Mike: I defer to you on most matters - but I can assure you, 100%, no
doubt, done deal.....that Packard bought Studebaker. Packard was a much
smaller company, but was "gilt edged" with money in the bank despite
falling sales after 1951. They made advances to Studie to gain more
outlets and a lower-price line but were rebuffed until 1954 when
Studebaker's high overhead caught-up to them and they were nearly broke.
"Expert" consulting firms recommended that the buy-out be presented to
the public as a merger (like Daimler "merging" with Chrysler), but it
was in fact a buy-out, the cost of which and Studebaker losses mortally
wounded Packard in short order. (Packard was pretty dumb about it -
they took Studebaker at their word that their breakeven point was around
150,000 units and did the audit AFTER the "merger" and found it was
260,000......they sold about 80,000 in '54). A long sad tail
well-documented in many books: for the skinny on the business side of
it, consult "The Fall of the Packard Motor Car Company" by James A.
Ward, Stanford University Press, 1995.
Yes, Edsel was originally a stand-alone division when FoMoCo wanted to
meet GM headon with Ford-Edsel-Mercury-Lincoln-Continental all as
divisions. The handwriting was on the wall for Edsel pretty fast
(thanks in part to Robert McNamara who was then head of Ford division,
another story of intrigue)......and Mercury-Edsel-Lincoln was
constituted with Continental folded-in in '59.
BUT WAIT - THERE'S MORE:
Packard was hunting for a new leader starting in 1949 when they kissed
Prez George Christopher off (He who was responsible for the restyling of
the '41-47 Clipper into the '48 bathtub....and didn't think it needed
updating). Packard had 2 primary candidates in mind: James Nance, prez
of Hotpoint, and George Romney, who was assistant to prez George Mason
Mason was probably the greatest "visionary" of the industry, foreseeing
the end of the post WWII sellers market, the rise of compact cars, the
need for Nash to "niche market" with the Rambler, Nash-Healey and
Metropolitan rather than compete directly with the Big 3. He had been
head of Kelvinator (for youngers, Kelvinator made refrigerators and
came-up with the idea of shelves in the doors - the Kelvinator
Shelvadoor, styled by Raymond Loewy) and was picked by Charles Nash as
his successor.....Mason would only accept if Nash would also buy
Kelvinator. Hence, Nash-Kelvinator Corp......the reason Nash was one of
the leaders in auto air conditioning (introduced by Packard in 1940 but
not brought back after the war.....Nash had the first modern heater in
the 1930s, the "weather eye" into which air-conditioning was easily
added, beating the '54 Pontiac that normally claims to have the first
"all under the hood" system).
Mason tried to get his peers at Stude, Packard, Willys, Hudson et al to
consider a combined company as a means to survive the buyer's market he
saw coming.....but the others thought him daft and vanity got in the
way. At one point, Nash tried to buy Packard but was rebuffed by the
Both Romney and Nance were courted to be the new Packard President but
Romney wasn't interested and Nance lingered. Packard eventually hired
Nance in '53. When Briggs body company (who supplied Hudson and Packard
with all their bodies, and Plymouth bodies to Chrysler) was purchased by
Chrysler, Hudson didn't have the money to build their own and of
necessity fell into the arms of Nash/Mason.
Mason had talks with Nance at Packard and they supposedly had privately
agreed that Packard would buy Studebaker, then the two merged companies
would merge with each other, i.e. Studebaker-Nash-Hudson-Packard.
Shortly after Packard bought Stude, George Mason unexpectedly died.
Romney became head of Nash...... he despised Nance and that was the end
of those hopes - leaving Packard to squander its money trying to keep
Packard got a new body shell - designed by John Reinhart for the 1951
model year. Assuming it would be years before Packard would need
another all-new design, he left Packard and went to Ford where he was
the lead designer of the '56 Continental Mark II.
Nance greatly expanded Studebaker-Packard's small styling diviisions:
hiring William Schmidt (who had been head of Lincoln styling) as overall
director, and Richard Teague as head of Packard Styling (also
terminating Raymond Loewy's consulting contract with Studie). Schmid
was responsible for the all-new '56 Lincoln design and if you look at
the face-lifted '55-56 Packard (still the '51 shell) you'll see many
Lincoln-esque features.....indeed the '57 "Packard" was a Studebaker
body with even more '56 Lincoln touches.
Anyway......the whole thing came apart and all the cash was gone by June
'56. Packard had an all-new car styled and engineered for '57 but
didn't have the money to tool it up. Broke and living day-to-day, the
Packard factory, proving grounds, engineering, styling, etc., etc. were
shut down and sold (Ford bought the proving grounds......using the
engine/transmission/axle factory there to house their interior trim
division for many years........the grounds were later sold to the US
Post Office for a distribution center, but the entrance, garages,
"lodge", timing towers etc are a designated historial landmark and are
being restored by the Packard Club).
Most of Packard's engineering and styling people were snapped-up by
other companies.......a lot of stylists went to Chrysler and a number to
Ford. Packard's young chief experimental engineer, John DeLorean, went
to GM (every wonder why all those Grand Prix's had Packard grills on
them or Firebirds have '53 Studebaker grills and back windows?) James
Nance? He was friends with HFII and was hired to head........the new
Edsel Division !!!!! And.......surpise surprise.......look at a '58
Edsel and about 50% of it is '57 Packard/Clipper inspired, including the
upright grill.. Look at the '58-60 Lincoln/Continental and its very
reminiscent of the proposed big '57 Packard.....even the wheelbase is
the same.....and the '53 Packard Balboa and '56 Predictor had lowering
back glass like Turnpike Cruisers and Continentals There are photos
extant of Packard stylists doodling at their tables in '55.....and the
doodles look very much like Edsels.....and there's an EXACT rendition of
the '60 Edsel front-end in plain view. Well, small world ...... at
least we know that the planned '57 Packards wouldn't have sold.
Oh......poor James Nance: he took the rap for the fall of both Packard
and Edsel so he didn't have many opportunities left in the auto
world.......he moved to Cleveland as head of Central National Bank and
started First Union Realty investments: did so well the school of
business at Cleveland State is named for him. Robert McNamara left the
presidency of Ford to be Secretary of Defense and lead us to glory in
Vietnam. George Romney sold a lot of Ramblers.......hired Richard
Teague to style some of the best......got into politics and became
governor of Michigan. He's supposed to have a son who also dabbles in
politics I hear.
Sorry if I left anything out.