. By comparison, Packard adhered to tradition if crisp, conservative styling. Its main acknowledgement of new-era styling was the skirted fender which appeared in 1933. Packard, like Lincoln and Cadillac, had survived the Depression by building medium-priced cars: the One Twenty, Zephyr and LaSalle, respectively. But unlike its rivals, Packard styling had remained arch-traditional. Unlike Lincoln, Packard followed its medium-priced One-Twenty with an almost-low-priced car, the Six (later briefly known as the One Ten). Unlike Cadillac, Packard refused to market its cheaper models by a different name and remained wedded to them long after prosperity had returned. By 1941, the year the Clipper debuted, the cheapest Cadillac cost $1,445; the cheapest Packard sold for only $927.

      Arguably its conservative design philosophy had stood Packard well in the years leading up to the Clipper. The company was able to advertise—and sold quite a few Packards with—styling continuity from year to year. There was a family resemblance between a 1939, say, and a 1932. In 1939 comparison of its One Twenty with the LaSalle, the company declared that: “Packard has style identity…Packard styling is consistent..But look at the 1938 LaSalle! About the only similarity is in the name, and who can be sure that a sudden fanciful style change won’t make the 1939 a style orphan?”

      Mercedes-Benz and Rolls-Royce survived for years with very expensive obsolete designs. Packard also survived with limited styling change for at least eight or nine years up through 1940. What’s more, Packard hallmarks were very good ones: the chiseled frontispiece; the grille recalling classic Greek architecture; the ox-yoke radiator/bonnet shape that harked back to the noble Model L of 1904. What’s more, the cormorant mascot, red hexagon hubs and arrowhead side-spear were a combination at least as recognizable and timeless as the stand-up hood ornament and meshwork grille of Mercedes-Benz. Together, these consistent hallmarks unmistakably said “Packard” to school children and bankers alike and had been the adornments of the chosen transport of moneyed America since Packard’s Boss of the Road Six and Twin Six of the Teens and early Twenties.

      To create a modern envelope body while retaining those famous hallmarks was no small undertaking. It is still one of the chief accomplishments of automotive industrial design that the people who created the Packard Clipper were able to do so flawlessly. Advertising invited America to “Skipper the Clipper” in 1941. It was showing the country an obviously brand-new, up-to-date, in Packard’s words, “Windstream” or “Speed-Stream” automobile, yet one that was undeniably a Packard. Though it did not owe a curve or contour to any previous model, the milestone 1941 Clipper carried the same inimitable radiator and hood shape, the same arrowheads and red hexes, the same long hood and close-coupled profile of great Packards of the past. The smooth styling transition was a stroke of genius. When the Clipper debuted in late spring, 1941, many thought it more successfully avant garde than the 1936–37 Cord 810/812, more offhandedly elegant than Lincoln’s Zephyr, which many wags called a “Ford and a half.”

      Faced with the same conundrum of appearing modern, an envelope body at odds with a mandatory trademark, a vertical radiator grille, Rolls-Royce could do little better in autumn, 1955 than offer a razor-edged 1941 Packard Clipper, albeit with a curved, one-piece winshield, as their new Silver Cloud and concurrent Bentley S-series.


      Writing in The Classic Car and The Packard Cormorant, Joel Prescott published an account of the Clipper design which considerably revised the picture offered by George Hamlin and Dwight Heinmuller in Packard: A History of the Motor Car and The Company, published by Automotive Quarterly. The Cormorant has also published excerpts of James A. Ward’s book on the decline of the Packard Motor Car Company. The testimony of such designers as Howard Darrin, John Reinhart, William Reithard and Alex Tremulis is on the record.

      Prior to World War II, Packard, like most auto companies at the time, did not have a styling department. It was Harley Earl’s formidable Art & Colour Section at General Motors that convinced the industry of the importance of styling. But even Earl’s efforts did not force rivals to add design departments until after the war. A handful of outside consultants, like Raymond Loewy at Studebaker, occasionally sold their designs to American producers. Sometimes the designs even reached production without drastic changes by the body engineers, who at that point largely controlled the shape of cars. One such design consultant was a Californian named Howard “Dutch” Darrin, whose involvement in the Clipper occurred because Packard was his favourite American make.

      After returning to America in 1937 following a successful career as a Paris coachbuilder, Darrin looked around for chassis on which to practice his automotive art. He said, “I concentrated on Packards knowing that by lowering the radiator I could make a very beautiful custom-bodied Packard with little change in its basic structure.” The result was a long skein of dramatic Packard-Darrins, which were actually catalogued be the company at one point and which led to Darrin’s role in the Clipper. “Around 1940, Packard called and asked if I’d design a new standard line car for them. The hitch was that I had only ten days to do so, Chief stylist Ed Macauley (actually vice-president for design) would be on the coast for that amount of time, and if I didn’t have anything before he left, it would be a lost cause. The company offered me a thousand dollars a day if I could meet the deadline.”

      Confident in his ability to put a thousand a day to good use, Darrin said he thought he “could establish enough lines for a full- and quarter-scale model.” Later he said that to meet the deadline, he “slept several nights on a drafting table”, yet Packard never paid him.

      Kaiser-Frazer stylist Bob Robillard admitted that Darrin had held onto his claim as originator of the Clipper almost from the start. He still has copies of a 1946 Darrin paper delivered before the Society of Automotive Engineers, “Does Styling Control the Design of Cars?” In it Darrin states that he widened the Clipper body because the continuous fender-line, which comes right through the door past the A-pillar, required more width for the proper hinging of the door, “the net result being a wider and more roomy car.” Reithard disagrees. Before Darrin arrived, he remembered, “the parameters for track, wheelbase and overall length had been established. Other than that we had very little to go on except some very rough sketches and hand-waving from Darrin.”

      But a quarter century later in Automobile Quarterly, Darrin was still repeating his 1946 claims, which were not challenged at the time. As Darrin stated: “Packard introduced the Clipper with a series of ads entitled, ‘A Star is Born'”, which he considered inaccurate. “The best compliment they paid me was stating that ‘three international designers’ combined to create the Clipper.” Packard was evidently referring to Darrin. George Walker (another outside consultant) and Briggs, all of whom had contributed to the design. But Darrin typically had his own interpretation: “You might construe that to mean that I was the equal of three designers.”

      While Darrin held himself the central design figure and the original design “called for a sweeping frond fender-line that carried right through the doors to the rise of the rear fender, similar to a custom Clipper I built later for Errol Flynn. However, Packard shortened the sweep to fade away at mid-door. This was done as a hedge because no one knew if the through-fender-line would sell.” He said Packard Styling also “vandalized the design by throwing on huge gobs of clay along the wheelbase” creating a flare to the lower part of the doors to hide the running boards they added for the same reason. Thus by Darrin’s own admission, the Clipper that appeared in production was not entirely his work. Few designers besides Darrin believed this splendid car was the product of ten days’ work.

      At the time Packard contacted Darrin about designing a production car in the theme of his limited-production Victorias, the Company was, according to Darrin, “….so afraid of GM they couldn’t see straight.” GM’s new C bodies, introduced midway through the 1940 model year, made Packard’s traditional bodies, only facelifted since their 1938 introduction, look dated. Packard had, as Darrin said, “….the best chassis in the industry.” The upper echelon cars looked more modern than Packard’s traditional 1941 bodies.

      The Clipper changed that. The only thing hindering the Clipper’s ascendency was War II, and after the war, the sheet steel shortages and strikes at vendors that plagued all independents. After the war, for example, Chrysler was held up for weeks just by a strike at the supplier of their door locks. Being a holding company, GM was better to able to weather this situation.

      Perhaps the best summation of the Clipper’s design comes from Joel Prescott: “The truth may well be that the Clipper should be remembered as automotive history’s most successful committee design, because assigning the genius of its beautiful lines exclusively to one particular designer cannot now be done with any degree of certainty.” And as it turned out, this new look guaranteed the Clipper an appearance never compromised by competitive imitators. In 1942 Cadillac and Buick adopted the same pontoon fender line, but the Clipper still looked unique, apart from and slightly above the crowd, especially the new 1942 senior Clippers, which alone retained the debut 1941’s 127-inch (3,200 mm) wheelbase, longer hood and front fenders.

