Tag Archives: Packard

The Packard Story: The Car and the Company

The Packard Story: The Car and the Company by Robert E. Turnquist
Published 1965 by A.S. Barnes and Company, Inc. (Third Printing 1969)
286pp., hardcover

Library of Congress No.: 65-14240

Purchased with other books from a collection posted on Kijiji.ca

It was this post on Disaffected Musings that had me selecting The Packard Story: The Car and the Company as my next read. I had recently purchased this book, along with some others. I hadn’t researched this book before I bought it (I rarely do), but the title had me excited. I somewhat naturally thought a book called The Packard Story: The Car and the Company would be a decent history, and explain the story of why Packard, healthy at the end of World War II, would exit the scene in the mid 1950s. That was the hope. I found Robert Turnquist’s book to be at times informative about Packards, at other times it wandered off onto related though maybe less relevant subjects.

So, let’s start with some obvious things. Chapter 1 is titled ‘The Second Series Eight and the Third Series Six’, and begins ‘The year is 1925…’ Considering the Packard brothers’ company was founded and produced a car in 1899, it seems an odd place to start ‘the story’ of Packard a quarter-century late. Turnquist does touch on the company’s beginnings — including the famous story of how dissatisfaction with a Winton drove the brothers to build their own car — but in truth, it’s only about 2 and a half pages of text to cover 25 years of history, and also touches on some of the company’s racing history.

The chapter continues with 5 paragraphs describing the Packard Six and Eight, followed by a couple paragraphs about the automotive landscape of 1925, and finally a description about Packard’s hallmark of releasing cars in ‘Series’ rather than by model year (at least until 1935).

Most chapters are generally like this. Chapter 2 (the Third Series Eight and Fourth Series Six) begins with a listing of the executive suite at Packard mid-1920s, and a half page about the advertising agency and in-house newsletters. There’s almost a page describing the National Auto Show, and finally 4 pages of text about the cars of the 2 series. The point is that chapters do not always limit themselves the car or the company, which means chapters get filled quickly.

The chapters are all around 10 pages, and in each, space is devoted to an overview of the National Auto Show and what competitor automakers were offering. Interspersed within chapter are topics including correct restoration tips for Packards, the details of correct paint on classic cars, the process for how fine leathers are selected and processed, and many pages about the custom coach and body builders of the era. Many coachbuilders including Dietrich, Derham, Rollston and Darrin (who was featured in this edition of Automobile Quarterly) are profiled. (For more information about the custom body builders, Coachbuilt.com is a good resource, though not a secure website.)

Chapters focus on specific series up to chapter 17 on the Twentieth Series of 1942, which was truncated by the change to wartime production. Chapter 18 is titled ‘The Postwar Packards’ and summarizes the 1946-1957 period in only 12 pages. The remaining 88 pages of the book are an appendix of charts detailing year-by-year (or rather series-by-series) production of Packards from 1899 up to the Twentieth Series before World War II production began. This includes production dates, engine bore and stroke, and a listing of body styles available with shipping weight and base price.

It turns out, Robert Turnquist was a respected automotive historian, and a Packard expert. He was a founding member of the Classic Car Club of America (CCCA), and a noted restorer. He championed car collecting and restoration. In that light, The Packard Story, as it’s written, makes a little more sense. Turnquist was certainly quite focused on ‘the Classics’, that is, Approved Classics as defiined by the CCCA. That explains why the post-WWII cars seem an afterthought, though it’s a little confusing why the pre-1925 cars were not included. It also helps explain why restoration information is included, and why so much attention is given to the custom body builders as well as Packard’s place among automakers.

Colour plate pages.

In terms of ‘the Packard story’, I found Turnquist did, to some extent, offer ideas on how the end came to be. He argues the mid-priced Packards were not a major factor in the demise of the company. To the contrary, Turnquist asserts that the high-end luxury market, and especially the custom-bodied luxury market, was always a small piece of the market as a whole, and declined as a result of the nation’s economic circumstances in the 1930s. Rather than tarnishing the Packard image, the introduction of the mid-priced Packard One Twenty provided a needed income source as fewer expensive senior Packards were built.

