The Most Comprehensive Free Online Reference for Packard Owners
Happy 4th of July! Become a member of Packard Motor Car Information, right now! (it's free)
Login
Username:

Password:

remember me

Lost Password?

Register now!
FAQ's
Main Menu
Recent Forum Topics
Who's Online
21 user(s) are online (15 user(s) are browsing Packard Forums)

Members: 0
Guests: 21

more...



(1) 2 3 4 ... 6 »


Synopsis of forces and events leading to '48-'50 styling
Home away from home
Joined:
2007/11/18 9:02
From Dalton, NY
Posts: 2359
Hi

Not infrequently on collector car forums other than those devoted to Packard, when the subject is the 1948-1950 Packards, the comments largely deal with the styling more than any other topic. As might be expected, not all are taken with or understand the forces that brought these cars to their appearance. To dispel some of the misconceptions and provide some perspective, I’ve written the following to broaden the understanding of the era and situation.

A synopsis of the forces and events that replaced the Clipper styling with the Free-Flow-Styled 22nd-23rd Series:

In planning for their return to production, management realized the pre-war non-Clipper design was old and out-of-date enough to be uncompetitive in the postwar market. Damaged tooling from poor storage may also been a factor. Clipper was their newest tooling available, had had its initial success short-circuited by the wartime curtailment, its tooling not fully amortized. Its important to remember at this point that whereas the older 1938-'42 bodies were an in-house build, the Briggs Body Company was the supplier of the Clipper bodies. This would continue through the 1948-‘50 Free-Flow-Styled and 1951-’54 Contours until events resulted in the Chrysler purchase of all Briggs body operations. Packard was forced to take control of the body construction by leasing the Connor Avenue body plant from Chrysler who would no longer be supplying the bodies.

As framework to the development of what would become the 1948 Packards, all manufacturers were working on their new postwar cars during the war as time and staffing permitted. For the independent makers, it was viewed as a opportunity to get a jump on the all-new Big Three models projected for 1949. Time was of the essence, but Packard had only a tiny styling department headed by Ed Macauley with a staff of perhaps six-eight people. To augment this very limited source, since the development of the Clipper during 1940, they had been working closely with Briggs in-house styling department which was much larger, providing styling for all Briggs customers, the largest then being Chrysler. Dutch Darrin was not involved with Packard’s design process at this time. He had returned to California to develop postwar design concepts he hoped to bring to production. Many of the themes and features seen on those prototypes were employed when Kaiser-Frazer came seeking a quick concept to present to prospective financial backers of their intended entry into the postwar seller’s market.

In terms of styling, that transition period from the separate fender and body era to fully integrated envelop configuration was a stylistic mine field. How well each company navigated it, varies greatly dependent upon subjective taste. Cadillac did so very adroitly as did all of GM, which was to be expected given the fully-developed styling powerhouse that Harley Earl l had built. Packard had only a small, nascent styling department which depended heavily on input from the in-house Briggs Body Company styling department. Briggs, by the postwar, was building all Packard bodies except the commercial and lwb sedan/limousines by Henney.

George Christopher, the notoriously pinch-penny company president since 1942, embraced the perceived need and potential benefits of presenting new postwar styling as quickly as possible but wasn't about to write off and discard the unamortized Clipper tooling. Briggs, of course, intended to retain Packard's body building business if possible, was glad to assist in updating the Clipper shell to the current vision of future styling trends. Those, as seen on wartime ‘blue-sky’ styling exercises of "The Cars of The Future", were characterized by low, horizontal grilles and fully-enveloping, through-fender, slab-sided, tear-drop shapes, even transparent bubble-tops.

Throw into this heady brew Packard styling director Ed Macauley's Brown Bomber, his continually-customized 1941 Darrin coupe de ville 'idea' car which was literally subjected to each new styling sop presented by Al Prance, Briggs Styling Director and his capable staff as well as his own staff for Ed's enjoyment. As he drove around Detroit in his customized Packard previewing future styling ideas to his contemporaries including Harley Earl, a production Clipper body served as armature for clay styling studies in those same themes in the Briggs studio. Its appeal or lack thereof is left to individual subjective judgment. That said, for the times, it looked fresh, modern and contemporary.

The results were that each principle player got what he wanted. For Christopher further amortization of body tooling. For Ed Macauley, his conception of futuristic styling and modernization of their cars intending to would garner greater sales than ever before versus the warmed-over 1942 models the Big Three would be peddling. For Briggs and Prance, a grip on Packard's body business and demonstration of their styling prowess. That the result gave Packard only a restyled 1941 car, would be more and more obvious the longer it stayed in production. Well, it was too early to worry about that in 1946. In the near term, there was massive pent-up demand expected to take through 1949-'50 to satisfy.

