Thursday, August 17, 2017

Packard Grille Changes 1951-1954

Packard was America's leading luxury brand in the 1920s and into the 30s.  The company survived the Great Depression in part because it added less expensive models to its lineup.  Many writers blame this watering down of the Packard image for the eventual failure of the marque.  I am more inclined to believe that all of the smaller automobile firms were doomed because they lacked resources to compete with Detroit's "Big Three" during the 1950s and beyond.

In any case, it is true that Packard fell behind its rival, Cadillac, in sales.  This trend was not helped by Packard's unfortunate 1948 facelift that I touched on here.

A total redesign marked the 1951 model year.  As I note in my ebook "How Cars Faced the Market," Packard was one of those companies that favored strong, consistent styling cues that visually proclaimed the brand.  Packard used red hexagons on its hubcaps, a pen-nib spear side trim, and what many observers term a "yoke" grille.  The latter feature worked well when cars were tall and hoods were narrow.  But the '51 Packards followed industry design trends and were comparatively low and wide.  Plus, American styling fashions in the late 1940s and early 50s called for large, chromed grille elements.  So Packard stylists had to come up with grille designs that were low, wide and bold, yet carried on shape elements from previous Packards.


Here is an example of a traditional grille.  The car is a 1934 Packard Super Eight Coupe Roadster (RM Sotheby's auction photo).  The key theme continuity elements are at the top of the grille ensemble.

Shown here are 1951 Packards.  From front to rear are 400, 300 and 200 models (the higher the number, the more luxurious).  The upper parts of their grilles carry on the theme seen in the pervious image.  Grille interiors were made up of bold, chromed shapes in line with the current styling fashion.  I think the "teeth" in the 400's and 300's grilles are unnecessary and awkward.

The only change for 1952 grilles is the addition of a Packard crest at the top center (Gooding auction photo).

Those teeth were deleted on 1953 models, and the interior bar design was simplified, with some ribbing added: nice improvement.  Gone is the pen-nib chrome spear.

Grilles were unchanged for 1954.  Side trims were replaced and little wedges were added atop the headlight bezels.  This car's bumper is out of vertical alignment (Barrett-Jackson auction photo).  Packards were given a major facelift and new motors for 1955.

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