Turnquist then summarizes his beliefs about the company’s failure, mostly in the post-war chapter. Firstly, Turnquist says that following the Twentieth Series, the dies for the 160 and 180 cars were sold cheaply to Russia at the urging of the US Government. This left Packard with only the Clipper series to sell as the Twenty-First Series when the war ended. Secondly, despite winning accolades for design, the automotive press reacted very negatively to the Twenty-Second Series Packard, the ‘upside down bathtubs/pregnant elephants’, which did not help public opinion. Thirdly, while sales of Packards were very good in 1949, Turnquist suggests many of those sales were to people of lower income levels who used post-war bonus money to buy better cars. This meant few of them would become repeat buyers as their income simply wouldn’t allow for another new car in the same range. Finally, Turnquist lays much of the blame on James Nance, who became president of Packard in 1952. It’s Turnquist’s belief that Nance embarked on a far-too ambitious diversification and expansion program. Nance revamped management, forcing many long-term employees into retirement. He apparently also introduced a program to break with the past, destroying many historic corporate files as well as the store of obsolete parts Packard had on hand to sell to owners of older models. At the same time, Nance committed the company to debuting a completely new car by 1954 (which was ultimately pushed to 1955), as well as building a new engine plant in Michigan. Not only was capital stretched very thin at this point, but a plan to supply AMC with engines backfired. Packard was to purchase parts made by AMC, but when Packard didn’t actually purchase much, AMC stopped buying Packard-made engines, leaving the brand new engine plant operating at a much reduced capacity. The final blow was the merger with Studebaker. In that alliance, Packard was actually more sound financially, and Studebaker was in much worse shape. When the 1955 Packards came out, they soon developed quality issues in large part because the all-new chassis had not been thoroughly tested. While sales of the 55s were good, the quality issues seriously hurt sales the next year. Due to crippling financial issues, and that Studebaker management had more control, much of Packard’s production was moved to Studebaker’s facilities. A deal with Curtiss-Wright also hurt badly, as Curtiss used Packard-Studebaker as a tax loss vehicle, selling off assets or converting them to Curtiss-Wright production. In the end, the Packard name was grafted onto Studebaker shells as the company focused on the small car market, and eventually faded from the landscape.

So, ultimately The Packard Story: The Car and The Company is an interesting if somewhat wide-ranging book that tells at least a decent portion of the Packard history. Turnquist does provide a good amount of information about the Packard series he does cover. The extra info, about competitors and coachbuilding and restoration work, is useful in helping one understand where Packard fit in the automotive landscape. While I would have preferred more ‘inside baseball’ info, such as how and why corporate decisions were made, this book provides a sense of Packard and what the brand stood for. That is important when one considers that the last Packards were built over 65 years ago, and many have little to no firsthand memory of the marque. And while chapter covering the final years is greatly abbreviated, there is some very good information and pictures of Packard prototype cars and what might have been future production.

Notable in this book is the inclusion of 8 colour plates. Long time readers will know that every ‘older’ book I’ve reviewed has contained only black and white images. There are numerous black and whites throughout, but these 8 pages provide a great look at some classic Packards in their period correct colour schemes. In face one of the plates is the Eight Color Combination offer ring from what seems to be the Sixth (or possibly Eighth) Series.

Packard predictions, the Request and the Predictor.

Pros: A good deal of information about the classic Packards, written by an acknowledged expert on the marque, and written relatively soon after the company collapsed
Cons: wide-ranging information means less space devoted to full, detailed exploration of the cars and the company
Where to find it: Amazon, used bookstores, private collections

You might also enjoy…
1955 Packard Caribbean
Fifties Flashback: The American Car
American Motors Corporation: The Rise and Fall of America’s Last Independent Automaker

1955 Packard Caribbean

The larger the car show, the better chance you often have of seeing something you wouldn’t normally see. Once again, at the Fleetwood Country Cruize-In 2016, I found a 1955 Packard Caribbean convertible in the field. Packards in general are rare, but in this case, more so.

