UPDATED: There is a thread about the Packard Monte Carlos >>HERE<< at PackardInfo.com
FURTHER UPDATE: The mystery Monte Carlo convertible has been rescued! Follow the progress >>HERE<<.
Before the Chevrolet Monte Carlo, there was the Packard Monte Carlo …… and Packard’s Monte Carlo appeared twice – first in 1948 and again in 1953 as an entirely different car than the first one.
Stylist Richard Arbib, working for the custom body builder, Henney, took one of the notoriously ungainly “bathtub” post-war Packards (1948-1950) and created from it what was the best version of that unhappy design. Arbib almost succeeded in making a silk purse from a sow’s ear! Arbib’s Monte Carlo was a two door hardtop, coming just as General Motors was introducing that body style. Arbib’s design didn’t get past the one-off stage as the John Rinehart-designed ’51 Packards were being tooled for and the investment for tooling for the Monte Carlo on the “bathtub” body shell didn’t make financial sense as none of the body or trim components could be used on the upcoming ’51s.
In the photo below, we see the “upside down bathtub”, a ’48 Packard Eight, a “junior” model. The “senior” models, the Super Eight and the Custom Super Eight looked somewhat better than the “junior” models (Eight and Deluxe Eight) as they were built on the 127″ wheelbase and looked less dumpy than the “juniors” on their 122″ wheelbase:
You can see why these cars earned the unflattering sobriquet of “upside-down bathtub” or even worse, “pregnant elephant.” This is what Arbib had to work with but he nonetheless came up with a neat design. It’s too bad that it came too late in the design cycle to see production. Arbib’s Monte Carlo was stylish enough to go head-to-head with Cadillac’s new Coupe de Ville hardtop, except that Cadillac had its fine new overhead valve V-8 and Packard was still using its excellent but antiquated L-head straight eight. Here’s Arbib’s design:
With the arrival of James Nance as president in 1952, Packard started playing catch-up in the race against Cadillac. A nice looking hardtop, dubbed the Mayfair, was introduced in 1951 along with the rest of the new Packards. With the ’51s, Packard continued building “junior” and “senior” series cars. The “junior” 200 series cars were built on the 122″ wheelbase. The “senior” 300 and 400 series cars were built on the 127″ wheelbase. The hardtop and the convertible were built on the 122″ “Junior” wheelbase used by the 200 series, but these cars were given the larger 327 cubic inch engine used by the “senior” cars while the 200 series used the 288 cubic inch straight eight engine. As the Mayfair and convertible were something of a hybrid between the “junior” and “senior” series cars, they were referred to as the “250 series.”
A slew of show cars came from Packard, including the Arbib-designed Pan American which begat, in 1953, the Caribbean. Stylist Richard Teague came to Packard in 1952 and translated Arbib’s Pan American design into the production Caribbean. The Pan American was a production Packard convertible with the body sectioned.
Teague also did a show car for Packard for 1953, the Balboa, of which two were built for Packard by Henney. The brochure for the Balboa touts that the rear window would retract for improved fresh air ventilation, though the window would not, in fact, roll down on the two Balboas as built. The idea of the retractable window resurfaced on the ’56 Packard Predictor show car as did the general shape of the Balboa’s “C” pillar.
After Packard folded, Nance went to Lincoln-Mercury and that “C”-pillar design appeared on the ’58-’60 Lincolns and later on the ’63-’66 Mercurys. The idea of the retractable rear window came along with the Balboa-inspired “C”-pillar on those Mercurys, where it was known as the “Breezeway window.”
Arbib, still at Henney, took two ’52 Mayfair hardtops at Packard’s behest, borrowed the bumpers, grille and other trim elements for the ’53 Packards, cut part of the roof away and created his second iteration of the Monte Carlo. One was painted red and white, the second was two-tone blue. While the fate of the original Monte Carlo is uncertain*, the two ’52-’53 versions survived and are owned by Packard collector Ralph Marano, who also owns the two Balboas.
* It is widely believed that the original Monte Carlo was cut up but that pieces of it survived. A few years back, a badly deteriorated ’48 Packard convertible surfaced that had the Monte Carlo side trim and scripts on it, although not in precisely the same fashion as on the original Arbib-designed Monte Carlo. It is unclear to me where this car came from nor do I know if it has been restored. There was some discussion of it at the Packard Info website, but no one seems to know more than I know about the convertible Monte Carlo. There is some speculation that a production ’48 convertible was fitted with the Monte Carlo trim after Arbib’s prototype had been broken up but who did it and when is not (to the best of my knowledge) known.
Welcome back to blogging! I actually like the lines on the earlier ’48 Custom Super Eight. Sleek looking IMO. But that ’53 Caribbean convertible – oooh la la! What a sweet ride! What really got my attention was the arm rests in the back seat of the ’53 Monte Carlo. Reminds of the seats in an airplane today!
hee hee …. Sally, the “bathtub” Packards have their defenders. While I don’t like their looks, they were solidly-built cars as was expected of Packard. My friend “PacDoc” will be happy to see your comment. He has a number of ’56 Packards, but he also has one of the “bathtubs.”
