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In 1899, James Packard took up Alexander Winton’s challenge to build a car better than the Wintons which Winton was producing at the time, and the rest, as they say, is history. Almost from its inception, the name Packard became known worldwide for its high standard of engineering excellence. In addition to the Packard automobile line, over the first half of the 20th century this reputation for quality extended to endeavors in electrical equipment, trucks, and marine and aircraft engines.
While seemingly highly successful and still widely revered for its attention to quality and engineering detail, during the 1930s a series of now questionable business decisions and just plain bad luck began to beset the company. This lead over the following years to an increasingly difficult financial position for Packard. Packard did well during the World War II years, but as the years after the war progressed all the independents, including revered Packard, came under increasing pressure from the competition from the major manufacturers. By the mid-1950s the combined market share of all the independents (less than 5 percent!) was small enough to instill a sense of foreboding and force desperate measures for all.
For Packard, this included an ill-advised union with also much troubled Studebaker in 1954. A hoped-for further merger with Nash-Hudson’s American Motors Corporation (AMC), to produce a strong enough entity to survive as a fourth major car company, never materialized. Continuing pressure on the new Studebaker-Packard Corporation forced the closing of the major Packard plant in Detroit in 1956, and all production moved to the Studebaker plant in South Bend, Indiana. The South Bend plant could not produce the full-sized Packard cars, and production of the truly Packard automobiles ended.
The years 1957 and 1958 saw the Packard name used on re-badged Studebakers. Outrageous podded dual-headlights and rear fines were attached for the ’58 model year, looking very much like the afterthoughts that they were. The buying public no longer saw the Packard name as being synonymous with luxury and quality, and in 1958 Packard sold just 2,622 cars, by far the least in the industry. The Packard automobile line was then dropped by the Studebaker-Packard Corporation, resulting in a sad and ignominious end to the once proud and prestigious Packard name.
By 1965 Studebaker itself was gone, and the never truly healthy AMC was absorbed by Chrysler in 1987, leaving just the big three major car manufacturers left in the U.S.
- 1958 was last year for Packard marque
- Nicknamed “Packardbaker” as Studebaker-Packard merged and existing design was restyled; Appearance was “cobbled together” since 1958 Packards were essentially re-trimmed Studebakers
- Only 1,200 produced; Price new: $3,212