The Caribbean was created in response to the stunning dream car convertibles from GM, the Cadillac Eldorado, Buick Skylark and Oldsmobile Fiesta. There were only 500 Caribeean convertibles made in 1955, and another 276 in 1956, before Packard production stopped and the company joined Studebaker in an ill-fated merger of 2 struggling automakers. The sad truth is that Packard had, in terms of styling and engineering, caught back up to the Big Three, as the pretty Caribbean shows. The company however was terminally ill financially, had lost its body manufacturer, and the public wasn’t beating a path to Packard. By 1959, the Packard name no longer graced any new cars.

The Caribbean was shot using my Nikon D3200 with the 18-55mm Nikon lens. It was shot at ƒ/9, 1/320 sec shutter speed and ISO set at 100. As usual, the post-production was done in Photoshop and Topaz Adjust to bring up the detail in the non-factory paint. The original shot is below. The above is available as a poster for your garage or mancave by emailing shootyourcarmister@gmail.com.

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7:16
1960 Cadillac Sixty Special
1956 Continental Mark II

50 Shades of Rust: Barn Finds You Wish You’d Discovered

50 Shades of Rust: Barn Finds You Wish You’d Discovered by Tom Cotter
Published 2014 by Motorbooks
192 pp., hardcover


ISBN-13: 978-0-7603-4575-7

Acquired new from a retail bookstore

The great thing about the automotive hobby is there’s so many ways to be a part of it. Whether you race cars or restore them, whether you’re into old classics or the latest supercars, whether you love American iron or you’re into the import scene, there’s room for everyone under the classic and collector car tent.

One part of the hobby that seems to have gained in popularity is the search for the ‘barn find’. Seeking out and finding that hidden gem, the one with a story behind it. My most recent review touched on the barn find – cars stored away, maybe long forgotten and hidden from plain view. Tom Cotter has made a name as The Barn Find Hunter, travelling across North America in search of salvageable classics. I had watched many of his videos posted on Hagerty Insurance’s website. A few years ago I picked up one of his many books, 50 Shades of Rust: Barn finds You Wished You’d Discovered.

Collected are short stories about 94 cars, trucks and bikes that have been found and rescued from what seemed to be their final resting places. And it’s quite an eclectic collection…
… a 5000-mile Porsche 914/6 that sat inhabited by mice for 36 years.
Ed ‘Big Daddy’ Roth’s Orbitron, rescued from use as a dumpster in Mexico.
… a McCormack sports car resembling the one on the cover of Motor Life.
… an SCCA Mustang reunited with its driver after 40 years.
… a 1930s aluminum Peugeot traded for a 1964 Ferrari Lusso which was then traded for a 1965 Lola T-70 racer.
… the oldest production Mustang known to exist.
… a deteriorating AMC dealership, closed since 1980 and still stocked with cars, parts and brochures.
… Dyno Don Nicholson’s 1970 Mustang NHRA drag racer.
… a Yenko Deuce Nova hidden in a trailer for 25 years.
… a 1929 Packard stored in a shed tucked up in a mountain retreat.

And that’s just a few of the stories that also include hot rods reunited with the people who drove them as teenagers, former NHRA and NASCAR performers, and 2 cars now owned by Jay Leno after the owners wrote letters to him offering them for sale. Some of these cars were literally rotting into the ground, others buried under all sorts of things in a garage, and others just hidden away. They aren’t even all just cars as a few trucks and motorcycles get their due.

Some may find this book just doesn’t give enough of the story. Truthfully, there’s not a whole lot of information that can be packed into just a page or two. There are few pictures with each story, but many are somewhat small. I think each story offers just enough to grab your interest but leaves you wanting to know more. In some cases, there isn’t much more to know — the car has been rescued, and nothing much more has happened. For others, they were restored or were in process. And some quickly passed out of the hands of the owner to someone else. And some of them actually do make it back out on the road.

