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1958 Packard Hawk : Classic Cars

There have always been cars that were questionable when they were introduced. This is not a recent phenomena, with examples that reach back to the dawn of the automotive age. There were a number of questionable 50s era cars that went on to some sales success. However, even I will admit that there were some very unorthodox cars that were built during this time period that question the sanity of the company producing them, including the Hudson Italia, The Kaiser Darrin, the Nash Metropolitan, even the early Chevrolet Corvette with a 6-cylinder and a Powerglide. Desperate times calls for desperate measures, and the faltering Studebaker/Packard corporation was creating cars from virtually nothing in the hopes of staying afloat, and our featured car is one of the last attempts at keeping Packard alive. Introducing the 1958 Packard Hawk Coupe.

It was a time of turmoil within the US automotive industry, with GM, Ford, and Chrysler going an ever increasing market share while putting the independent automakers under ever increasing stress. Nash, Hudson, Packard and Studebaker were all vulnerable, and there was a plan in the works to combine all four into another General Motors, but it never materialized. Nash completed its merger with Hudson, while Studebaker and Packard agreed to merge with each other, and that was as far as it went. Nash just stopped building any of the Hudson models after 1954, but it wasn’t quite out of the woods until the recession of 1958 when the country was looking for economy cars, and the newly formed American Motors offered just what they were looking for.

On the other hand, Studebaker left Packard a legacy of inefficiency, high break-even levels of production, and would have gone under if it wasn’t for the merger. Packard had a very strong financial standing, even if it wasn’t at the forefront of the luxury car market like it once was. Studebaker was like a parasite, bleeding the once vibrant Packard until it was left with nothing. Oh there were flashes of brilliance, like the Caribbean Convertible of 1953, and the new 1955 Senior Packards with their new V-8 and reworked body styles. But by 1957, the once proud Packard was nothing but a more upscale Studebaker. With Packard’s Detroit Assembly Plant abandoned, the the Packardbakers were assembled in South Bend Indiana right alongside other Studebakers.

In one last desperate attempt to move more upscale vehicles, the Packard Hawk was introduced for the 1958 Model Year. This was nothing more than a Studebaker Golden Hawk 400 from 1957, with a fiberglass front end, and a modified rear deck. Instead of the Studebaker Hawk’s upright Mercedes-style grille, the Packard Hawk had a low opening just above the front bumper and covering the whole width of the car. A smooth sloping nose and hood with a bulge accommodated the engine’s McCulloch supercharger that gave the Studebaker 289CID V-8 a total of 275HP. At the rear, the sides of the fins were coated in metallized PET film, giving them a shiny metallic gold appearance. A fake spare-tire bulge adorned the 1953 style Studebaker deck lid.

The interior was full leather, with a full instrumentation in an engine-turned dash. Padded armrests were mounted outside the windows, an unusual touch. The styling was definitely controversial, often described as ‘vacuum-cleaner’ or ‘catfish’ by detractors. Only 588 were sold, with Packard’s impending demise a likely contributing factor. Most were equipped with the Borg-Warner three-speed automatic transmission. Approximately 28 were produced with the B-W T85 3-speed w/overdrive manual transmission. Studebaker-Packard was the first manufacturer to popularize the limited-slip differential, which they termed Twin-Traction and most Packard Hawks came with TT.

The car had a retail price of $3,995 for 1958, which is equivalent to almost $31,000 today. Power Window Lifts and Electric Seat Adjustment were some of the options available to the Packard Hawk, but not Air Conditioning, because of the Supercharged Engine. So, what was Packard Thinking with the Packard Hawk? Pure desperation, in the hopes that a more luxurious Hawk would be the ticket to keep the Packard name alive. At least that’s my take on “What Were They Thinking”. What’s your take?

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Sources : 1958 Packard Hawk Photo | 1958 Packard Hawk Article


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