      Engineering and evolution

      When considering the great transitional designs that brought us from the art decorations and speed-lining age of the Thirties into the envelope bodies of the Forties, much is always made of Bill Mitchell’s famous Cadillac Sixty Special. In particular, its thin window frames, squared-off roof, wider-than-high grille, and concealed running boards were bold steps forward. The Clipper had at least as many pioneering features in an even more integrated package.

      The original milestone 1941 Clipper rode the senior wheelbase of 127 inches (3,200 mm) and used the One Twenty’s 282-cubic-inch (4,620 cc) straight eight, but produced 125 bhp (five more than the One Twenty). Despite the familiar engine, few Clipper parts were interchangeable with other models. The chassis was entirely new: a double-drop frame allowed a lower floor without reducing road clearance. The engine was mounted well forward and the rear shocks were angled to assist the traditional Packard fifth shock in controlling side-sway. The front suspension was entirely new, since the lower frame eliminated the need for Packard’s traditional long torque arms. A double-link connection between the Pitman arm and steering brackets, with a cross bar and idler arm and two cross tubes, controlled wheel movement.

      The 1941 Clipper was the widest production car in the industry and first to be wider than it was tall—a foot wider to be exact. The body from cowl to deck was a single piece of steel—largest in the industry, and the floor pan had only one welded seam from end to end. Single pieces of sheet metal comprised the rear quarters and hood. The hood could be lifted from either side of the car or removed entirely by throwing two levers. Instead of the traditional third side window, ventipanes were incorporated in the rear doors, providing controllable flow-through ventilation. The battery made its first move from under the seat to under the hood, where it stayed warmer and was more accessible. There was a “Ventalarm” whistle to warn when the tank was within a gallon of being full, and an accelerator-activated starter button, so the act of starting simultaneously set the automatic choke. Reithard’s beautiful symmetrical dashboard contained a full ration of instruments, including an electric oil pressure gauge adapted from the One Sixty. Options included Packard’s Electromatic clutch, which let the driver ignore the clutch pedal in ordinary driving; “Aerodrive” (overdrive); an effective auxiliary under-seat heater, leather upholstery, fender skirts, and, for $275, air conditioning—a Packard first, introduced on all eight-cylinder 1940 models.

      Introduced in April 1941 as a single four-door sedan model, the Clipper was by no means a cheap or even medium-priced car. It sold for around $1,400, in a market niche between the One Twenty and One Sixty, competing with the Cadillac Sixty-One, Lincoln Zephyr, Buick Roadmaster and Chrysler New Yorker. Despite a late start, it garnered 16,600 model year sales, almost as many as the One Twenty. Clearly, for Packard, it was the wave of the future. By the 1942 model year, Clipper styling had permeated every Packard in the line, except where special tooling existed—convertibles, taxis, wagons and commercial cars. Curiously, however, the market slot occupied by the 1941 Clipper was abandoned, recreating a gap between the Clipper One Twenty Custom ($1.341) and the Clipper One Sixty ($1,688).

      The bulk of the 1942 production was concentrated on the 120-inch (3,000 mm) wheelbase junior models, but the One Sixty and One Eighty Clippers proved conclusively that Packard was as much a builder of luxury cars as ever. The 1942 One Sixty sedan, for example, was 9.5 inches (240 mm) longer and 140 pounds (64 kg) heaver than its square-rigged 1941 predecessor. The One Eighty was wider, almost as long, with more interior width, and with almost as much legroom as the long-wheel-base 1942 One Eighty, which still used the old-style Packard bodywork.

      The smooth 356-cubic-inch (5,830 cc) straight eight of the One Sixty and One Eighty Clippers, featuring a 104-pound (47 kg), nine-main-bearing crankshaft and hydraulic valve lifters, was the most powerful engine in the industry through 1947, exceeding Cadillac’s V8 by 15 horsepower (11 kW). It could deliver 70 miles per hour (110 km/h) in second gear overdrive and take the a 4,000-pound (1,800 kg) car to over 100 mph on Packard’s Proving Grounds banked oval track. In 1950, ten years after Packard’s nonpareil nine-main-bearing 356 inline 8 debuted, Rolls-Royce copied the design for their nine-mained, F-head 346-ci B-80 inline 8, used only in a handful of Phantom IVs produced solely for heads of state, military vehicles, and Dennis fire trucks. Like Packard’s 245-ci six used in junior Clippers, Packard’s 1940–50 356 Super-8 engine was widely used as a marine engine.

      The top of the line Clipper One Eighty offered two shades of leather or six colors of wool broadcloth upholstery, Mosstred carpeting from New York’s Shulton Looms, walnut grained instrument panels, amboyna burl garnish moldings, seatbacks stuffed with down and rear center armrests. Unlike any other contemporary, the post war Custom Super’s headliner was seamed fore to aft instead of sideways. Packard claimed that the unique headliner was adopted “to provide a more spacious feel to the interior.”

      With a nearly full line of Clippers, Packard managed to build 34,000 1942 models before production ceased in February (an annual rate of around 80,000). According to the late John Reinhart, there is no doubt that Clipper styling would have proliferated in 1943–45. “The next logical step would have been convertibles and commercials—and a wagon.” But the war intervened. Whereas Cadillac with its greater facilities was able to field a complete line of restyled 1942s, including convertibles, all of which came right back in 1946, Packard was able only to add a club coupe body before the war.

      The club coupe was the sportiest Clipper with about 40 built before production closed down in 1942; a single One Sixty is the only example known to exist. Postwar, about 600 senior coupes were made, compared to about 6,600 senior sedans.

      In 1946–47 the numerical designations were dropped and the line consisted of Clipper Sixes and Eights on the 120-inch (3,000 mm) wheelbase and Supers and Custom Supers on the 127-inch (3,200 mm) wheelbase. For the first time there were now seven-passenger sedans and limousines, riding a 148-inch (3,800 mm) wheelbase. For their type, these “professional Packards” enjoyed success. They compare with Cadillac’s 1946–47 Seventy-five, beating it not only be 15 horsepower (11 kW) but by a foot of wheelbase, yet selling for about the same $4,500–$5,000. Counting several thousand bare chassis supplied to commercial body manufacturers, the Seventy-five outsold the long wheelbase Clipper; but for finished cars from the factory, production was about 3,100 cars each for 1946–47 combined.

      Many economic experts predicted that the end of World War II would bring a severe recession or perhaps even another depression to the United States. They had history on their side because the U.S. did experience a sharp, albeit brief economic downturn after World War I. Perhaps Packard’s management team took these calamitous warnings to heart while planning its postwar strategy. If the economy were to fall, it would make sense to market the low-priced Packards—the Clipper Sixes and Eights—rather than the upmarket Supers and Custom Supers.

      The postwar economy proved the experts wrong. It was healthy and many materials, notably sheet steel, were in short supply. Workers who would never have struck during the war, now demanded more money, and so the automakers and their suppliers endured a series of costly strikes. These factors, of course, strangled production. At the same time, Americans had money jingling in their pockets, and were willing to spend freely to acquire most anything—especially new cars. Packard could not produce cars in the numbers intended, and it was selling the less profitable junior-series models.

      Packard management’s chief interest after the war was in the same medium-priced cars that had saved it during the Depression, the Six and junior Eights. The company was still firmly run by President George Christopher, who had helped save it with the One Twenty. Christopher, a graduate of GM’s bucket mill B-O-P (Buick-Oldsmobile-Pontiac) divisions, had referred to the luxury Packards as “that goddamn senior stuff.” Christopher had junior Clippers in production by October 1945, but it was not until June 1946 that the first Super/Custom Super came down the line. Total Packard production in the first two postwar model years was 82,000, against 91,000 Cadillacs. The difference was that the vast bulk of Packard production was of Clipper Sixes and Eights priced $1,700–2,200. Other than the less popular Series 61 price leader, which replaced the LaSalle for 1941, postwar Cadillacs began around $2,300. Packard could have built and sold as many senior Clippers as Cadillac did Series 62s and 60Specials, had Christopher and his team so chosen.