One thing you do come away with is the knowledge that every car does have its unique story. If you’re the type of person who loves the idea that somewhere out there, in the corner of a shed or quonset hut, the object of your automotive lust sits, just waiting to be discovered, then 50 Shades of Rust is the kind of book that will stir your passions. It may be light on details, but there’s more than enough to whet your appetite to get out there and start hunting.

Pros: lots of interesting stories, and a huge variety of cars, trucks and bikes, some you may never have heard of.
Cons: the stories are short, and the pictures are small. It would be great to see how some of these cars got the restoration they deserved.
Where to get it: Amazon, bookstores.

7:16

The day I shot the Corvette, I was actually in the scrap yard to find this car, a 1948-50 Packard. The car itself was rough (as you’d expect), with the hood and trunk lid missing, and the straight 8 picked over, but much of the car was actually there. I was very pleased to find the dashboard in decent shape, and decided the clock would be a great focal point… 7:16, perhaps the exact time of death for this old car.

The early post-war Packards were, unfortunately, the beginning of the end for the venerable automaker. In 1948, Cadillac debuted new sleek styling, followed in 1949 by Ford’s modern ‘shoebox’ slab-side styling. The result was Packard, along with other independents, had styling that many derided as ‘the upside-down bathtub’ look. Packard wouldn’t get a more modern style to market until the 1951 model year.

Another blow came in the form of the OHV V8 engines being offered in 1949 by Cadillac and Oldsmobile. Smooth and powerful, the over-head valve V8 quickly became the industry standard. Packard’s straight 8 engine was suddenly very old-fashioned, and a V8 wouldn’t debut until 1955, which by then even Ford had their Y-block available in the low-cost range,

The final blow came in the form of a 1953-54 price war waged by GM and Ford. Having been late to the game with more modern styling, seen as out-of-date with younger buyers, without V8 power and having lost a good part of the upscale market to Cadillac, Packard was unable to compete on cost. Sales of many independent carmakers dwindled and Packard soon merged with Studebaker, which hardly prolonged the inevitable.

The above image was shot in Scarborough, Ontario with a Nikon D3200, 18-55mm lens at 27mm, ƒ8.0, 1/125, ISO 250. It was cropped and sized in Photoshop, and processed with help from Topaz Adjust. The original shot is below. And as always, a print can be ordered by contacting shootyourcarmister@gmail.com.

Roadsters and Runabouts: Collecting and Restoring Antique Classic and Special Interest Sports Cars

Roadsters and Runabouts: Collecting and Restoring Antique Classic and Special Interest Sports Cars by Bob Stubenrauch
Published in 1973 by Dodd, Mead and Co.
274 pp., hardcover

ISBN: 0-369-06799-9

Acquired from the estate of a friend and fellow ‘car guy’. Currently out of print.

You could be an auto enthusiast your whole life, owning many different vehicles. You can go to cruises, meets, car shows and auctions, and travel to automotive museums. There will still be cars you won’t have much chance of ever seeing in person. Some of the great classics of automotive history are rarely seen and often in only the most special circumstances.

The collector car hobby goes back many years. The Antique Automobile Club of America has existed since 1935. The Classic Car Club of America, formed in 1952, keeps a list of what are considered ‘Approved Classics’. As these cars are limited to those built between 1915 and 1948, it’s easy to see why it can be rare to encounter these cars in person. Often, one must rely on books such as Roadsters and Runabouts: Collecting and Restoring Antique Classic and Special Interest Sports Cars to become at least acquainted with some of these great classics automobiles.

Author Bob Stubenrauch was a collector car hobbyist who wrote a couple books about old cars. Written in 1973, this book is a real trip back to a different time, and not simply because the cars are old.

