Gearhead Tuesday: More Packard “Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda”

Gear Head

'57 Convertible jpg

What we didn’t get: the Predictor-inspired Packards for 1957.

'57 Four Hundred

A frequent, if not favorite, activity of Packard enthusiasts (myself included) is to “Monday Morning Quarterback” the collapse of the company and offer “Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda” alternatives, always with the hope that the company could have been saved.

In a series of posts on my old blog (now deleted), we looked at what might have been for Packard in 1957 had not the house collapsed so quickly in 1956. The series included the fine “Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda” article written by the late Packard historian, Robert J. Neal where I offered an alternative to his happy scenario for Packard.

As the house fell, instead of the beautiful and very technically-advanced (for the time) cars that we should have gotten, we got the hastily cobbled together “Packardbaker”, a “Packard Clipper” that was a Studebaker President gussied up with left-over parts from the Packard parts bin. There was no money to do anything more. It was the equivalent of trying to dress for a White House inaugural ball and having to buy the clothes at Ross Dress for Less.


What we got instead: the Ross Dress for Less “Packard Clipper” based on the Studebaker President body shell.

57 Packard Clipper - front

Over at Packard Info, there have been three recent threads of Packard “What Ifs,” one HERE, one HERE and another HERE. One of the more intriguing ideas in one of the Packard Info threads was a proposal that the ’55s should have been based on the ’54 Panther show car. We would hope that the horrid grille on the Panther would have been fixed on the production car had this come about! That said, the Photoshop mock up of the proposal in side view is quite handsome:

'55 Packard Panther proposal

Above is the proposed Packard Panther-based design for ’55 as found at (pg. 4).

Below are two versions of the Panther:


Five of the Panther show cars were built. They were fully functional. One, fitted with a supercharged engine, ran at Daytona. The Panthers originally were built with the “sore thumb” taillights used on the ’54 and ’55 Clippers. Two were later converted to use the “Cathedral” taillights of the ’55 Packard Patricians, Caribbeans and Four Hundreds. The overall design is good, but the best thing that can be said about the grille treatment is that it is ghastly.


All five of the Panthers were originally fitted with the “sore thumb” taillights used on the ’54 & ’55 Clippers, but two were later fitted with Dick Teague’s famous “cathedral” taillights used on the ’55 & ’56 Senior Packards.


About a year ago, Hemmings published an intriguing “what-if” for Packard for 1957. A contributor (whose name, unfortunately, I am not able to locate) did a Photoshop proposal of ’57 Packards that would have been an inexpensive but very effective and competitive update of the ’51 John Reinhart-designed body shell that Richard Teague had so skillfully re-worked for ’55 and ’56. Three of those ideas are shown below.

It was often said that Packard was the car company we couldn’t afford to lose – but due to events swirling out of the control of Packard management, we lost the company anyway …

Screen Shot 2014-01-30 at 5.48.19 PM

The simple trick of adding the full wheel cutouts used on the ’53 Caribbean would have made a stunning update of the body for this ’57 “What-If.”

Screen Shot 2014-01-30 at 6.08.22 PM

Here is a formal sedan version (above) and a two door hardtop (below)

Screen Shot 2014-01-30 at 6.11.35 PM

Coulda. Shoulda. Woulda.




Add yours →

  1. So is said here and couldn’t be said much better. I do love the ‘shoulda’ been designs. I want te Gold one! Shame I do not remembewr the Packardbaker…(But I would like to have one!)


    • hee hee …. One reason you don’t remember the “Packardbaker” is there weren’t very many of them built!
      Less than 4,000 of the sedans, if memory serves me correctly. (I’ll look it up later …)


      • Lawrence Foster 15/04/2020 — 05:34

        I had an auto restoration shop over 50 years and had over 1000 cars, I wanted to experience everything. In my 20’s I had a 1956 black Executive sedan with full power,a/c and applied ribbed panels similar to my emerald green ’56 Patrician (applied where the normal two-tone would be). Unfortunately the ‘Pat’ had been through a flood, and though redone before I got it, had many problems, I sold it and kept the Executive, months later came across a stunning ’57 black Clipper, it had full power and a/c, I bought it from the 85 year old original owner. I was amazed, the fit and build quality of the ’57 was better than the Executive, which still was very well done. The only thing I had to do was restore the collapsing dashboard. The performance, handling and speed were all a notch above the ‘55,56 (also had ’55 400) there was real effort put in these cars to get as close to Packard as they could. I also had a ’58 sedan,which was well built but the styling had slightly gone off the rails. I always had wished the ’56-’57 Lincoln plan had worked, and if not, at least have had all ’57-’58 Packard’s on the 120 inch wheelbase, which carried more elegance. Eventually I sold them to a fellow in San Francisco, I now have a fleet of 64-65-66 Imperial’s among others, still miss the Packard’s.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. If someone would add a solar panel to the roof design of a Packard sketch-up, the Administration would throw billions their way and the company might be resurrected;just a thought.


  3. kimmargosein 02/09/2016 — 21:09

    IIRC, there was some discussion in the early 50s of Ford buying Packard. This would have been a perfect fit. Floating around somewhere on the interweb is a drawing of a Packardized 1957 Lincoln. This would have been the perfect placeholder for the 58 line. Think of what was done for 58. The Mercury was pushed upline, something always difficult to do. Edsel became the old Mercury. Continental was hived off from Lincoln, becoming a full marque of its own, hoping to compete with Caddy. OK, now keep this in mind. Edsel had the vertical central grill concept. As a what if, replace the horse collar with the packard gravestone, with a floating bumper bar in the center, like the Predictor. Ford ran three body styles in 58, the Ford (Let’s call it A) Mercury (B) and Lincoln (C).

    Now, keep Mercury where it was, instead of moving it upscale. In lieu of the Edsel, you have the new Packard. Then, the Lincoln as follows:

    Ford Fairlane= Shortened A body
    Ford Galaxy- A body.

    Mercury Montclair- lengthened A body
    Mercury Park Lane- B body.

    Packard Clipper Long B Body (imagine a blend of the Predictor and Turnpike Cruiser)
    Packard Patrician C body-Actually the Continetal style with the reverse rear window.

    Lincoln- C body


    • Indeed – Richard Teague did a sketch of a ’57 Packard built on the Lincoln body. It was a handsome design that had many Predictor features. Henry Ford did not oppose selling Lincoln bodies to Packard, but his underlings shot the proposal down and Henry didn’t over ride them. There was some discussion of Ford buying Packard, but the proposal didn’t gain any traction because of strong resistance from management under Henry Ford. There was a lot of turf protection at Ford in those days with a lot of accompanying palace intrigue. When Packard closed, Nance went to Ford as general manager of Lincoln-Mercury. That’s how those Packard Predictor-like features such as the roof line and the flow-through ventilation and retractable rear windows wound up on Lincoln-Mercury cars. Those same Ford managers that shot down the proposal to sell Lincoln bodies to Packard had their knives out for Nance. He quit Ford and went into banking.

      '57 Packard proposal on LIncoln body


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