      The long-wheelbase (147-inch) Clipper seven-passenger sedan and limousine were competitive with Cadillac and the low-volume Chrysler Crown Imperial (Lincoln had no long models) in the first two postwar years. Likewise, among owner-driver models, Packard had Cadillac neatly bracketed. The Cadillac Sixty-two sedan and coupe started around $2,300 in 1946—about the same price as the Super Clipper. Against Cadillac’s $3,100 Sixty Special, which came only as a four-door sedan, Packard offered the more sumptuously trimmed Custom Super Clipper sedan or coupe for about the same money. The 1946–47 Cadillac Series 62 and 60 Special outsold the concurrent Packard Super and Custom Super Clipper three to one, simply because George Christopher board chose to focus on building junior models, which accounted for 80% of Packard’s postwar production.

      This is a new point which has been missed in the many postmortems of Packard’s fall: Reverting to strictly luxury cars would not have meant downsizing the labor force or contracting the facilities. The market for anything on wheels was bottomless; it did not matter whether the car cost $1,800 (Clipper Eight). $2,300 (Clipper Super) or $2,900 (Custom Super). It would have sold. Nor is this a hindsight judgement, since Packard management was capable of seeing this at the time. At the start of postwar car production, Fortune recorded a consensus that “there now exists a market for from 12 to 14 million cars”, and that was in a day when three million or so cars was considered a very good year. “In 1941,” Fortune continued, “The 32 million American families owned 29,600,000 cars . . . As 1946 began, the cars were down to 22 million which is not very far from the danger point (18 million) of a transportation breakdown . . . of this remaining total, at least half are in their last days.” It did not take a mystic to comprehend these facts, as the late Hickman Price, Jr., who bought Willow Run for the Kaiser-Frazer partners, once said: “I believed we would have a period of three or four years—I remember putting 1950 as the terminal date in which we can sell everything we can make.”

      Almost immediately after production got rolling in 1945, chief stylist John Reinhart was told, much against his judgment, to update the Clipper. If Dutch Darrin had thought Packard loaded “gobs of clay” onto his original model in 1941, what must he have thought of the hideously bulboid 1948 models? Furthermore, there was no change in market orientation, still rooted firmly in the medium price field. Indeed, in 1948, the final year for President George Christopher, senior Packard production dwindled from 20 percent to 11 percent of total production, trailing Cadillac by tens of thousands. Packard, as a later president, James Nance, stated, “handed the luxury car market to Cadillac on a silver platter.”

      Professional designers have contemplated continuations of the Clipper into 1948–49, with a broader range of body styles including hardtops and convertibles. Their designs were beautiful and would have kept pace with the all-new Cadillacs and Lincolns of 1949, allowing Packard to come back with its first postwar redesign in 1950. But the key failure was to reorder the corporation’s priorities and establish it once again as the American luxury car it had been so successfully for forty years.

      Hindsight does suggest that Packard lost its battle for survival at this point, although it would not be evident immediately. Since the company could not achieve GM volume, it would have been smarter to extract more profit from each car it built. Not only were customers standing in line, but by putting top-of-the-line Packards on the road, the public’s image of Packard as a luxury car builder would have been enhanced.

      The 1948 facelift lost the design continuum the Clipper had offered. Though it retained the Clipper’s basic shell, the 1948 model bore no resemblance to its predecessor. The bulbous 1948 design became known to some as the “up-side-down bathtub” or “pregnant elephant” and Packard’s market share declined.

      The money spent on the facelift, as John Reinhart and others maintained, should have gone into an expansion of Clipper body styles to compete with Cadillac. Packard recognized this too late when it brought out a convertible as the first 1948 body style—a model it should have had by 1947 at the latest. Eighteen months later Cadillac was already out with the Coupe de Ville hardtop, while Packard’s newest model was the Station Sedan.

      By 1948 it was clear that the future of the car business belonged to the giants. At least one independent manufacturer was ready to make that happen; George W. Mason, President of Nash-Kelvinator. Mason wanted a postwar combination of independents, a fourth player in an automotive Big Four, with Packard as the luxury division. All independent automakers faced problems. By 1954, there was only a “Big Two,” as Chrysler’s market share fell to 12.9%.

      All Cadillacs had been downsized for 1936, were effectively junior cars ever since, increasingly sharing components with lesser divisions. For example, a 1941 Cadillac convertible shares every piece of sheet metal with the 1941 Pontiac ragtop. Rolls-Royce was principally an aero engine manufacturer since 1935, the cars an increasingly boutique sideline, an “assembled” product cribbing from Buick, Packard, Chrysler, postwar R-Rs and Bentleys having bodies stamped by Pressed Steel near Oxford, who also served much of the rest of British automakers.

      Despite the company’s postwar cash reserves, Packard continued production of its now dated L-head straight eight engines through 1954, competing against a field of OHV V8s. Moreover, the small independent automakers could not achieve unit costs and tool amortization down to GM/Ford levels, nor afford the requisite TV advertising and annual model changes.


      For 1946–1947 all Packards used Clipper bodies and the “Clipper” name.


      The Clipper nameplate was dropped for 1948 as Packard issued its Twenty-Second Series automobiles, which, while proclaimed by the company as “all-new,” were actually restyled Clippers. Only the 1941–47 Clipper’s roof and trunk lid survived. At this time, Packard’s president, George Christopher, insisted upon concentrating on sales of the company’s lower-priced cars, while longtime competitor Cadillac focused its attentions on the upper end of the market.

      The Twenty-Second and Twenty-Third Series (from mid-1949) cars wore the “upside-down bathtub” styling that was briefly in vogue in the late 1940s. Unfortunately for Packard, Nash, Lincoln-Mercury, and Hudson, the four manufacturers who embraced this type of styling, General Motors introduced designs that were lower-slung, more tightly drawn and less bulbous at around the same time. GM’s designs caught the buying public’s fancy, while the “bathtubs” quickly fell from favor.

      Following a round of bitter corporate infighting in 1949, Packard management finally decided to phase out the “bathtubs” and create the all-new Twenty-Fourth Series for 1951. The new “high-pockets” design (so called because of its high beltline) was much more modern. However, Packard continued to push hard into the lower end of the mid-priced field with its new “200” and “250” models, which was dominated at the time by Oldsmobile, DeSoto and others. James J. Nance became the company’s president in 1952, and he immediately set to work on divorcing the lower-priced cars from the higher-end Packards. To this end, he decreed that the 200 and 250 would be consolidated into a new line of Clippers for 1953.


      1953 Packard Clipper Sedan

      1953 Packard Clipper Sedan

      1954 Packard Clipper De Luxe Club Sedan

      1954 Packard Clipper De Luxe Club Sedan

      1955 Packard Panama Clipper

      1955 Packard Panama Clipper

      1955 Packard Super Clipper

      1955 Packard Super Clipper

      Nance originally had hoped to introduce the new “Clipper” as a stand-alone marque, targeting the mid range price field which he felt was dragging the Packard image down. When word was leaked to the Packard dealer network that they would be losing their best-selling Packard model to “Clipper”, they balked. As an appeasement, Nance rolled the Clipper out as a Packard, and worked to transition the cars toward their own make. Thus, thePackard Clipper name was reintroduced and applied to the company’s entry-level models, previously known as the Packard 200, beginning in 1953. Clippers were available in Special and Deluxe trim models, as two- and four-door sedans. A 1953 Clipper went from 0 to 60 mph in 17.6 seconds in a Popular Mechanics test. The turning circle was 41 ft.