Stubenrauch opens with almost 45 pages of information on identifying worthy classic cars, searching them out, negotiating a sale, finding parts through meets and flea markets. Though written almost 50 years ago, some of the information is still relevant. Certainly, the internet has helped make the process easier. There are still cars to be found in back garages and old barns, and there are still treasures to be found in flea markets and swap meets. The author writes of inquiring at the local garage about cars that may be hidden in town, or befriending local tradesmen who may have spied such cars at their customers’ homes. Believe it or not, some of these methods still work! I know of one such tradesman who has acquired a few nice cars himself simply by noticing and asking if the car is available. Now, these methods are more difficult today, as the world has changed. But it’s true that word of mouth still works well.

One thing that certainly has changed since 1973 is what it takes to purchase such cars. It’s a trip to read things like…

… a 1930 Model A roadster being sold for $350.
… three years ago this writer (could) acquire an excellent 1931 Chrysler Imperial sedan for $1000 and a 1926 Minerva opera coupe for $1250.

… and so forth. For reference, in a Facebook group I saw an ad with a new 1970 Ford Galaxie sedan for $2469. Imagine acquiring a that ’31 Imperial, a top line classic in excellent condition for 40% the cost of the average new car! Today, a search on Hemmings shows a 1935 Imperial sedan at $68,000. The days of acquiring an ‘Approved Classic’ for a grand are surely long gone.

Strangely, the remainder of the book veers away from finding and restoring cars to features of 24 classic cars. The names are legendary – Hupmobile, Packard, Mercer, Stutz, Lincoln, Mercedes, Jordan, Bentley, Ruxton, Marmon, Duesenberg, Cord, Bugatti and more. Stubenrauch even considers what would be ‘modern classics’ by adding cars such as the 1953 Buick Skylark, 1960 Corvette and 1963 Studebaker Avanti.

The text of the features is somewhat odd though. It’s a mix of corporate histories, notes on other cars by the manufacturer and some info on the particular car featured. There isn’t a discernible pattern – the 1957 Thunderbird feature is mostly about the 1955-57 Thunderbird, while the Avanti feature devotes much space to the history of Studebaker and the cars it built before the Avanti debuted. However the information found is interesting and still tells a story about collector cars.

What is wonderful about this book is the photographs. Yes, they are in black and white (for reasons I’ve mentioned in other reviews). However, there are many of them. Each car gets 9-12 clear, mostly large photos, many detail shots including interiors and special features. Some features include advertising. The photos are a great way to learn about these cars, which as stated above, you’d be lucky to encounter in person.

All in all, I enjoyed Runabouts and Roadsters very much. Coupled with Famous Old Cars, these books give wonderful insight into some of the truly classic cars of early motordom. Don’t look for any technical information to help you restore your pre-war car, it’s not here. This book is strictly for relaxing and travelling back to the early days of roadster motoring.

Pros: some of the most revered cars in early motoring are featured; lots of great photography of cars that are often hard to find.
Cons: there could have been more detailed information on the feature cars.
Where to find it: Amazon, eBay, private collections, used book dealers.

Fifties Flashback: The American Car

Fifties Flashback: The American Car by Dennis Adler
published 1996, 2012 by Crestline Publishing
160 pages, hardcover

ISBN-13: 978-0-7858-2831-0

Purchased new from a book retailer.

Each decade of motorcar manufacture seems to have a personality to it. And when it comes to personality, the cars of 1950s have plenty, full of glitz, glamour and go-go-go! Dennis Adler’s Fifties Flashback: The American Car does a very good job exposing those big glitzy cars with great photos and a wealth of information. He describes not only the vehicles but gives a decent background to describe how these sometimes outlandish behemoths came to exist.

Adler’s first 2 chapters set the stage. The first chapter describes what was happening in the country. The post-war prosperity, the creation of the interstate system, the birth of rock’n’roll, the rise of the motor hotel and the notion of travel throughout the country for pleasure. But Adler also describes an idea that drove automotive design to new heights – planned obsolescence, the idea that the next model should look so great that this year’s model seems old and worn out. The next chapter, Adler fills in the automotive design background. He describes how the immediate post-war years saw warmed over pre-war designs until such time as manufacturers finally introduce the new sleeker, lower cars of the late 1940s and early 1950s.

