Gear Head Tuesday – Packard’s Request, Almost Fulfilled By Mercedes-Benz

Gear Head

Packard-Request

Above, Packard’s Request show car. Below, a Mercedes prototype with similar front end treatment. Note the unusual three-piece windshield on the Benz. It appears that the front and rear windows would have been interchangeable.

MB Prototype

This post is adapted from an article at Curbside Classics by Stanislav Alexeyev
with a hat tip to Chris-to-Fear for sending the link.

While Googling for some info in the W120 Mercedes (180/190) unique platform-frame chassis, I encountered these photos of a curious prototype, designated W122, and featuring a rather suspiciously familiar looking headlight treatment, complete with the hooded headlight theme. My first thought ? A Mercedes-Benz plan to be a part of the Packard’s rejuvenation sometimes in the late 1950s? Or, at least, to capitalize on its hard earned legacy, which is still largely the same thing. Never going to happen in real life.

So, the year is 1956. Just two years later the final Packard (umm, Packardbaker, but you all know the story) will roll off the assembly line, and the Studebaker-Packard dealership network will be selling cars produced by Mercedes-Benz. Even after killing Packard outright, they still used its good name to attract clientele to these new offerings:

1958 Mercedes ad

And now, just imagine that. The year is 1957 (or 1958), and a new car is on offer at Packard dealerships – the trim-sized Packard Clipper. Not just a new car, but a new kind of car – a compact luxury car which combines European size and ease of handling, a thoroughly sophisticated design and a build quality to match (or even exceed) the well-known Packard’s high standard of craftsmanship. In a few years, it is joined by a larger and even more advanced one (W111-based), as well as some custom-bodied sports cars (Facel-Vega sourced), with European flavor and American power to offer…

Well; the Germans from Mercedes-Benz would’ve never let it happen, would they? They even made Studebaker-Packard drop the plans of selling Facel-Vegas as Packards in a last-ditch effort to revive that once-glorious brand. Moreover – it is doubtful that the market was ready for such a concept as a compact luxury car in the late 1950s – even with all that newly found interest in smaller, imported cars during the Eisenhower recession. But at least M-B almost made a car which could’ve been a Packard in everything but name (quite unlike the 1957-58 Packards-in-name-only). Almost.

W122-Prototype-Front-End

The W122 didn’t make it into production. The description of these photos blames the conflict of interests between the (small, but prospering) Mercedes-Benz and the recently-acquired (large, but almost bankrupt) Auto-Union/DKW in 1958 for that – (that sounds like the Packard-Studebaker story, doesn’t it? But with quite the opposite end) – as well as the relative obsolesce of the W120 platform it was built upon, especially in contrast with the all-new W111 with its innovative and advanced safety features.

Mercedes-W111-Design_Flosse The new W-111 platform Mercedes-Benz series went into production rather than the W-122.

Anyway, in my opinion this concept front end treatment looks much better than the production W111’s one, with its ovoid-shaped headlights – not to mention the US-market version with stacked round headlights. Well, of course I may by biased as a long-time fan of both hooded headlights and Packard itself.

And, the Request ? If you didn’t know, that was a name given by Packard to one of its show-cars, which combined 1955 Packard’s hooded headlights with a grille inspired by the company’s cars from the glory days of the 1930’s. Just like the W122.

Packard Request

Due to a steady flow of requests to bring out a modern interpretation of its classic pre-war grille, Packard president James Nance asked stylist Richard Teague to design the “Request.” It debuted it at the 1955 Chicago Auto Show. Based on the 1955 Packard Four Hundred two-door hardtop, the front design on the Request dream car did characterize the traditional Packard grille. Creative Industries constructed the Request for Packard.

2 Comments

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  1. I do love the Requests front end. Thsi is the first time I remember seeing the Request. It would have bena beauty on the road, methinks.

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  2. Nick DeSlonie 07/07/2015 — 06:32

    This isn’t the first M-B I’ve seen on an S-P platform. Studebaker actually built a road worthy prototype M-B convertible based on the Hawk. It was beautifully done and would certainly have been one of the most beautiful M-B’s ever. But, guess what, M-B told SPC to stop and go no further, just like they kept the Facel-Vega Packard’s off the showroom floor. M-B was very greedy protecting their own turf taking up floor space in SPC’s over 1000 dealerships that handled all 3 lines, but certainly not concerned that SPC was on the ropes helping a slow seller like M-B get a strong foothold in North America.

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