      For 1954, the “Clipper by Packard” was given its own unique rear fender trim and tail lights to further differentiate it from traditional Packards. The cars were also available with a distinctive two-tone paint pattern. For 1955, Packard became a marque in the newly formed Studebaker-Packard Corporation. The 1955 Clipper Custom offered torsion-bar suspension something not offered on other models, which only offered coil and leaf springsuspension. It also had a power steering option. Drivers enjoyed the comfortable ride but complained of door rattles and poor workmanship.

      The Packard Clipper Constellation was a two-door hardtop automobile produced by the Studebaker-Packard Corporation in model years 1955 and 1956. The 1955 model was a Packard product and sold as part of the Packard Clipper line; for 1956, Clipper split from Packard, becoming its own make.

      A total of 8,039 Clipper Deluxe, 14,995 Super and 15,380 Custom was built during model year 1955.

      Separate marque: 1956

      1956 Packard Clipper 4-Door Sedan

      1956 Clipper Super Touring Sedan, model 5642

      1956 Clipper Custom Touring Sedan, model 5662

      1956 Clipper Custom Touring Sedan, model 5662

      Packard’s President. James Nance, believed that as a Packard line, the Clipper models were diluting Packard’s standing as a luxury automobile marque. For the 1956 model year, the status of being a stand-alone make was emphasized by creating a separate Packard Clipper division within Studebaker-Packard. Clipper’s logo was a ship’s wheel.

      The automaker required Packard-franchised dealers to also execute a separate Clipper Dealer Sales Agreement in order to sell the line. Studebaker agencies in areas not covered by separate Packard dealers were allowed to sign Clipper franchise agreements (and could also take on the regular Packard line as well, subject to factory approval).

      Clippers began receiving unique trim and rear quarter panels in 1954, and when Packard introduced its redesigned model in 1955, the Clipper retained its older rear sheet metal while receiving two-tone combinations that were unique to its models. For 1956, the Clipper received new rear sheet metal and tail-light treatments. Clipper marketed two hardtop coupes, the Panama in the Super model line and Constellation in the Custom range. Both were carry-over model names from the 1955 model year.

      Around mid-1955, dealers began complaining that consumers were lukewarm to the cars because they were true Packards and demanded that the Packard name appear somewhere on the cars. Nance refused at first, feeling that placing the Packard name on the cars would undo his plan to save the Packard name for luxury automobiles. However, when dealers began defecting to Mercury franchises, Nance gave in, fearful that the shrinking number of dealers would harm the company more than just the Packard marque. A small “Packard” script emblems began to be placed on the decklids of newly built Clippers. In a complete reversal of Nance’s strategy, the emblems were also made available for placement on already-built cars that were languishing on dealers’ lots.

      By the summer of 1956, Studebaker-Packard was in deep financial trouble. The Packards and Clippers were not selling at anywhere near a profitable level, and the company’s creditors refused to advance any further money to the company for new tooling that would have allowed Nance to finally realize his ultimate goal of sharing body components among the company’s three lines of cars. In late July, the last Packards and Clippers rolled out of the Conner Avenue factory.

      Following the closure of Packard’s Detroit, Michigan factory in 1956, the Clipper marque was discontinued, although the Clipper name was applied to 1957 Packards built at Studebaker’s South Bend, Indiana factory.

      1956 models and production

      • Clipper Deluxe
        • 4dr Sedan (5,715)
      • Clipper Super
        • 4dr Sedan (5,173)
        • 2dr Panama hard-top (3,999)
      • Clipper Custom

      Total Clipper production for 1956: 18,572 (excludes exports, if any)

      Studebaker-Packard: 1957

      Following the closure of the Detroit, Michigan Packard plant, Studebaker-Packard entered into a management contract with the Curtiss-Wright Company. Under C-W’s president, Roy T. Hurley, S-P’s new president Harold Churchill approved production of a new Packard, to be built in Studebaker’s South Bend, Indiana plant. The new Packards, originally to continue the Packard Executive nameplate, were to share the Studebaker President four-door sedan body and new four-door station wagon body as well. The total tooling cost of the new Packard was estimated at roughly $1 million. At some point, however, the Executive name was dropped, as all of the Packards produced for 1957 carried the Packard Clipper name.

      In order to keep the tooling cost as low as possible, trim components from the 1956 Clippers were used. This was done to make the 1957 model differ in appearance from the President; outside, this included a narrower Packard-style front bumper and 1956 Clipper tail lamps and wheel covers. Inside, the cars’ dashboards were fitted with the same basic instrument cluster as used in the previous two years.

      Sales of the new Clippers were not great; historians differ as to why, although the cars’ obvious Studebaker origins (which led the new Clippers to be derisively nicknamed “Packardbakers” by many people) certainly did not help. Only about 4,600 were sold for the year.

      For 1958, the Clipper name was discontinued, and the few Packard automobiles that were produced (four-door sedans, station wagons, and two-door hardtop coupes) were simply known by their marque name. The only exception to this was the Packard Hawk, which was based on the Studebaker Golden Hawk.

      Australian assembly

      The Packard Clipper was assembled in Australia from CKD kits circa 1955.


      1. Jump up^ Angelo Van Boggart, Just Packards, Chapter 24, pages 115 to 117
      2. ^ Jump up to:a b
      3. Jump up^ Packard Owners Like Torsion-Bar Ride, Popular Mechanics, September 1955, p. 191.
      4. Jump up^ The 1955 Packard Clipper, Restored Cars No 46, pages 14-15


      • Maloney, James H. (1994). Studebaker Cars. Crestline Books. ISBN 0-87938-884-6.
      • Langworth, Richard (1979). Studebaker, the Postwar Years. Motorbooks International. ISBN 0-87938-058-6.
      • Gunnell, John, ed. (1987). The Standard Catalog of American Cars 1946–1975. Krause Publications. ISBN 0-87341-096-3.
      • Packard Info – Online library of Packard Information
      • Packard Clipper division, Studebaker-Packard Corporation, Clipper Dealer Sales Agreement, Studebaker-Packard Corporation, 1956, company forms 59 and 80-698
    • Packard Clipper
    • Packard Clipper Constellation
    • Packard 200

      1951 Packard 200 De Luxe 4-Door Sedan

      Packard 200 De Luxe 4-Door Sedan 1951

      The Packard 200 was an automobile model produced by the Packard Motor Car Company of Detroit, Michigan during model years 1951 and 1952. Models in the 200 designation represented the least expensive Packard model range, on the firm’s shortest wheelbase, and least powerful 288 cu in (4.7 L) 8-cylinder in-line engine.

      Concurrently, the company also produced the Packard 250, which shared the same basic body and wheelbase as the 200, but was equipped with Packard’s larger 327 cu in (5.4 L) 8-cylinder in-line engine.

      1951 and 1952

      1951 Packard 200 Club Sedan a

      1951 Packard 200 Club Sedan

      The 1951 Packard 200 and 250 were introduced as Packard’s least expensive model range on August 24, 1950, taking the place of the low-line Packard Standard models which were eliminated for the 1951 model year. The 200 debuted as part of the fully redesigned Packard line, attributed to John Reinhart. Replacing the bulbous 1948-1950 Packards in the 22nd and 23rd Packard Series, Reinhart’s “High Pockets” design was more formal than its predecessor, and would serve Packard until the end of the 1956 model year when true Packard production ceased.

      Both the 200 and the 250 were considered “junior” series cars, and were separated from the Packard 300 and Packard Patrician 400 models by their shorter wheelbases (122 in or 3,100 mm versus 127 in or 3,230 mm) and lesser trim appointments. Packard 200 standard models were available as a four-door sedan, two-door coupé, and a three-passenger business coupé (lacking a rear seat). While similar in appearance to the senior cars, the junior Packard lacked the noted Packard cormorant hood ornament and had vertical tail lights instead of the horizontal units on the senior models. The junior models also lacked the wrap-around rear window feature found on senior Packard sedan models.

      The 250 model range was introduced in March 1951, and was specially designed to fill the vacuum of Packard having neither a hardtop or convertible in its 1951 model range. Besides their unique body styles, 250’s received three jet-louvers on each rear-quarterpanel. Better grade trim and fabric were used within.