Notwithstanding the styling, the cars themselves are mechanically very robust, well crafted and accessible. They represent one of the best values in collector cars now owing to the high numbers built, overall durability and continued popularity among Packard collectors who appreciate their intrinsic qualities beyond their styling. Taken in the context of their times, they were as modern as their contemporary competitors. Viewed in that context, they’re as attractive as any and cars to fully appreciate for their many fine visible and intrinsic qualities.

To fully understand the saga of the "Free-Flow Styled" 1948-'50 22nd and 23rd Series Packards, there is no better source than the book Packard 1948-1950 by Robert J. Neal. The individual and forces that shaped these, to some modern day eyes, unfortunate-looking but modern-at-the-times cars, is a fascinating episode of automotive history.

Thanks for reading my latest diatribe. Your comments welcomed.
Steve

Posted on: 3/17 8:04:27
_________________
.....epigram time.....
Proud 1953 Clipper Deluxe owner.
Transfer the post to other applications Transfer


Re: Synopsis of forces and events leading to '48-'50 styling
Forum Ambassador
Joined:
2007/3/14 16:01
From New Jersey
Posts: 16064
I enjoyed your piece, nicely done. Let me offer a clarification; the 22nd/23rd series long wheelbase sedan bodies were built by Briggs, not Henney. Henney was fully committed to their new line of professional vehicles. An explanation is in the chapter on the long wheelbase sedans in Bob Neal's book.

Posted on: 3/17 8:26:47
Transfer the post to other applications Transfer


Re: Synopsis of forces and events leading to '48-'50 styling
Home away from home
Joined:
2008/10/10 7:29
From grand rapids, mi, usa
Posts: 1090
Nice summary. The Chrysler Thunderbolt and Newport prewar show cars were also influential, it would seem to me. While styling is as you say subjective, the requirement to reuse the Clipper tooling while having a flow-through side is what drove the doors being wider than the greenhouse. The closed cars' proportions are made a bit odd by this. The convertible won a styling prize.

I don't agree on GM having handled the styling era well - their financial muscle carried them through. The post-war Cadillac design still had rear fenders, as did Chevrolet through 54. The Independents led the way out of pre-war styling.

Posted on: 3/17 12:02:50
Transfer the post to other applications Transfer


Re: Synopsis of forces and events leading to '48-'50 styling
Home away from home
Joined:
2009/11/17 7:51
From Detroit, MI
Posts: 819
Wonderful synopsis Steve!!! You've captured all the major forces acting on the historic situation that Packard found itself in.

John Reinhart said that he and many other designers wanted to simply refine the Clipper with a theme he referred to as needle nose. Wonder if any sketches or pictures survived.

Why didn't pinch-penny Christopher figure out how to marry Clipper's dies to Packard's pre-war stamping presses, to inexpensively bring body production back in-house in 1945? The company invested a boatload in those presses for 1938, surely the equipment hadn't become obsolete 7 short years later. Did Packard let the expensive equipment sit outside? How would it have even been moved? Its hard to imagine it doing nothing more than staying right were it had always been.

Briggs should have been a seen as nothing more than a temporary arrangement.

Posted on: 3/17 12:48:21
Transfer the post to other applications Transfer


Re: Synopsis of forces and events leading to '48-'50 styling
Home away from home
Joined:
2008/10/10 7:29
From grand rapids, mi, usa
Posts: 1090
what was Packard's relationship with Budd at this time? The 41 bodies before the Clipper used door stampings from Budd. Could they have been an alternate to Briggs?

Posted on: 3/17 13:08:22
Transfer the post to other applications Transfer


Re: Synopsis of forces and events leading to '48-'50 styling
Home away from home
Joined:
2007/11/18 9:02
From Dalton, NY
Posts: 2359
Hi

Thanks for all your considered responses and perspectives. Each in turn:

Dave

“Let me offer a clarification; the 22nd/23rd series long wheelbase sedan bodies were built by Briggs, not Henney. “

That is a good point, I briefly considered including it but decided it was a bit of esoteric detail not directly germane to the subject of the series styling.


Bkazmer

“The Chrysler Thunderbolt and Newport prewar show cars were also influential,…”

“I don't agree on GM having handled the styling era well - their financial muscle carried them through. The post-war Cadillac design still had rear fenders, as did Chevrolet through 54. The Independents led the way out of pre-war styling. “


Indeed, both the Chrysler Thunderbolt and Newport by LeBaron, especially the former, were highly influential on the designers of the period when developing their visions of postwar cars.

