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Re: The Sudden End of the Detroit Packards
#11
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Dave Brownell
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Like the Chinese curse, Packard's last three Michigan years were "interesting." While I agree that no amount of speculating can un-do what seems like a shame, there must have been a lot of bad feelings going on among still-familiar names including Romney, Ford and McNamara that took its toll. George Romney, as President of the American Auto Manufacturer's Association was courted by Christopher and McCauley to be the new president of Packard in 1948. He turned them down and the "Hotpoint Hotshot", James Nance took the job in 1952. Romney, instead, went with George Mason's Nash-Kelvinator as it merged with Hudson. He scuttled Mason's merger plans with Nance's Studebaker-Packard, partly out of a dislike for Nance and his opportunism. Oh-well. We know how that ended. AMC would last another thirty years.

Looking at the final 1956 product in my garage, I am wondering who was deciding things at Packard when the final big cars were planned. Where were the engineering cost-cutters when the new trunk lids were fitted over the previous trunk's steel sub-structure? Did the 56's really need Autolite's pushbutton transmission to sell cars? Who said 12 volt negative ground had to happen? A whole new (but similar) front bumper and die-cast grille in an early (chrome) and later (gold anodized) grill? New rear axles and brake drums. And that 56 trunk latch is an engineering work of art! Richard Teague's head must have been swimming with all of these approved model changes as the circling of the drain was beginning. Not that I don't appreciate the changes, but the bean counters, today, would be having fits. Maybe that's the lesson that was learned. I'd say that the 56s went out with a very level and smooth Big Bang. Excellent to the end!

Posted on: 2014/1/25 14:10
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Re: The Sudden End of the Detroit Packards
#12
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ECAnthony
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A few minor points, perhaps. George Romney was NOT the head of the AMA in 1948, George Mason was. (Alvan Macauley had retired as president of the AMA in 1946.) Mason remained president of the AMA until his death in 1954. Romney was the head of the Detroit office of the AMA (Macauley had hired him in 1940 for the job). After not seeing Macauley - his old boss - for 2 years, Romney decided to pay him a visit at East Grand Blvd in February of 1948. After they talked for a while, Macauley, out of the blue, offered Romney a job at Packard "as an executive and a member of the [Packard] board of directors. Romney replied that he was honored and would certainly consider it. The next day Macauley had him see George Christopher... and they worked out the terms of the contract." [from The Story of George Romney, by Tom Mahoney] Two days later, a contract was drawn up by Packard's Henry Bodman, and Hugh Ferry was informed "We are hiring George Romney." Romney then called Mason, on vacation in Bermuda at the time, to inform him that he would be leaving the AMA for PMCC. Mason asked him not to do anything until he got back into town. Once Mason talked to Romney, Romney made the hard decision to join Nash.

At about the same time (!) the Packard board of directors turned down Mason's offer to "merge" Nash with Packard -- it would have been a takeover, as what happened in 1954 to Hudson. After these twin turndowns by Romney and his own Packard board, Macauley left Packard, never to return.

Posted on: 2014/1/25 17:06
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Re: The Sudden End of the Detroit Packards
#13
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Craig the Clipper Man
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While the history lessons of the 1930s are somewhat pertinent to the ultimate demise of Packard, I think the fact that the company managed to survive the Depression and enter the 1940s with new innovations and brand new models that appealed to buying public. The real death knell was something that at the time seemed a curse and blessing -- World War II. A curse because the war halted what was the beginning of a burst of demand for the remarkable new Clipper and a blessing for the contracts war production would bring.

Packard came out of the war in strong economic shape, but faced with the problem of retooling and restarting its manufacturing from scratch. This was a formidable task for any car company. This was when the fatal mistakes began to occur. While it appears that Packard's Detroit shutdown was abrupt and shocking, the company's real demise was a long, slow, drawn-out affair that was percipitated by numerous, unrelated bad decisions that started long before James Nance ever considered employment with Packard.

Posted on: 2014/1/25 19:36
You can make a lot of really neat things from the parts left over after you rebuild your engine ...
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