      1952 Packard 250 Convertible

      1952 Packard 250 Convertible

      All Packard 200 models came with twin horns, two sun visors, front and rear bumper guards, spare tire and jack set. Deluxe trim level included the spartan appointments found on the standard models, and added chrome wheel rings, and turn indications as standard. White-wall tires and full-wheel covers were also extra.

      Items which have since become standard to the auto industry since the late 1960s such as heater, radio, tinted glass, carpeting, etc., were all optional on the Packard, as well as other premium cars during that era. Packard also became the first car-maker to offer power-brakes in 1951. “Easamatic” as they were trademarked, were a product of Bendix and an exclusive to Packard.

      Changes for 1952 were minimal, and centered on the requisite annual trim updates. Packard did drop the Business Coupé, a move that other U.S. automakers were also making at the same time.

    • Packard 200
    • Packard 250, see Packard 200
    • Packard 300

      1952 Packard 300

       A 1952 Packard 300.

      The Packard 300 was an automobile built and sold by the Packard Motor Car Company of Detroit, Michigan for model years 1951 and 1952. The 300 represented the upper mid-range Packard model and provided better appointments than the Packard 200 or the Packard 250 models. The premier Packard offered during these years was the Packard Patrician 400.

      For both model years the 300 model was built as a four-door sedan only and was mounted on Packard’s 127-inch (3,200 mm) wheelbase. The car included the basic trim appointments found in the 200 and 200 Deluxe model lines and included tinted windows, a robe rail for backseat passengers and striped interior fabrics. Exterior trim included full wheel covers as well as Packard’s graceful pelican hood ornament. The 300 also received a wrap around rear window which it shared with the Patrician models.

      Power for the car in both years came from Packard’s venerable Super Eight engine, the 327-cubic-inch (5,360 cc) “Thunderbolt” inline eight which was shared with the 250 line. A three-speed manual shift was standard while Packard’s Ultramatic automatic transmission was offered as optional equipment.

      In 1953 the 300 was renamed the Packard Cavalier as Packard moved away from its strict numeric model naming structure. A total of 22,309 Packard 300s were built in the model’s two years on the market with 1951’s total of 15,309 representing the high sales mark for the 300 model.

    • Packard 300
    • Packard Executive

      1956 Packard Executive Hardtop Modell 5677

      A Packard Executive Hardtop Model 5677A (1956) in Eastern Switzerland

      The Packard Executive was an automobile produced by the PackardClipper Division of the Studebaker-Packard Corporation in 1956.

      The Packard Executive was introduced on March 5, 1956 to fill a perceived price gap between the prestige Packard line and the new Clipper marque, which was in its first year as a separate marque. In previous years, Clipper models had been Packards. The most expensive Clipper, the Clipper Custom, listed at $3,065 for the 4-door sedan. The Packard Executive sedan retailed for $3,465, the Executive 2-door coupe $3,560, while the top-of-the-line Patrician sedan sold for $4,160.

      The Executive was marketed with the invitation to “enter the luxury car class now—at a modest investment,” and was aimed at “the young man on the way up.”

      Effectively, the Packard Executive replaced the entire Clipper Custom line of vehicles, as production of the Customs was ended once the Executive was announced.

      The Executive was created by combining the Clipper Custom’s body, complete with its distinctive tail light design, and installing the front fenders, hood, and radiator grille assembly of the senior Packard models. It also used the Clipper Custom’s 122-inch (3,100 mm) wheelbase and its 352 cu in (5.8 L) 275 hp (205 kW) overhead valve V8 engine. This contrasted with the engine used by the rest of the 1956 Packard models, which displaced 374 cu in (6.1 L) and developed 295 hp (220 kW) (310 hp (230 kW) for the Caribbean).

      Beyond the senior Packard grille and front end sheet metal, Executives were further distinguished from the Clipper line by a unique side trim design that that made reference to the senior Packards, and allowed for two-toned paint schemes. However, the interior appointments and instrumentation were pure Clipper. The prototypes produced for the all new 1957 Packard and Clipper lines show an all new Executive that would become a baseline Packard. All 1957 Clippers would have an all new body which shared many inner panels with the all new large Studebaker. Body panel sharing was the new plan for Studebaker-Packard models. Unfortunately the Insurance Companies would not finance the ambitious plan, and SPC was forced to retrench and ended up sharing body panels with the midsize Studebaker models. There was a 1957 Clipper, the last year to carry that name. Originally, the plan was to call the 1957 model an Executive. It was hoped to be a bridge car until an all new big Packard could be introduced. See Facel-Vega for a 1959 proposal for a rebadged Packard.

      Executives received their own series designation of 5670. It was offered in two body styles; a two-door hardtop (model 5677), and a four-door Touring Sedan (model 5672).

      Although the Executive sold as fast as it was produced, it was not enough to substantially improve the financial picture for the Packard-Clipper Division. Even as the Executive was being announced, the media had already been reporting of sales and fiscal woes at the Studebaker-Packard Corporation, and rumors were flying the Packard marque might be discontinued. These rumors weighed heavily on the company’s efforts to sell any of its products. Buyers did not wish to be stuck with a so-called “orphan” car, where spare parts would no longer be available from a dealer, and resale values would be negatively impacted.

      During the Executive’s shortened model year of March through June, Packard built a total of 2,779 Executives—1,031 two-door hardtops and 1,748 four-door sedans.

      All Detroit production of Packard and Clipper models ceased 25 June 1956 with the shuttering of the Conner Avenue assembly plant. The Packard name was continued for the 1957 and 1958 model years on products based on Studebaker platforms, built on the same assembly lines in South Bend, Indiana as the Studebaker models.

    • Packard Executive
    • Packard Four Hundred

      1955 Packard Four Hundred

      Packard Four Hundred 1955

      1955 Packard Four Hundred 5580

      Packard Four Hundred 5580 1955

      1956 Packard 400

      Packard Four Hundred 1956

      Also see: Packard Patrician :

      1952 Packard Patrician 400 2552 four-door sedan

      1952 Packard Patrician

      1956 Packard Patrician

      1956 Packard Patrician

      The Packard Four Hundred was an automobile built by the Studebaker-Packard Corporation of South Bend, Indiana during model years 1955 and 1956. During its two years in production, the Four Hundred was built in Packard’s Detroit facilities, and considered part of Packard’s senior model range.

      Between 1951 and the time the final Detroit-built Packard rolled off the line in 1956, Packard’s marketing strategy and model naming convention was in a constant state of flux as the automaker struggled to redefine itself as a producer of luxury automobiles, and separate itself from its volume selling Packard models which it designated the Packard Clipper. As a result, Packard fielded several models which existed for a single year during this period.

      In 1951 and 1952 the automaker attempted to use a numeric naming structure that designated Packard’s junior models as Packard 200 and Packard 250 and its senior vehicles as the Packard 300, and bearing the highest trim level available, the Packard Patrician 400. The Patrician 400 replaced the previous model year’s Custom 8 model range.

      The 400 model name was dropped from the Patrician model range at the beginning of the 1953 model range, however the Patrician name continued to occupy the premium trim level Packard from 1953 through 1956.

      1955 and 1956

      For 1955 the Four Hundred name was re-employed by Packard and assigned to the automaker’s senior model range two-door hardtop. Visual cues that helped to easily identify the 400 included a full color band along the lower portion of the car topped by a partial color band that truncated along the rear edge of the front doors. “The Four Hundred” in gold anodized script adorned the band between the front wheel well and door edge.

      Changes to the 1956 Four Hundred followed those changes to the entire senior Packard line as it attempted to further distance itself from the Clipper, which was now its own marque in 1956. The Four Hundred shared its body and chassis with the more expensive, new-for-’56 Caribbean hardtop.

      Senior Packards received a new grille texture and multi-tone paint schemes. The cars also received an altered headlight housing, with a slightly longer hood stretching over the headlight, as well as a more distinctive egg-crate grille over 1955. All ’56 senior Packards moved the Packard crest to the front of the hood, leaving the “circle-V” emblem in the grille looking somewhat bare.