From there, Adler does a nice job of covering some of the star cars from the ’50s. While the main focus is on the shiny chrome and sheer size of these cars, Adler includes a good amount of information covering performance and engineering, as well as some of the corporate intrigue, how personalities worked together (or didn’t) to steer design in one direction or another. Topics covered in some depth include the development of the GM ‘Dream Cars’ – the 1953 Corvette, Eldorado, Skylark and Fiesta; the engineering of the Ford Skyliner’s retractable metal roof; the development of the Corvette and Thunderbird as competing sports cars; and George Mason’s plan to merge 4 floundering companies to create American Motors.

1953 Oldsmobile Fiesta ‘Dream Car’.
Ford’s Skyliner convertible and Edsel.

Also of note, the book includes a number of quotes and insights from people such as Chuck Jordan, Dave Holls and Jack Telnack. These men were in the thick of automotive design during the 1950s, being directly involved with the development of a numbe rof these vehicles.

As enjoyable as this book is, I did find some things to quibble with.

There seems a bias towards cars made in the latter half of the decade. It’s somewhat understandable as there is a distinct change in styling from that was seen with the 1955 models. As many of the new post-war designs came in 1948-49, it makes sense that the aesthetic would carry on to mid-decade. Adler doesn’t completely ignore the pre-1955 cars – as said, the GM Dream Cars do get quite a bit of ink. But there’s little to see of cars like the 1950-51 Ford, the first Chev Bel Air, or the early 50s Chryslers.

Hudson, Nash, Studebaker and Packard get their due.

Secondly, the Chrysler Corporation seems under-represented. The are not completely ignored, as the 1957 300C, 1957 DeSoto Adventurer and 3 of Exner’s Idea Cars show up. By comparison to the GM and Ford representation though, coverage is lacking. Yes, Chrysler styling prior to 1955 was very stodgy, but there is a real lack of Dodge, Plymouth and Imperial cars. In fact, while the 1957 300C gets a number of paragraphs, there’s nothing about how the famed C-300 came to be in 1955 when an Imperial front end was married up to a New Yorker wearing Windsor rear flanks.

Thirdly, the final chapter focuses on hot rods and customs, and it seems something of an afterthought. It’s a difficult chapter to describe. This book is certainly all about the factory styling, but any discussion about cars in the 1950s would have to include hot rods and customs which had a huge presence. It’s just that hot rodding and custom cars are such a big subject that the chapter seems inadequate. There are some nice cars shown, and the big names like Winfield and Barris and Roth show up, but it just doesn’t seem enough.

Overall, Denis Adler’s Fifties Flashback is a very enjoyable book that provides information and visual appear to drive you to seek out more. It’s really a flashback to a time when chrome was king and the automobile took hold as a major influence on American society.

Pros: good historical context and insider information, lots of great photos
Cons: not much on cars from the early part of the decade, Chrysler seems under-represented
Where to find it: Amazon, ebay, used bookstores, personal collections

You might also enjoy…
Cadillac: The Tailfin Years
1956 Continental Mark II
The Complete Book of Classic Ford F-Series Pickups: Every Model from 1948-1976

The development and competition between the early Corvette and Thunderbird is featured, as well as notes on other sportscars of the era.
Back cover featuring the iconic 1959 Cadillac Eldorado

Automobile Quarterly Volume 7, Number 1

Automobile Quarterly Volume 7, Number 1 edited by
published 1968 by Automobile Quarterly
112 pages, hardcover

Library of Congress number: 62-4005

Acquired from the estate of a friend and fellow ‘car guy’. Currently out of print.

We take a bit of a detour here as we review an edition of Automobile Quarterly. Technically, AQ was a periodical, like a magazine, and for various reasons I want to stick to books as opposed to magazines. But AQ wasn’t really a magazine… it was more like a book that came out 4 times a year.

Automobile Quarterly began in 1962, the editions were hardbound, and further it contained no advertising. It’s subtitle was “The Connoisseur’s Magazine of Motoring Today, Yesterday, and Tomorrow”, and articles covered not just the cars, but the people involved with cars and other subjects related to motoring. The articles weren’t limited to a few pages, and there could be multiple articles relating to one theme.

