Last week* was the 58th anniversary of the date that the last true Packard that was built in Detroit by the storied automaker. If you follow the conventional wisdom about Packard, one of the great American luxury car makers, two things are taken as truisms. One is that offering the so-called “junior” Packards in the 1930s, something like Buicks were to Cadillac and Mercurys were to Lincoln, what we might today call entry level luxury, fatally tainted the prestige of the brand, ultimately leading to its demise. The other is that Jim Nance, who ran Packard in its last years as an independent automaker, mismanaged the company into oblivion. Contrarian that yours truly is, I’m not sure either of those things are quite accurate. (Read More…)
When you’re going to a car show featuring 80 and 90 year old pre-war classic American cars, you don’t expect to run across a half dozen exotic Italian sports cars. Earlier this year, the Gilmore Car Museum, near Hickory Corners, Michigan, just north of Kalamazoo, was hosting a meet of the Pierce-Arrow Society. In addition to their own collection, the Gilmore hosts a number of smaller museums devoted to particular marques. One of the museums on the Gilmore site is the Pierce-Arrow Museum, associated with the Pierce-Arrow Society, so the Gilmore is a natural location for a Pierce-Arrow meet. Joining the Pierce-Arrows were some cars from Peerless, another premium American motorcar from the first three decades of the 20th century. Surprisingly, the Gilmore didn’t put some of their Packards on display at the museum. Together with Packard, Pierce-Arrow and Peerless were known as the “Three-Ps of Motordom”, the three most prestigious automobile brands in the United States. Even without Packards on the show field there was a third P at the Gilmore, however, as apparently a Pantera club decided to drive over and visit the museum. There were a half dozen of the Italian-American sports cars parked side by side in the parking lot.
You’re probably familiar with the rough outlines of the De Tomaso Pantera’s history involving an Argentinian who wanted to build midengine Italian sports cars and a guy in Dearborn named Hank the Deuce who wanted to thumb his nose at Enzo Ferrari. Powered by a Ford 351 Cleveland V8 and sold at Lincoln-Mercury dealers from 1971 until the 1973 oil crisis cratered performance car sales, over 6,000 Panteras were sold through FoMoCo. After Henry Ford II lost interest, Alejandro deTomaso kept the Pantera in more limited production for the European market and it was actually built into the 1990s.
Less well known to today’s car enthusiasts are Peerless and Pierce-Arrow.
It started with a photo of a strange looking Pinto with a targa style roof and it metastasized into an encyclopedia of just about every concept car you never heard about. Part One, Acura to Chevrolet, is here. Part two, Chrysler to Ford, is here. Part three, Honda to Mercury, is here.
Mitsubishi likes three letter acronyms and alphanumerics. Behold, above, the HSR III from 1992, some kind of Eclipse concept, I think. (Read More…)
General Motors was the largest supplier of war materiel to the American armed forces. Ford famously built B-24 Liberators that rolled off the Willow Run assembly line at a rate of one per hour. Chrysler alone built as many tanks as all the German tank manufacturers combined. With those high profile contributions to the war effort made by the big three automakers, it’s easy to forget that the independent automakers (and automotive suppliers as well) also switched over completely to military production.
Start the video, then pause. Click on the “3D” icon on the YouTube menu bar to select your choice of 3D formats or 2D. Video and original photos courtesy of Cars In Depth
We’ve all seen too many pictures and videos of the magnificent ruin that was once the Packard plant on Detroit’s east side. It turns out that there’s a Packard site in the Detroit area that’s not a ruin, the Packard Proving Grounds in Shelby Twp. about 15 miles north of Eight Mile Road. Like the Packard plant on East Grand Blvd, Albert Kahn designed all the original Packard buildings on the proving grounds site, including a tudorish looking lodge where the facility’s manager and his family lived. It may be the only place where Kahn designed both residential and industrial buildings. It was built in 1927 at a cost of over a million dollars. Packard used the facility to develop and test their cars, aviation engines (there was a small airfield inside the big oval track – Charles Lindbergh visited the site), and also for publicity and marketing. The proving grounds even had a role in the Arsenal of Democracy. Chrysler used the facility during WWII to test Sherman tanks, erecting a building used to service the tanks that were tested inside the paved oval.
Additional video after the jump.
And here’s how the Wall Street Journal wraps sensationalistic video in the mantle of investigative journalism. [Thanks to clutchcargo for the link.]