      Power was increased as the new-for-1955 V8 was enlarged from 352 to 374 cubic inches, with a corresponding upgrade in horsepower ratings. A new electronic push-button control for the Ultramatic automatic transmission was offered as an option on the Four Hundred (and Patrician series, standard on Caribbean), the push-buttons located on a pod mounted via a stalk off the steering column. Although sophisticated, it proved troublesome. A simpler column-mounted selector was standard.

      In 1956, Studebaker-Packard’s financial position deteriorated to the point where the automaker could no longer afford the luxury of maintaining two distinct makes of cars produced in two distinct facilities. For 1957 Studebaker-Packard fielded a single model range, the Clipper. By the end of the 1958 model year the Packard name ceased as an automotive brand in the United States.

      Production totals for 1955 came to 7,206 units for the Packard Four Hundred, and 3,224 units for 1956.

    • Packard Four Hundred
    • Packard Hawk

      1958 Packard a
      1958 Packard Hawk a

      1958 Packard Hawk

      The 1958 Packard Hawk was the sportiest of the four Packard-badged Studebakers produced in the final year of Packard production. The Packard plant in Detroit, Michigan had been leased to Curtiss-Wright (and would be soon sold to them), and Packard models in this dying-gasp year were all rebadged and retrimmed Studebaker products. The 1958 Packard Hawk was essentially a Studebaker Golden Hawk 400 with a fibreglas front end and a modified deck lid.

      Instead of the Studebaker Hawk’s upright Mercedes-style grille, the Packard Hawk had a wide, low opening just above the front bumper and covering the whole width of the car. Above this, a smoothly sloping nose, and hood—reminiscent of the 1953 Studebakers, but with a bulge as on the Golden Hawk—accommodated the engine’s McCulloch supercharger that gave the Studebaker 289 in³ (4.7 L) V8 a total of 275 bhp(205 kW). At the rear, the sides of the fins were coated in metallized PET film, giving them a shiny metallic gold appearance. A fake spare-tire bulge adorned the 1953-style Studebaker deck lid. ‘PACKARD’ was spelled out in capitals across the nose, with a gold ‘Packard’ emblem in script—along with a Hawk badge—on the trunk lid and fins.

      The interior was full leather, with full instrumentation in an engine-turned dash. As on early aircraft and custom boats, padded armrests were mounted outside the windows, a rare touch.

      1958 Packard Hawk rear

      Rear view

      The styling was definitely controversial, often described as ‘vacuum-cleaner’ or ‘catfish’ by detractors. The styling has come to be appreciated more today than in its debut. Only 588 were sold, with Packard’s impending demise a likely contributing factor. Most were equipped with the Borg-Warner three-speed automatic transmission. Approximately 28 were produced with the B-W T85 3-speed w/overdrive manual transmission. Studebaker-Packard was the first manufacturer to popularize the limited-slip differential, which they termed Twin-Traction. Most Packard Hawks came with TT. It was certainly the fastest Packard ever sold, since it shared the majority of its components with Studebaker’s Golden Hawk. The price was $3995, about $700 higher than the Studebaker model, but with a more luxurious interior. Electric window-lifts and power seats were optional extras.

      Its rarity and status as the best-regarded of the ‘Packardbaker’ final-year cars have made the Packard Hawk quite collectible. Values are roughly double those of the equivalent Studebaker, although they are still low by comparison with Corvettes and Thunderbirds. Because a Studebaker drivetrain was used, mechanical parts are more readily available, although body and trim parts are more difficult-to-impossible to find. While it is a unique car, current restoration costs almost always exceed the selling price.



      Type: Cast iron 90° V8, Silver Light dish-type pistons

      Displacement: 289 cubic inches

      Bore X stroke: 3.56 X 3.63 inches

      Compression ratio: 7.5:1

      Power @ rpm: 275 hp (205 kW) @ 4,800 rpm

      Torque @ rpm: 333 lb·ft (451 N·m) @ 3,200 rpm

      Valvetrain: In-head valves, solid lifters

      Main bearings: 5

      Ignition: Delco-Remy breaker-point

      Fuel system: 2-bbl Stromberg 380475 downdraft carburetor, McCulloch supercharger, 5 p.s.i. max

      Lubrication system: Full-pressure, gear-driven

      Electrical system: 12-volt, 30 amperes

      Exhaust system: Cast iron, dual exhaust


      Type: Borg-Warner Flightomatic automatic

      Ratios: 1st: 2.40:1

      2nd: 1.47:1

      3rd: 1.0:1

      Reverse: 2.0:1


      Type: Semi-floating hypoid, Twin-Traction Spicer-Thornton limited slip

      Ratio: 3.31:1


      Type: Power assist, Saginaw recirculating ball

      Ratio: 19.2:1

      Turns, lock-to-lock: 4.5

      Turning circle: 41 feet


      Type: Four wheel, power-assist Wagner hydraulic

      Front: Cast-iron finned drum, 11 X 2.5 inches

      Rear: Cast-iron drum, 10 X 2 inches

      Swept area: 172.8 square inches

      Chassis & Body

      1958 Packard Hawk Convertible (prototype)

      1958 Packard Hawk Convertible (prototype)

      Construction: All-steel, box section, double-drop side rails, 5 crossmembers

      Body style: Two-door, five passenger hardtop, soft top prototype

      Layout: Front engine, rear-wheel drive


      Front: Individual unequal-length upper and lower control arms, coil springs, hydraulic shocks, anti-sway bar

      Rear: Live axle, semi-elliptic leaf springs, hydraulic shocks

      Wheels & Tires

      Wheels: Kelsey-Hays tubeless 5-lug stamped steel

      Front/rear: 5.5 X 14 inches

      Tires: Classic bias-ply

      Front/rear: 8.00 X 14 inches

      Weights & Measures

      Wheelbase: 120.5 inches

      Overall length: 205.2 inches

      Overall width: 71.3 inches

      Overall height: 54.6 inches

      Front track: 56.7 inches

      Rear track: 55.7 inches

      Shipping weight: 3,470 pounds


      Crankcase: 5 quarts

      Cooling system: 17 quarts

      Fuel tank: 18 gallons

      Transmission: 19 pints

      Calculated Data

      Bhp per c.i.d.: 0.95

      Weight per bhp: 12.62 pounds


      0-60 mph: 12.0 seconds

      ¼ mile ET: 16.7 seconds @ 82.3 mph

      Top speed: 125 mph

      Fuel mileage: 12 mpg city, 20 mpg highway


      1958 Packard Hawk: 588


      • Kimes, Beverly Rae (editor): Packard, a history of the motor car and the company; General edition, 1978, Automobile Quarterly, ISBN 0-915038-11-0.
      • Dawes, Nathaniel D.: The Packard: 1942-1962; A.S. Barnes & Co. Inc., Cranbury NJ (1975), ISBN 0-498-01353-7
      • Patrick, Mark A. (editor): Packard Motor Cars 1946-1958 Photo Archive; Iconographix Osceola WI (1996), ISBN 1-882256-45-X
      • Clarke, R. M.: Packard Gold Portfolio 1946-1958; Motorbooks International, ISBN 1-870642-19-8
      • Encyclopedia of American Cars from 1930 by the editors of Consumer’s Guide; Publications International (1993), ISBN 0-7853-0175-5
      • Burness, Tad: American Car Spotter’s Guide, 1940-65; Motorbooks International, ISBN 0-87938-057-8

      External links

    • Packard Hawk (1958)
    • 1953 Packard Mayfair Hardtop (Modell 2631-2677)
    • 1953 Packard Mayfair
    • Packard Mayfair
    • 1954 Packard Pacific Modell 5431-5477
    • Packard Pacific
    • Packard Patrician (including Patrician 400)
    • 1948 Packard Station Sedan
    • 1949 Packard Station Sedan
    • Packard Station Sedan (1949–1950)
    • Packard Super Panama
    • 1957 and 1958 Packards

Packard show cars

Packard tradenames

  • Ultramatic, Packard’s self-developed automatic transmission (1949–1953; Gear-Start Ultramatic 1954, Twin Ultramatic 1955-1956)
  • Thunderbolt, a line of Packard Straight Eights after WW2
  • Torsion Level Ride, Packard’s torsion bar suspension with integrated levelizer (1955–1956)
  • Easamatic, Packard’s name for the Bendix TreadleVac power brakes available after 1952.
  • Electromatic, Packard’s name for its electrically controlled, vacuum operated automatic clutch.
  • Twin Traction, Packard’s optional limited-slip rear axle; the first on a production car worldwide (1956–1958)
  • Touch Button, Packard’s electric panel to control 1956 win Ultramatic


1910 Packard Advertisement – Indianapolis Star, May 22, 1910

1910 Packard Advertisement – Indianapolis Star, May 22, 1910

1912 Packard Advertisement – Syracuse Herald, March 14, 1912

The Packard advertising song on television had the words: Ride ride ride ride ride along in your Packard, in your Packard. In a Packard you’ve got the world on a string. In a Packard car you feel like a king. Ride ride ride ride ride along in your Packard, what fun! And ask the man, just ask the man the lucky man who owns one!


