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60 Years Ago: The Last Packard Rolls off the Assembly Line

(Photo: Greg Gjerdingen)

Founded in 1899, Packard was one of the last independent car manufacturers in the US. The luxury brand survived the Great Depression and two world wars. It emerged in good financial shape after domestic car production picked up in 1946. But it couldn't keep up with changing markets and its larger competitors.

In 1955, Packard merged with Studebaker--another company that would soon disappear. The following year, Packard unveiled the Patrician, an example of which is pictured above. On June 25, 1956, the last Packard came off the assembly line in Detroit. For a few more years, there would be Studebakers re-branded as Packards. But this would be the last true Packard. Blake Z. Rong writes mournfully at Road & Track:

All the things that went wrong with Packard—a move downmarket, chasing volume instead of brand image, strange styling, intense cost-cutting, defects, recalls, pissed-off dealers, model lineup bloat, the dreaded scourge of "badge engineering," a desperate merger with a tarnished carmaker just to compete with bigger companies—are still happening today. Maserati comes to mind. The last Honda Civic. Every dead GM brand that didn't survive the bailout, plagued by lost identities and muddled marketing, surviving this far only by dint of pure nostalgia. Mercury. Plymouth. The Mercedes-Benz CLA. Is Volkswagen going to follow the same route? Or Fiat-Chrysler? It's always sad when a carmaker dies, and we never wish for that to happen. Not even for Mitsubishi.

-via Glenn Reynolds


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I learned how to drive on an 80s Chevy Caprice station wagon and a 1940 Ford 9N tractor. The latter of those was scary to drive because the center of gravity was so high and there were so many different controls (clutch, choke, throttle, and 2 brakes).
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John, the first car I ever drove was a 1948 Packard, in 1964. My parents owned 2 cars at the time - that and a 1952 Nash Rambler. Both companies are gone now, of course, although you could argue that Nash survived since it merged with Hudson to form AMC, which was later acquired by Chrysler.

That was back in the days before government bailouts, of course, so it was survival of the corporate fittest.
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