Last week’s photo showed the a famed luxury car from America’s past: the Packard. Specifically, it was a 1948 Packard Super 8 Touring Sedan, owned by a collector in Los Angeles and rented out for movies.
Our readers guessed Packards from a wide range of years and models, which, admittedly, they didn’t change much for several years. Other guesses included Pontiac, Kaiser and Hudson.
Chosen randomly from the correct entries was the name of Bob Wilkes, of Augusta, who said he loves old cars: “My next-door neighbor had one for years back in 1953 or ’54 (in Chesapeake, Ohio). He had a black one, and I very distinctly remember the hood emblem. The Packard had levelers, so when you go uphill it would stay level. It was one fine automobile.”
He wins a prize from The Augusta Chronicle.
Several other guesses included Pontiac, Kaiser and Hudson.
Other readers identifying the vehicle were:
APPLING: Miguel Faure guessed it was a 1950 Packard: “Packard had a unique grille. They were considered a very luxurious car, even higher than Cadillac. My grandfather had a black 1950 Packard in Puerto Rico.”
AUGUSTA: Walker Mobley Jr. wrote: “The car featured is, I believe, a 1949 Packard Super 8. It’s been awhile since I have seen one on the street. If my memory serves me correctly, Packard merged with Studebaker in the mid-1950s, and shortly thereafter both went belly-up.”
Marc Wilson wrote: “This looks like the 1950 Packard Deluxe 8.”
John Hayes wrote: “I think today’s car is a 1948 Packard, probably a Super 8. I’m old enough to see them used regularly on the streets.”
Richard Simanski said it was a 1950 Packard Super 8 sedan, which he said came with an eight-tube radio, 127-inch wheelbase and an overall length of 212 inches.
Shirley Davis guessed it was the 1951 Packard.
Andrew Bell Jr. guessed 1949 Packard Super Deluxe sedan. He said he grew up with cars and is restoring a 1974 Super Beetle, a 1972 Beetle and a 1959 Chevrolet pickup.
Sam Roney identified it as the 1948 Packard.
Sy Winiker, who said he is 80 years old, guessed 1947 Packard and remembered the marque’s immortal advertising slogan: “Ask the man who owns one.”
Lowell Fritsche knew it was the 1948 Packard because “my stepmother and stepbrother were Packard people. He had, and still has, a 1947 Packard coupe. His stepmother had Packards, too, including a 1956 Packard Patrician. “It had all the electric stuff on it: shift, doors, windows. It had 25,000 miles on it at the time of her death. Also, my uncle had a ’38 or ’39 Packard.”
CANTON, GA.: David Anderson wrote: “ ‘Ask the man who owns one.’ Now that is arguably credited as being one of the greatest (if not the greatest) advertising tag lines of all time. Unfortunately for Packard, by the time this example rolled off of the assembly line sometime in 1948 or early 1949, the sun had already begun setting on Packard as an auto manufacturer.
“Once a revered premier auto manufacturer compared to the likes of Cadillac, Pierce Arrow and Duesenberg, Packards of the 1920s, ’30s and early ’40s are still highly prized acquisitions for any motoring fleet, found in garages worldwide of the rich and famous and even royalty. By the time the war years came around, the long-term effects of the Depression years of the 1930’s had taken its toll on Packard and the brand had moved downscale to be more affordable to the common man and thus increase sales.
“When civilian production resumed after World War II in 1946, a slightly freshened 1942 Clipper model was the only 1946 model offering as the manufacturing dies for the more upscale ‘senior cars’ (it is rumored) had been left out in the elements for three years and were unusable because of rust buildup. Even though Packard had emerged from the war years debt-free after some very wise contract negotiations, it still did not have a large cash reserve to afford a complete model makeover and so continued with the same 1946 model into 1947. There are in fact no visual differences between 1946 and 1947 models, leaving the vehicle serial number as the only way to definitely identify them.
“It was 1948 before a completely restyled model was available, continuing with the trend of affordability instead of exclusivity. By this time, Cadillac had long surpassed Packard as the king of the luxury car field. The 1948 model continued basically unchanged into the 1949 model year until May of 1949, thereby splitting the 1949 model series into two distinct production series. There are only very minor distinctions between the early and late 1949 models, and this model continued into the 1950 model year. The presence of a chrome side spear trim is the primary identifying trait of the late 1949 models and would just be visible in the teaser shot of this week’s What Is It? if this were one of those models. This one must therefore be a 1948 or early 1949 model.
“Sadly, with the dawn of the ’50 Fins and the Jet Age, the demise of the Packard brand was close at hand, first merging with Studebaker and then just quietly going into that still night after 1958.”
EVANS: Jerry Paul wrote: “The car of this week was easy to recognize the make, but the year and model was a bit tougher. I am certain it is a Packard. My guess it is a 1949 Super Deluxe 8. It could also be a 1948 8 Club Sedan. I’ll stay with my first guess.”
Larry Heath wrote: “The auto pictured is a 1948 Packard. The grille and bumper were new for this model year. Packard offered many models, and some sharp-eyed reader should be able to identify this particular example. Packard used a straight-eight engine design.
“It was a luxury car for this era and competed with Cadillac and Lincoln for this market. For 1948 it offered a semi-automatic clutch and overdrive transmission, which was innovative at that time. These cars are very smooth riding because of the size and build quality.”
Wayne Wilke wrote: “The car is a 1948 Packard Super 8. The Super 8 model came as a two-door sedan (Club), four-door sedan (Touring), convertible (Victoria) or a station wagon. The Super 8 model had a 356-cubic-inch, 145 horsepower engine. The cheaper Standard 8 Model had a 288-cubic-inch engine with 130 horsepower, and the more expensive Custom 8 model had a 356-cubic-inch engine with 160 horsepower.