America’s Packard Museum and the Fort Lauderdale Antique Car Museum hold collections of Packard automobiles. There are also collections in Whangarei and Maungatapere, New Zealand which were started by the late Graeme Craw.

The electrical connectors developed by Packard were used extensively by General Motors in its automobiles. The first series of connectors was the Packard 56, followed by the Weather Pack, and finally the Metri Pack, which are still in common use today.

See also


  1. ^ Jump up to:a b Flammang, James M. (1999). 100 Years of the American Auto: Millennium Edition. Publications International. p. 19.ISBN 978-0-7853-3484-2.
  2. Jump up^ Clymer, p. 61.
  3. Jump up^ Clymer, p. 51.
  4. Jump up^ Clymer, p. 32.
  5. Jump up^ Clymer, Floyd (1971). Treasury of Early American Automobiles, 1877-1925. Bonanza Books. p. 104.
  6. Jump up^ Clymer, p. 63.
  7. Jump up^ “The Alger Family”. Grosse Pointe Historical Society. Retrieved 15 September 2013.
  8. Jump up^ Packard’s 100th Anniversary on Lehigh University websiteArchived January 12, 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  9. Jump up^ “1903 Packard 2 Passenger Runabout”. Remarkable Cars Picture Gallery. Retrieved 15 September 2013.
  10. Jump up^ Wright, Richard A. (2000-01-16). “Once teeming with auto plants, Detroit now home to only a few nameplates”. Detroit News. Retrieved 2012-01-31.[dead link]
  11. Jump up^ DetroitDerek Photography. “Abandoned Packard Plant”. Flickr. Retrieved 15 September 2013.
  12. Jump up^ “More fires break out at Packard Plant in Detroit”. 29 June 2009. Retrieved 15 September 2013.
  13. Jump up^ Kevin A. Wilson. “15 Cars That Couldn’t Save Their Brand”.Popular Mechanics. p. 1. Retrieved March 23, 2014. Pierce-Arrow, founded in 1901, once ranked with Detroit’s Packard and Cleveland’s Peerless as the Three P’s of Motordom
  14. Jump up^ Old Car Advertising. Retrieved 16 September 2013.
  15. Jump up^ The Literary Digest 14 November 1931; Old Car Advertising. Retrieved 16 September 2013.
  16. Jump up^ Old Car Advertising. Retrieved 16 September 2013.
  17. Jump up^ Clymer, p. 112.
  18. Jump up^ “National Register Information System”. National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2010-07-09.
  19. Jump up^ The Literary Digest 12 December 1931; Old Car Advertising. Retrieved 16 September 2013.
  20. Jump up^ Old Car Advertising Retrieved 14 September 2013
  21. Jump up^ Georgano, G. N. (2002). Early and Vintage Cars 1886-1930. Mason Crest Publishers. ISBN 978-1-59084-491-5.
  22. Jump up^ Old Car Advertising. Retrieved 16 September 2013.
  23. Jump up^ Old Car Advertising. Retrieved 16 September 2013.
  24. Jump up^ The Literary Digest 14 November 1931, reproduced at Old Car Advertising. Retrieved 16 September 2013.
  25. Jump up^ Langworth, Richard M. (1992). Iluustrated Packard Buyer’s Guide: All Packard Cars and Commercial Vehicles, 1899 to 1958. Motorbooks International. p. 50. ISBN 0-87938-427-1.
  26. Jump up^ Langworth, pp. 70-71
  27. Jump up^ The price was reduced by $100 in 1938, to $1070, with down payment of $357 required that year; payments would be $35 a month, which Packard claimed was only $2-$6 more than “several smaller cars”. Old Car Advertising, Old Car Advertising, and Old Car Advertising. Retrieved 5 October 2013
  28. Jump up^ Old Car Advertising. Retrieved 5 October 2013
  29. Jump up^ Old Car Advertising. Retrieved 5 October 2013
  30. ^ Jump up to:a b Moranz, John (1945). Leaders of Wartime Michigan. Milwaukee, Wisconsin: John Moranz. p. 52.
  31. Jump up^ Herman, Arthur. Freedom’s Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II, pp. 103-5, 110, 203, Random House, New York, NY, 2012. ISBN 978-1-4000-6964-4.
  32. Jump up^ Parker, Dana T. Building Victory: Aircraft Production in the Los Angeles Area in World War II, p. 77, 90-2, Cypress, CA, 2013.ISBN 978-0-9897906-0-4.
  33. Jump up^ Peck, Merton J.; Scherer, Frederic M. (1962). The Weapons Acquisition Process: An Economic Analysis. Harvard Business School. p. 619.
  34. Jump up^ Hamlin, George (17 May 2012). “Star letter: ZIS is not a Packard”. Classic American. Retrieved 29 July 2013.
  35. Jump up^ Flory, Jr., J. “Kelly” (2008). American Cars, 1946-1959 Every Model Every Year. McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-3229-5.
  36. Jump up^ Flammang, James M. (1994). Chronicle of the American automobile: over 100 years of auto history. Publications International. p. 278. ISBN 978-0-7853-0778-5. Retrieved2012-01-31.
  37. Jump up^ “Time Clock, Oct. 12, 1953”. Time. October 12, 1953. Retrieved June 15, 2012.
  38. Jump up^ “Personnel: Changes of the Week”. Time. 25 October 1954. Retrieved 15 September 2013.
  39. Jump up^ “Autos: New Entry”. Time. 24 March 1954. Retrieved15 September 2013.
  40. Jump up^ Bresnahan, Timothy F. (June 1987). “Competition and Collusion in the American Automobile Industry: The 1955 Price War”. The Journal of Industrial Economics 35 (4): 457–482.doi:10.2307/2098583.
  41. Jump up^ “Hudson and Packard Present Their Cars of the Future”.Popular Mechanics 100 (5): 97. November 1953. Retrieved15 September 2013.
  42. Jump up^ Automobile Quarterly Volume 31 No 1, 1992, pages 14-29
  43. Jump up^ “1957 Studebaker-Packard, Astral, Form of Power: Atomic”. Petersen Automotive Museum. 2010. Archived from the original on June 24, 2009. Retrieved 14 June 2012.
  44. Jump up^ Cruising the Misfits of Motordom, Chuck Squatriglia, Wired Magazine, 9 May 2009
  45. Jump up^ Ward, James A. (1995). The Fall of the Packard Motor Car Company. Stanford University Press. ISBN 978-0-8047-2457-9.
  46. Jump up^ Fort Lauderdale Antique Car Museum – Cars
  47. Jump up^
  48. Jump up^ “Three Plug Options For Wiring Systems”. Retrieved 11 July2015.

