Monday, August 17, 2009

1957 Packard Clipper Town Sedan

This is a 1957 Packard Clipper Town Sedan. It looks suspiciously like a Studebaker sedan, and there is a reason for this.

In the early 1950s, George Mason, President of Nash Motors since 1948, had a dream of America's independent automakers banding together to form a fourth major auto company that could challenge the big three. In 1954, he started to make his dream a reality. In April 1954, Nash merged with Hudson to form American Motors. In October of the same year, Packard, under the leadership of James J. Nance since 1952, bought Studebaker to form Studebaker-Packard. This was part of the plan: after the dust had settled from those mergers, Studebaker-Packard was to merge with American Motors. But this never happened. The same month Studebaker and Packard merged, George Mason passed away unexpectedly, and his assistant, George Romney (father of Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney) took over American Motors. Romney changed direction, abandoning the plan to merge with Studebaker-Packard and eventually abandoning the Nash and Hudson names altogether, replacing them with Rambler.

This left Studebaker-Packard in trouble, as Studebaker had serious financial problems before the merger. The company tried to continue on, creating the Packard spinoff brand Clipper in 1956, but things rapidly went downhill. Nance resigned in August 1956, and Studebaker-Packard was taken over by the Curtiss-Wright Corporation. With the company needing to cut costs, and with Packard's body style already several years old, the 1957 Packard line shared the Studebaker body. Unfortunately, this was obvious to most car shoppers, who saw no reason to pay the premium Packard price for what was a thinkly-disguised Studebaker. These cars became known as "Packardbakers."

Despite being considered inferior to the earlier "true" Packards, the 1957 Packards weren't bad-looking cars, although that would change for 1958, when quad headlights and another layer of tailfins were tacked on rather poorly. What buyers Packard had left were turned off, and between that and the recession, sales fell even further, and 1958 would be Packard's last year.

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