Over Fuelled
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Over Fuelled

AUTOMOTIVE HISTORY

An Automotive Swan Song

The Packard Hawk

Before World War II, Packard was considered one of the finest car manufacturers — a sort of American take on Rolls Royce. Similar to their European counterparts, Packard stood for strong, well build, luxurious cars that didn’t change styling cues on a whim. Whereas the likes of Chevrolet, Chrysler and Ford would change their designs often, Packards were impervious to the yearly face-lifts.

“by 1951, Packard’s line up of cars was looking positively dated”

The truth may have been somewhat less glamorous. Being an independent manufacturer, Packard may have lacked the finances to keep up. Initially, this wasn’t seen as an issue, since the management didn’t believe that their customers were after frequent redesigns. The keeping-with-tradition approach worked for a while, however by 1951, Packard’s line up of cars was looking positively dated.

In an expanding market, Packard sales were stable but showing no growth and failing to compete effectively with the big three. It was only in the mid-1950s through the acquisition of Studebaker, Packard was able to offer something that could be considered contemporary (perhaps ‘modern’ would be too strong a word).

“Positively European in its design, the finish on the car was excellent and build quality overall was good.”

In a bid to expand operations, Packard acquired the Studebaker brand in 1956. This turned out to be a rushed decision, with little thought given to the financial implications of the purchase. It did, however, lead to the design and eventual launch of the Packard Hawk; a redesigned take on the Studebaker Golden Hawk.

“Critics were less kind to the Hawk, going as far as describe the front end as a ‘vacuum cleaner’ or a ‘catfish’s mouth’”

Positively European in its design, the finish on the car was excellent and build quality overall was good. Wing vents and a fake hood scoop helped disguise it’s Studebaker origins, and most buyers took to the styling of the two-door sports coupe. Critics were less kind to the Hawk, going as far as describe the front end as a ‘vacuum cleaner’ or a ‘catfish’s mouth’. Clearly, it was a love-it or hate-it car in terms of styling.

“Restrained as it may have been, the Hawk could easily hold it’s own in terms of speed and acceleration”

Inside, the European flavor continued with lush, leather trim and clear, white on black instrumentation. Under the hood, the 4.7 litre V8 had a mechanically driven supercharger bolted to it, increasing the output to a respectable 275bhp. Restrained as it may have been, the Hawk was still a very well equipped car, and could easily hold it’s own in terms of speed and acceleration when compared to its competitors.

In total, 588 Packard Hawks were built; a figure that contributed to their rarity and status as a collector’s car, but did little to save the marque from extinction. By 1966, the Packard-Studebaker had closed it’s doors, leaving behind the Hawk as it’s graceful, elegant swan song.

Holloway, H. and Buckley, M., 1999. The A-Z Of Cars. Godalming, Surrey: Colour Library Direct.

Daniel is a writer, senior teacher, and geographer based in Malta. His main passion is empowering students to fulfill their aspirations and reach their goals.

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Daniel Caruana Smith

Daniel Caruana Smith

83 Followers

Daniel is a writer, senior teacher and geographer based in Malta. His main passion is empowering students to fulfill their aspirations and reach their goals.