‘Evolutionary, never revolutionary’ might well have been Harley Earl’s personal mantra when selecting which designs would be promoted for production. Allowing the independent automakers to pioneer, or maybe better described as being the guinea pigs, to try out advanced radical styling in production gave GM immediate feedback whether a new design direction would find general acceptance or be rejected. Misterl summarily rejected the pudgy, fully-envelope styling developed for the postwar Cadillac as late as the running metal prototypes. Variously named the “Interceptor” or “C.O.” for Commissioned Officer, in one of this famous turnarounds, Earl one day told his staff “To hell with that big blown-up thing (referring the C.O.)”. At which point they developed an evolutionary version first seen on the ‘42 Buick sedanette and convertible. The hood/cowl surface continues along the beltline, whereas the front fender line proceeds reward at full height until it dives behind the rear fender forms. This creates a flatter rounded section and a step in the visual height rather than one large pudgy fat roll top to bottom. The separate rear fenders rendered a crouching haunches look as in an animal about to leap. All the familiar forms were still present. This same concept is seen on the 1947 Studebaker. After the Free-Flow styling experience, Reinhart decided to include the vestigial rear fenders in the Contours as a visual break as well.

“what was Packard's relationship with Budd at this time? The 41 bodies before the Clipper used door stampings from Budd. Could they have been an alternate to Briggs?”


Budd supplied stamping and complete bodies to a wide variety of carmakers, component stamping for assembly in the carmaker’s plants were a major part of their business. They developed the all-steel bodies Dodge and Ford used early on. During the 1930’s Chrysler was a major customer with the Airflow as Budd had experience with unit-body construction from their European operations, the Citroen Traction Avant being one. This came to play leading to both the Nash 600 and step-down Hudsons. Studebaker was a major customer for their stampings to the end. The Budd Co. topic on Coachbuilt.com tells the history very well. Packard doesn’t appear to have been a major customer.

Apparently with the Clipper, Briggs finally had a complete grip on Packard’s volume body business including the stampings. From what has been written, the cozy Packard-Briggs relationship seems to have developed as Briggs assisted closely in the Clipper’s design, willingly took over its construction to free up plant space as Packard accepted more ordinance materiel work. Walter Briggs and Alvan Macauley were friends and business associates so when it came to who owned what stamping presses that had been transferred from Packard to Briggs, there was nothing in writing to determine that. Being dependent on a sole supplier was painting themselves into a corner when things went sour.

Paul West (Mahoning63)

“John Reinhart said that he and many other designers wanted to simply refine the Clipper with a theme he referred to as needle nose. Wonder if any sketches or pictures survived?”

If those sketches have survived, they haven’t been identified yet. What the refinement of the Clipper themes were may not have impressed Ed Macauley as being advanced enough to give Packard an edge. The progression of the Brown Bomber customization process seems to be the best window into the thinking as each new feature and detail found its way from the clay to a work-up in metal. Not having a parallel path of alternatives to select from essentially doomed the car to have the styling as it developed. The pitfalls of a tiny, underdeveloped styling department when such was becoming critical to remain competitive.

Steve

Attach file:



jpg  Cadillac-1946-Interceptor.jpg (20.27 KB)
409_5e726420a535e.jpg 600X360 px

Posted on: 3/18 11:17:48
_________________
.....epigram time.....
Proud 1953 Clipper Deluxe owner.
Transfer the post to other applications Transfer


Re: Synopsis of forces and events leading to '48-'50 styling
Forum Ambassador
Joined:
2007/4/20 17:54
From Fresno CA
Posts: 15731
Quote:
The company invested a boatload in those presses for 1938, surely the equipment hadn't become obsolete 7 short years later.


Don't know about obsolete but I think it might have been Ward's book that mentioned when Packard revamped for war production they did move a lot of tooling and production machinery outside and let it sit relatively unprotected during the war. Perhaps it was not obsolete but more the equipment was considered aging and was damaged enough to not warrant investing a lot more money to fix it when there was a less costly alternative that could be ready for postwar production sooner.

Posted on: 3/18 12:08:18
_________________
Howard
Transfer the post to other applications Transfer


Re: Synopsis of forces and events leading to '48-'50 styling
Home away from home
Joined:
2007/10/28 7:49
Posts: 2381
To quote one packard engineer: "We were tooling ourselves to death..." when referring to the multiple wheelbases, chassis, and bodies they were building before the war. So the Clipper line boils down to pure economics. Given the Packard balance sheet didn't improve one lick between 1929 and 1942 it is easy to understand dropping the old shop worn body styles in favor of the Clipper. There is little evidence in the automotive press of anybody bemoaning the postwar styling. The notion of damaged tooling gains some credence considering how much the ZIS built bodies appear a hybrid of Cadillac and Packard styling.