External links

 1899 Packard Model A Runabout, Wagen Nr. 1 (Werkbild, Anfang November 1899) 1903 Packard Modell F, Einzylinder 1904 Packard Model L 1905 Packard Twin Six 905 1906 Packard Modell 18 Runabout (Serie NA) 1906 Packard S 24HP Runabout 1907 Packard ad The New York Times 1907-11-06 1910 Packard Advertisement - Indianapolis Star, May 22, 1910 1910 Packard Advertisement - Indianapolis Star, May 22, 1910a 1910 Packard Eighteen Touring Serie NB

1910 Providence Packard June07 1911 Packard 1912 Packard Advertisement - Syracuse Herald, March 14, 1912 1913 Packard 6 1914 Packard 1-38 Five Passenger Phaeton 1914 Packard Dominant Six 4-48 Runabout 1915 OX5 aircraft engine Packard Merlin 1915 Packard Model E 7t 1915 Packard 1916 Packard First Series Twin-Six Touring 1-35

1916 Packard Model D Mexican Revolution (231)

Rolls Royce equiped with Kégresse system
Rolls Royce equiped with Kégresse system

1917 Packard Engine 6900cc 1917 Packard Twin Six 2-25 Convertible Coupe von Holbrook 1918+20 Packard Twin Six, 3. Serie, Modell 3-35; seitengesteuerter V12, 90 PS 2600 min. Links Limousine (1920), rechts Brougham (1918) 1919 Packard Albright 1919 Packard Truck 1922 Packard Phaeton 1922 Packard Single Six 126 Sportmodell, vierplätzig 1922 Packard Single Six Modell 126 2-pass. Runabout 1923 Packard Single Six 226 Touring 1924 Packard Single Eight 143 Town Car by Fleetwood 1926 Packard 236 1926 Packard Eight Modell 243 7-pass. Touring 1927 Packard 343 Dual Windshield Phaeton 1927 Packard Eight Modell 343 Convertible Sedan von Murphy 1927 Packard Fourth Series Six Model 426 Runabout (Roadster) 1927 Packard magazine ad 1928 Packard 526 Convertable Coupe 1928 Packard 1929 Packard 640 Custom 8 Roadster 1929 Packard 640 Custom Eight (7410688536) 1929 Packard 640 Custom Eight Roadster 1929 Packard Custom Eight 640 4-door Convertible Sedan, Karosserie von Larkins, San Francisco 1929 Packard M640 Wrecker 1930 Packard 734 boattail speedster 1930 Packard Custom Eight (Modell 740) Coupé-Roadster 1930 Packard Deluxe Eight roadster 1930 Packard Standard Eight 733 Coupé 1930's Packard Eight hyrbilar under tidigt 1930-tal, i Diplomatstaden, Stockholm

1931 Ninth Series model 840 1931 Packard 845 CONVERTIBLE 1931 Packard Individual Custom Eight 840 Convertible Sedan von Dietrich 1931 Packard Standard Eight 833 2-4 passenger Coupe 1932 Ninth Series De Luxe Eight model 904 sedan-limousine 1932 Packard light Eight 900 type 553 sedan 1932 StCharles Packard 1 1933 Packard 12-cylinder Touring Sedan Convertible 1933 Packard Series 1105 Convertible Coupe 1933 Packard Twelve Individual Custom Twelve Modell 1005 Sport Phaeton von Dietrich 1934 Eleventh Series Eight model 1101 convertible sedan 1934 Packard Straight Eight 11th Series Sedan 1934 Packard Super Eight 1104 Roadster Convertible 1934 Packard Twelve Model 1106 Sport Coupe by LeBaron 1935 Packard Eight Model 1200 5-passenger Sedan (Style #803), Packards preisgünstigstes Senior-Modell 1935 Packard wishbone front suspension (Autocar Handbook, 13th ed, 1935) 1935 Packard 1936 Fourteenth Series Eight 120-B 997 Convertible Sedan 1936 Fourteenth Series Eight 120-B 998 Business Coupé 1936 Packard One-Twenty Club Sedan Model 120-B Style 996 1936 Packard Twelve (V12) Modell 1406 Convertible Victoria 1936 Packard V-12 Convertible Sedan by Dietrich

Processed by: Helicon Filter;
Processed by: Helicon Filter;

1937 Fifteenth Series Eight 120-C 1099 Convertible Coupé 1937 Packard 115C Coupe 1937 Packard Fifteenth Series Eight 120-C 4-Door Sedan 1937 Packard One Twenty Eight 4-Door Sedan 1937 Packard Super Eight Convertible Sedan 1937 Packard Super Eight 1938 Packard

 1938 Packard Eight Convertible Sedan 1938 Packard Henney Stationwagen 12 person 1938 Packard One Twenty Eight 4-Door Sedan a 1938 Packard One Twenty Eight 4-Door Sedan 1938 Packard Six Model 1600 Club Coupe 1938 Packard Sixteenth Series Eight 1601 1172 De Luxe Touring Sedan 1938 Packard Sixteenth Series Eight 1601 1199 Convertible Coupé 1938 Packard Sixteenth Series Eight 1601 Coupé 1938 Packard Super Eight 1938 Packard 1938 packard-touring-limousine 1939 Packard One-Twenty Business Coupe 1939 Packard Packard Twelve, 17th series 1939 Packard Seventeenth Series One Twenty 1701 4-Door Touring Sedan 1939 Packard Seventeenth Series One Twenty 1701 Police

1939 Packard Six-120 1939 Packard Super Eight Model 1705 Touring Sedan a 1939 Packard Super Eight Model 1705 Touring Sedan 1939 Packard Taxi 1939 Packard Twelve (17. Serie) von US-Präsident Franklin Delano Roosevelt 1939 Packard Twelve Brunn Cabriolet 1939 Packard Twelve Formal Sedan 1939 Packard 1940 Packard 120 Darrin Convertible Victoria


1940 Packard custom 1940 Packard One-Twenty Coupé, 18. Serie. In Frage kommen 1801-1398 Business Coupe, 1801-1395 Club Coupe oder 1801-1395DE Deluxe Club Coupe (1940) 1940 Packard

1941 la linea de montage de Packard modelos 110, 120, 160 y 180

1941 Packard 110 Deluxe Woody Station Wagon 1941 Packard 120 coupe 1941 Packard 120 Station Sedan Woody 1941 Packard 160 Super 8 1905 Rollston Limousine 1941 Packard 180 Formal Sedan

1941 Packard Clipper Darrin Convertible Victoria 1941 Packard Clipper Sedan 1941 Packard Clipper Taxi. 1941 Packard Heney-Limo-400 1941 Packard Limousine By LeBaron

1941 Packard Model 120 Convertible 1941 Packard One-Eighty Formal Sedan 1941 Packard Station Wagon advertisement either One-Ten Model 1900 or One-Twenty Model 1901 1941 Packard station wagon model 110

1941 Packard Super Eight One-Sixty Convertible Sedan Modell 1903

1941 Packard Swan

1941 Packard-Henney-cc-bw-400 1942 Packard (20. Serie) Super Eight One-Sixty Limousine 1942 Packard Clipper 160 Millitary Staff Car 1942 Packard Six (115) Convertible Coupé Modell 2000

1942 ZIS-110 (1942–1958) ist dem Packard Custom Eight 180 der 20 1946 Packard Clipper Super Sedan 1946-47 Packard Clipper Super Touring Sedan Modell 2103 1946-47 packard 1947 Packard Ad

1947 Packard Clipper 2 door 1947 Packard Clipper 1947 1947 Packard Clipper Custom Touring Sedan Modell 2106-1622 21. Serie 1947 Packard Clipper Super Touring Sedan Modell 2103-1672 (1946) oder 2103-2172 (1947).

1947 Packard clipper-eight

1947 Packard Custom Super Clipper Club Sedan 1948 Packard 2201 Six Passenger Sedan Woodie Right 1948 Packard clipper-six

1948 Packard Sedan-Type Taxicab

1948 Packard Station Sedan

1948 Packard Super Eight Victoria Convertible Coupe 1948 Packard Woody 1948-49 packard

1949 Packard Convertible Coupé

1949 Packard Custom Eight Convertible Coupe

1949 Packard Station Sedan rear