Q: Hello Greg. I want to ask about your feelings on the Packard automobiles that were built up through 1958. Also, do you know what the Three “P”s were in luxury cars? Bob, Wyalusing, Pa.
A: Bob, I loved the Packard automobiles, and missed out on a chance to buy a 1956 Executive for only $900 back in the early 1980s. Packard was founded in 1899 by James and William Packard and a partner, George Weiss.
By 1939, Packard had earned a reputation for building one of the finest luxury cars in the word, and four engines for ‘39 were offered to power the luxury coaches, coupes and sedans. Available were an Inline-6 of 242 inches, two inline-8's of 282 and 320 inches, and a 473 cubic inch V-12 engine. Beginning in 1940, the V12 was shelved.
As to further answer your question, Packard was one of the Big Three “P” cars you mention, ala the Pierce-Arrow and the Peerless. These three models carried better luxury reputations than Lincoln and Cadillac at the time, but hardship was forthcoming.
Although Packard survived the Great Depression of 1929 and the tough 1930s, Pierce-Arrow fell in 1938 and Peerless folded via receivership before New Year’s Day of 1930. Thus, of the Big Three “P” independents, only Packard had enough cash reserves to survive. During the war years starting in 1942, Packard-built airplane engines, and especially those used in the Mustang P-51’s in a license deal with Merlin and Rolls Royce. They also built V-12 PT boat engines with great success.
When World War II ended, Packard found it the market more difficult, as the Big Three of GM, Ford and Chrysler were flexing its muscle, more so than the independents that had less money to spend. Thus, many of the independents either merged or went out of business. However, Packard got together with Studebaker, and lasted until 1958.
Although the 1958 Packards had a strong resemblance to the Silver and Golden Hawk Studebakers, which they really were, they sold in limited numbers and by 1959 the Packard name was dropped.
In 1995, Phoenix businessman Roy Gullickson purchased the naming rights for Packard, and with his wife, Barbara, tried in vain to re-introduce the brand. A 2003 concept Packard, with a V12 engine, was shown at the prestigious Pebble Beach Concours Car Show as a 2003 concept Packard.
Sadly, effort was finally stopped, and the 2003 Packard listed on an eBay auction in 2009. Later, Gullickson tried to sell the Packard and all of its naming rights and anything else that he had “Packard” for 1.5-million, but it didn’t sell and today the Gullicksons reside in Canada. Still, they receive an official “Car Collector Corner” pat on the back for a very good try in trying to resurrect a legend.