History of the Packards: Good start, sad ending
Although the Packard company ended with a weak car model that was nothing more than a made-over Studebaker, its line of cars manufactured through the early-to-mid 1900s were outstanding.
Packard got a very early start in the auto business: as early as 1899. The company released five Model A roadsters that year. During the Depression and both World War I and World War II, Packard still held strong. After World War II, however, Packard's luxury-line models had dwindled. In the 1940s, the company started offering mid-level priced cars. This marketing strategy worked well until the end of that decade, but sales diminished in the following decade.
Packard didn't have a new model to offer consumers for its 50th anniversary in 1949 and ranked last among independent car manufacturers. The company suffered even more in the 1950s, with low production and employee strikes.
New styles for the 1950s
Packard announced that its 1951 models would have a new style, and also that it would continue releasing new designs annually. Unfortunately, with the onset of the Korean War and more worker strikes, financial woes hit once again. So Packard decided to buy Studebaker in June 1954. But then in 1956, Curtiss-Wright Corp. bought Studebaker-Packard, and released a number of powerful, advanced models.
Too close to Studebakers
After a few more successes, Studebaker-Packard began to struggle again, this time because of price wars between GM and Ford and its own quality control difficulties. The 1957 and 1958 Packard models closely resembled Studebakers, and buyers quickly caught on. The company was designing models with the Packard name at the Studebaker facility, and the models looked very much like Studebakers -- too much like them.
Four Packard models were in this line, including the Packard station wagon, which was the least popular. This model had bullet-nosed bumpers and two-tone paint. It also had a Studebaker V-8 engine. Even though a few features clearly distinguished it from the Studebaker Commander Provincial station wagon, there were still too many similarities, and very few sales were made.
The other three 1958 models were the two-door hardtop coupe (Starlight), the four-door sedan and the Packard Hawk.
Only a little more than 2,000 of these basic Packard models were produced, which was not enough to keep the Packard designs going. The company stopped producing Packards in July 1958, and dropped the Packard name from Studebaker-Packard Corp. in 1962.
Although Packard struggled at the end, it still left some great cars that antique car fans everywhere can admire.