Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Maligned 1958 Packard -- or is it a Catfish? A contribution from Ed Garten

1958 saw the Packard line reduced to two models and four body styles; a 4-door sedan, a 2-door hardtop coupe (sometimes referred to as the "Starlight", (a name used by Studebaker with the earlier classic Lowy Starlight Coupe), a 4-door station wagon which simply bore the Packard name, and the Packard Hawk, a modification of Studebaker's Golden Hawk with a “catfish-like” Packard grille.
Restyled by Duncan McRae, Studebaker-Packard's finances dictated that the changes for 1958 be made as cheaply as possible. Quad headlights were achieved by affixing fiberglass pods to the previous year's front fenders designed for two headlights. In the rear, McRae attempted to follow the tailfin craze established by Chrysler's 1957 "Forward Look" by crafting outward canted fiberglass fin extensions that were mounted to the tops of the existing vertical rear fenders. 1956 Clipper taillight units continued to be used. Packards also adopted a low, wide "fishmouth" grille to further distinguish them from their Studebaker cousins.
Despite McRae's efforts, the car that emerged appeared cobbled together, rather than as a cohesive design. Famed auto critic "Uncle" Tom McCahill remarked that from the rear it looked as if the cars had been left in the sun too long and the canted fiberglass fins had started to melt down the straight rear fender sides.
Perhaps the 58 Packard would have given the more recent Pontiac Aztek a run for its money as world's ugliest car.

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