“The way to tell the models apart is that only the Super and Custom models had the elaborate swan or pelican fancy hood ornament, and only the Custom models had a grille with vertical bars in addition to the horizontal ones and they had a longer wheelbase (127 inches vs. 120 inches).
“The 1948-50 models, because of their shape, were known as the ‘pregnant elephant’ models. Packards before ’48 and after ’50 were a lot less rounded and more closely resembled the appearance of the ‘Big Three’ manufacturers.
“My dad had a 1947 Packard Clipper that he had bought used and then sold in 1950 when I was 4 years old. I remember only a few things about it. It was maroon, had the traditional Packard wheel covers with the red hexagon at the center, and the back seat was cavernous. Just before he sold it, we took a summer vacation trip where the 200-mile drive required leaving before dawn in order to ‘beat the traffic’. My older brother got to sleep on the back seat, and I was relegated to sleeping on the floor. The fibers in the muddy-brown carpet were as stiff as brush bristles and scratched for most of the journey.
“The demise of Packard, many experts believe, resulted from three strategic shifts/events, each of which affected sales:
• Just before and immediately after WWII, they offered medium-priced models (like the one my dad had) which seemed to reduce cachet and cheapen the ‘brand.’ No longer was a Packard as exclusive as a Cadillac or Lincoln.
• Briggs, the company that Packard had contracted to supply its bodies in 1940, was sold in 1954 to Chrysler. The new owner refused to continue to produce Packard bodies, and Packard had to scramble to build its own bodies in a cramped plant in Detroit. Build quality suffered affecting sales and reputation.
• In 1955, Packard acquired Studebaker. President James Nance had underestimated the productivity problems in place in Studebaker’s South Bend, Ind., plant, and the economic impact was disastrous. The “Packardbakers” that resulted in 1957 and 1958 were not competitive cars, red ink flowed freely and production ceased, ending Packard’s life as a once proud American car company.
PJ Rodgers wrote: “It’s a 1950 Packard Eight four-door Touring Sedan, Model 2301. My favorite Packard was the one produced in the company’s last year of production, the 1958 two-door hardtop that went simply by the name Packard. As a youngster, I always enjoyed looking out for the unusual hood ornaments on automobiles, but perhaps my favorite was the bulldog on the Mack trucks. I also like the hood ornaments that lighted up when the lights were switched on. It’s a shame that so many American manufacturers such as Studebaker, DeSoto, Nash, Hudson, etc., went by the wayside. There were many interesting designs produced during the 1920s-60s. Most cars today look so similar, like being made in a ‘cookie cutter’ fashion.”
Bill Harding wrote: “I’ll hazard a guess that it’s a ’48 Packard, although I’m not sure if it’s a wagon, sedan, or coupe. Packard had been in decline ever since the Great Depression of 1930-37, when it made the decision to abandon the luxury market and instead cater to the mid-and low-price market hoping for higher sales volume. Packard made one last attempt to rejoin the luxury market with its beautiful 1955-56 Clippers, which finally had a V-8 instead of the L-head straight-eight it had used for decades.
However, it was too late to save the company, which had foolishly agreed to merge with struggling Studebaker, a company besieged with staggering debt, high overhead, an antiquated factory, and a recalcitrant labor force. 1956 was the last year of the true Packard. 1957 and 1958 Packards were nothing more than rebadged Studebakers.”
HEPHZIBAH: James Purkey said 1950 Packard: “That was a smooth-riding automobile. I owned a ’48 Packard four-door sedan when I was living in McBean.”
LOUISVILLE, GA.: Robert L. Holbert wrote: “I believe it is a 1950 Packard Super 8 Sedan. You could ‘load it up’ with options like a six-or eight-tube radio, heater and defroster, whitewall tires and outside rearview mirrors. It’s hard to believe that heaters and defrosters were once options, even on luxury cars.”
MARTINEZ: Christopher C. March Sr. wrote: “The car is a 1948 Packard. It looks a lot like a 1949, but I am sticking with the 1948. These cars would have a straight-eight engine in them.
Jim Muraski wrote: “This week’s car is a 1948 Packard Super 8 Touring Sedan. This ‘all new’ model was actually a redesign of the popular 1941-47 Clipper model and actually used the same roof and trunk lid. The ’48 Packard did not get very flattering reviews in the media, with nicknames such as the ‘upside down bathtub’ and ‘pregnant elephant.’
“After a road test, Motor Trend even labeled it ‘a goat.’ This particular car was actually one of the more than 100 classic cars that appeared in the movie Gangster Squad, which debuted in January of this year.”
Lloyd B. Schnuck said it was a 1949 Packard Super 8 Touring Sedan.
Joe Bert guessed 1950 Packard Super or Custom 8 convertible, possibly a ’50 because of the winged swan on the hood ornament; the ’49 had a statue holding a tire on extended-out arms. But overall, it was a beautiful car. It changed styles in 1951.”
MILLEN, GA.: Charlie Dempsey guessed 1948 Packard.
NEW ELLENTON: Clara Simpkins guessed 1950 Packard 8.
NORTH AUGUSTA: Joe Pack wrote: “It is a 1950 Packard Super Eight Deluxe.”
Frank McKnight also said 1950 Packard.
SHAWANO, WIS.: Karen McKenna guessed 1948 Packard Super 8 Touring sedan.
WARRENVILLE: James Covar guessed a 1950 Packard Super 8 because “it had a straight-eight engine in 1950.”
NO CITY LISTED: Richard Banks said 1956-58 Packard Patrician. Archie Black said 1959 Packard. Bill Fowler said 1948 Packard. Ken Klingler said 1950 Packard. And Robert Werner said a 1955 or ’56 “baby Packard.”