Thank you, Sally! I’m glad you stopped by! 🙂
Bonjour M. la Vache 🙂 Nice to see you back.. J’adore these old beauties but have to say my preference is definitely pre 1950, give me an ‘upside down bathtub’ anyday! Of course the Phantom is my absolute favourite, why do I think of gangsters with machine guns hanging out windows when I see it 🙂
Grace, thank you for stopping by from “down under!” I’m finding that those “bathtub” Packards have their defenders – and I’ve noted that most of the people who like them are women. That said, my friend “PacDoc” who owns some 12 Packards, ten of them ’56 models, has a Mayfair and he has one of the “bathtubs,” so he will appreciate your comment. Re the gangsters – the trunks on those Packards are large enough that two people could be put in them …
I really like the lines of the cars and the sense of style they had but I’ll keep my Kia Soul for motoring around town.
Great to see you here, Yogi!
That Kia Soul is a fun car. Given that Kia is a Korean company, it amazes me how many people don’t “get” the play on the name “Soul” = “Seoul.”
I finally made it over to your new blog. Your layout looks really sharp. I enjoyed the history & photos of this vintage classic ~ quite nice! Welcome back and here’s hoping you enjoy the WP platform over Blogger. Have a good week!
I’m happy you stopped by, Cathy! Welcome! 🙂
Being a ’56 400 owner, I love your site! The 48 Monte Carlo convertible was auctioned off here in Houston about 20 years ago. I bid it up to about $8K & let another bidder have it for a higher bid. I could not authenticate it & it needed quite a bit of restoration, though it was pretty solid. A local car dealer here won it & I do not what has become of it since. Any buildable Custom 8 convertible is a nice find, regardless of correct status or mods.
I want to invite all 50’s Packard owners to the SDC International meet in St Louis Aug. 16-22, where I will be displaying my chrome plating work & selling parts.
You might want to know that Henney had nothing to do with building the Balboas. Creative Industries of Detroit built the original Packard Balboa based on a Briggs body. Mitchell-Bentley did the trim and finishing. The second Balboa was created much later and basically morphed from a Caribbean convertible… and still bears the production number of that car. The full story of the Balboa and other postwar Packard dream cars will be in the upcoming book on Creative Industries of Detroit (the actual name of the company).
As for so-called “bathtub Packards” why is this styling so criticized when a Packard… but adored and drooled over when the name on the car is spelled “Porsche”??? What on earth could be more upside-down bathtub than the Porsche for many years??? The 1948-50 Packards were very fine automobiles and the styling of that period (yes, it went out of style quickly) can hardly be properly understood by looking at it with values of 2016.
And…au contrare… there are indeed other persons who know about the early Monte Carlo and the Monte Carlo convertible.
“Leeedy” – Welcome. I know you from the PackardInfo site. We are “almost” neighbors – I live in Dixon and I know you are in Davis.
Even as a kid, I didn’t like the styling of the “bathtubs.” My father bought a ’49 23rd series when I was 2 years old. I think it may be from that car that I came to like Packards generally even if not particularly the “bathtubs.”
For the record, the only cars that I’ve always thought were uglier than the “bathtub” Packards are the ’48-’51 Nash Airflytes and I’ve never particularly cared for the “bathtub” Porsche 356s either – and I’m a Porsche fan as well as a Packard fan, having had a ’69 912 and later a ’76 912.
My dislike for the “bathtub” Packard design dates back to when I was a kid. I very vividly remember when I was four years old, my father took me with him to the Packard dealer in Plainview, Texas. I remember being taken into the service department which had pits for servicing the cars rather than lifts. I was allowed to go down into one of the pits and watch a mechanic change the oil on what must have been a ’47 Packard. Of course, as a kid, I was thrilled to be able to do this. I very specifically remember thinking that the car that was having its oil changed was better looking than the “bathtubs” in the shop alongside it.
Being a car nut must be in my DNA. My parents told me in later years that when I was four, I could tell you the make and often the year of any car they pointed out to me.
I’m looking forward to your book on Creative Industries.
This site popped up on a Google search of the 48 Monte Carlo convertible. It is now in the possession of Geoffrey Hacker and heading to Florida for restoration. He would greatly appreciate any info you may have on this car. You can reach him on FB or the Forgotten Fiberglass website.
LikeLiked by 1 person
The 48 Monte Carlo convertible is with Geoffrey Hacker of Forgotten Fiberglass and heading to Florida for restoration.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thank you very much for this update!
LikeLiked by 1 person
56Packardman…I’m the guy with the Monte Carlo. Can you e-mail me so we can correspond? Thanks, Geoff Hacker email@example.com
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thank you for visiting and letting us know that you now own that Monte Carlo!