And so it is with Volume 7 Number 1, the Summer 1968 edition, which really packed some huge names into its pages. Start with 20 pages about legendary champion driver Rudi Caracciola, excerpted from Mercedes racing team manager Alfred Neubauer‘s book Speed Was My Life. Follow that with a number of pages of paintings that recalled moments from Caracciola’s racing career, and then a memoir from Rudi’s wife Alice. Then, Phil Hill (yes, that Phil Hill) gave his impression of the Mercedes SSK, the car Rudi drove in the European Hill Climb Championships. These are not simply articles reciting the acheivements and records of Caratsch (as Caracciola was called). Neubauer and Alice Caracciola remember the man, his life, the determination and skill and pain and suffering of a racing driver. In the days long before the internet, you would have gone well beyond numbers and records and come to know a great deal about one of the pre-war greats in auto racing.

Walter Gotschke’s impressions of Caracciola’s racing career are a visual treat.
Read Champion Phil Hill’s thoughts on the Mercedes SSK.

To be truthful, both Neubauer and Alice paint a scene of European racing as a whole back in the pre-war days. Their remembrances are filled with stories not just about Rudi, but of excitement and honour, dangers and tragedies that was early racing. Both are deeply personal in their memories, but reading the stories one gets a sense of the closeness of the community, the highs and lows of racing in those days.

Changing gears, AQ features a story penned by Dutch. As in, Howard ‘Dutch’ Darrin, famed automotive engineer and designer of custom-bodied cars, known for Packard-Darrins, the Packard Clipper, and the Kaiser Darrin. Darrin regales with stories of how he entered and then left the corporate automotive world, and got into the custom-body business, all the while enjoying quite the life between Paris and America. There are renderings of some of Dutch’s great designs, and a great photo-feature of a Darrin Packard Super 8 Victoria, certainly a rare vehicle to see.

The Darrin Packard Super 8 Victoria.

The issue wraps up focused on Buick. One of the mainstay marques of American production, the story tracks the early beginnings of David Dunbar Buick‘s efforts, turns on the arrival of William Crapo Durant and his success building GM on the foundation of Buick, through to the late 1960s. There’s a significant amount of information about the company and it’s place within General Motors. The focus tends to be mostly on the people managing Buick, and the various financial and structural aspects of the company, especially in the early years. There’s a more cursory description of the cars themselves, the models, pricing and innovations from year to year. All in all though one gets a good insight into the creation of one of the lasting marques of the automotive world. This is followed by a few pages featuring the Buick ‘Bug’, a car that established the marque’s racing credibility.

Durant and Buick, and a handwritten note from Durant’s wife celebrating her husband’s success at the 1905 New York auto show, selling 1108 cars.
Buick for ’53 – Riviera and Skylark

Finally, there’s a wrap up of motorsport activities from the early part of 1968, tracking race results in the major bodies, from Formula 1 to USAC. Included in this particular edition is the record of 3 fatal incidents – World Champion Jim Clark at Hockenheim, Mike Spence at Indianapolis, and Lodovico Scarfiotti at Rossfeldstrasse.

I appreciated the depth of coverage found in AQ. Fully half the book is dedicated to Caracciola, his career and his cars. Yes, the Neubauer excerpt is lengthy, but the variety of perspective then offered by the painted images or early racing, Mrs. Caracciola’s memoir, and exploration of a car Rudi drove makes for a much more interesting portrait. The same may be said for the pages dedicated to Darrin and Buick – interesting and extensive information presented in an enjoyable manner.

Sadly, AQ last published in 2012, and it seems it won’t be coming back. Cliche as it may sound, the proliferation and easy accessibility of content on the internet, coupled with the high and hard costs of publishing a high-quality hardbound printed book pretty much ensure there’d be little chance such a periodical could find an audience that would sustain it. However, it is possible to find used copies, many likely in very good condition. If Volume 7 Number 1 is an indication, any edition of AQ will be an enjoyable trip back in automotive history.