While the bathtub look became controversal among those suffering from the Gatsby syndrome, good art is always controversal, and in some ways the bathtubs looked better than the Clipper. The argument that Cadilllac styling sunk Packard is something I don't find compelling. The Reinhardt styling is much lighter and more modern than the bloated GM products of the same period. Although I always thought the grille was too heavy. However, Cadillac had a superior powertrain in all respects from 1949 onward. When I get behind the wheel of a period Chevrolet with stick shift I am impressed by how balanced they are. I can't say that about those Packards. But it isn't until 1963-64 when the automotive press began calling Cadillac a true world class luxury car.

That can't be said today. The Cadillac sedans of today don't ride any better than a $15,000 Toyota Yaris.

Posted on: 3/18 13:52:30
Transfer the post to other applications Transfer


Re: Synopsis of forces and events leading to '48-'50 styling
Home away from home
Joined:
2009/11/17 7:51
From Detroit, MI
Posts: 819
Kimes' book said the U.S. government reimbursed Packard to fix damaged equipment and that the company's real problem was the extensive time spent repairing, which delayed restart of production and cost the company lost sales.

It seems to have taken Mr. Earl almost a decade to finally get the C.O. theme right, see Strato Streak.

Never saw the wisdom in spending half to two-thirds the cost of an all-new program to do a major refresh as Packard did for '48 and '55. Better to wait a year to do all-new. The '49 Cosmopolitan probably makes the best argument why.

Packard was at a cross-roads. They needed scale and the dealers needed a mix of lower and higher priced vehicles that were completely different in size, appearance, performance and comfort. Too bad Packard couldn't strike a deal with FoMoCo, the '49 Ford with longer axle-dash would have made a good Eight while Cosmo would have led to a wonderful Custom. Image below has two inches added to axle-dash to get the wheelbase up to Packard's traditional 127 and to better package the long Eights, backlight is a more private one-piece affair and taillights have more bling. Long, low, clean and a one-piece windshield. Thoroughly modern for the times.

More realistically, they might have struck a love-without-marriage deal with George Mason when he first approached them in 1946. A car like the Cosmo and a shorter-hooded version for Ambassador might have given the new platform its needed scale, with body-on-frame and panels stamped in Kenosha and shipped nested to EGB for body build, paint and final. Nash could have gone ahead with its '49 Airflyte unibody fastback, with Packard shipping the 282 Eight to Kenosha to replace what would have been the 121 wb Ambassador (now with open front wheels) and built alongside Pacemaker.

These are just examples of the type of thinking they needed. What happened to that once great and gutsy company that sat atop the industry, fueled by big thoughts and in total command of its business and the industry?

Attach file:



jpg  1954 Pontiac Strato Streak.jpg (69.97 KB)
2060_5e72ccac5bbc7.jpg 933X529 px

jpg  49 Cosmopolitan side 127 wb Packard front and lower side trim new rear bumper.jpg (84.83 KB)
2060_5e7377d0104ab.jpg 1017X561 px

jpg  1949 Nash Ambassador 121 now Packard Eight.jpg (113.56 KB)
2060_5e7377e0b1ca1.jpg 1024X817 px

Posted on: 3/18 18:37:59
Transfer the post to other applications Transfer


Re: Synopsis of forces and events leading to '48-'50 styling
Home away from home
Joined:
2009/11/17 7:51
From Detroit, MI
Posts: 819
I suppose this is what the Ambassador would have looked like in general terms, Nash shipping its big Six to EGB, Packard building all the large BoF bodies. Pricing would have been up there with Hudson Commodore.

Attach file:



jpg  49 Cosmopolitan side Nash Ambassaddor 122.jpg (81.33 KB)
2060_5e72de4605804.jpg 985X562 px

Posted on: 3/18 19:45:06
Transfer the post to other applications Transfer



(1) 2 3 4 ... 6 »




[Advanced Search]


Search
Recent Photos
1947 packard (2020/7/2)
1947 packard
no title (2020/7/1)
no title
DSC05939.JPG (2020/6/27)
DSC05939.JPG
Anton Kneer (2020/6/13)
Anton Kneer
San Juan Motor Company (2020/6/13)
San Juan Motor Company
Random Photo
1927 Packard coupe with Mr. and Mrs. Harry Hartz
Helping Out
PackardInfo is supported and funded by user donations. If you would to help out by either donating content, or funds to help with the upkeep and hosting of this site please EMAIL ME or click on the donate button.