Pros: fairly in-depth look at some of the ‘big’ name in auto history; very good imagery, going beyond simple photos
Cons: at worst, the photos of the Mercedes SSK and Packard are ‘dated’ by comparison to what you might see in current magazines
Where to find it: Available on Amazon, eBay, used bookstores.

You might also enjoy…
Open-top Style: An A to Z of Convertible Autos
1932 Buick Series 57S Special Sedan

Famous Old Cars

Famous Old Cars: An Album of Automobile Classics by Hank Wieand Bowman
published 1978 by Arco Publishing Company, Inc.
96 pages, softcover

ISBN-10: 0668005971

Acquired from the estate of a friend and fellow ‘car guy’. Currently out of print.

Let’s start with an important note here… my edition of Famous Old Cars is actually a fourth printing, and the book was originally published in 1957. And it’s in this context the book must be taken. Bowman’s focus is almost exclusively pre-WWII, cars the Classic Car Club of America would call Classics. Automobiles that are known and revered, even if the companies that created them have long faded into history.

The difference between the classic automobile and the automobile classic, or famous old car, may sound like so much double talk, but a definite distinction does exist.
Famous Old Cars

That distinction would seem to be the difference between a Ford Model A and a Lincoln Model K, or a Plymouth and a Packard. The automobile classic embodies style, performance and is recognizable as among the best of its time.

So what cars does the author feature? Eight chapters present the pre-1940 cars of eight marques: Auburn, Cadillac and LaSalle, Chrysler, Cord, Duesenberg, Lincoln, Packard and Pierce-Arrow. Truly these are some of the best-known and greatest automobiles of the era. Though each chapter only spans about 8 pages, it’s packed with information ranging from pricing, styling, mechanical specifications, performance and options through the years, as well as background information about the companies themselves. The final 2 chapters cover off 12 further American manufacturers and 14 European brands in a more brief fashion, including Stutz, Mercer, Locomobile, Rolls-Royce, Lancia, Delahaye, Mercedes-Benz and more.

page spread from the chapter ‘Pierce-Arrow’.

I really enjoyed this book. Bowman does an excellent job describing what are among the most revered motorcars created… V16 Cadillacs and Duesenberg Js and Cord 810s and Chrysler Imperial Eights.

But one must remember to read this work in context. The pictures are fairly clear but they are in black and white only. The writing style is definitely dated, very much out of the 1950s, as the following might illustrate…

Maybe the Auburns weren’t very costly in their day, but if you think
they were all floss and appearance, just try to stick with a blown Speedster
some day on a super highway with your new Detroit job.”

Keep in mind that the ‘new Detroit job’ would be something along the lines of cars now defined as among the most recognizable of classic cars, perhaps a 1957 Bel Air or a 1955 Chrysler C-300. In fact, the author speaks to the point that, in 1957 ‘production line cars take on more and more similarity of appearance and mechanical design’. The author may not completely dismiss the new cars of his time, but there is a definite sense that for his buck, the latest offerings will never approach the style or stature of the true Classics. It’s a lament often heard today. Despite this book being very ‘1950s’, in many ways it shows the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Still, at the end of the day this is a great little book that provides a great overview of some Classics that few of us actually encounter in the wild. And there’s an added benefit, as we get a glimpse of one facet of the car collecting hobby as it was 60 years ago, when these famous old cars were still relatively young.

Pros: lots of pictures, lots of varied information including pricing and engineering facts
Cons: only black-and-white photos, reads as a little dated, somewhat condensed European section
Where to find it:
used bookstores, private collections, estate sales, eBay, Amazon

You may also enjoy…
Cadillac Style, Volume I
The Story of Pierce-Arrow: A Photographic Trip Through the Pierce-Arrow Factory Showing the Uncommon Methods Which Distinguish the Building of America’s Finest Motor Car
Roadsters and Runabouts: Collecting and Restoring Antique, Classic and Special Interest Sports Cars