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« Tech Support, 1100 AD | Main | Elsewhere »

February 23, 2007

Brand Style Continuity - Packard

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

A month ago I wrote about a Jaguar show-car that I felt failed to maintain the marque's styling identity. I cited Packard as one instance of style / symbolic brand continuity, stating:

The Packard approach was to make use of a collection of details that were always used following their introduction, though there would be some variation over time. These details included the "ox-yoke" grille-surround sculpting, red hexagons on the hubcaps, a pen-nib tipped side-spear and a cormorant hood ornament. Even though the shapes of Packard bodies evolved from boxes to "streamlined," Packards were always identifiable.

I didn't want to dilute the article by adding pictures of Packards. But that meant readers unfamiliar with an automobile make defunct for nearly 50 years might have no clue what I was discussing.

So let me make good on that. Below are pictures illustrating the items mentioned in the quoted passage above.

1929 Rumble Seat Coupe
This car features the radiator / grille motif and the red hexagons on the wheels sported by Packards since early in the century. The pen nib spear and cormorant have yet to appear.

1932 Light Eight
This new model had disappointing sales. A nice styling touch unique to it is the "spade" shape of the lower grille. The pen-nib spear is now present on the upper side of the hood.

1937 Convertible Victoria by Dietrich
Classic styling is no longer in fashion so Packard had to make use of pseudo-streamlined shapes to remain competitive, albeit in a conservative way. Note that the cues are present even though the body and fenders are more rounded. The cormorant hood ornament (or "mascot") has now appeared.

1947 Touring Sedan
This radical (for Packard) body style was introduced for the short-lived 1942 model year. But the styling cues remain -- aside from the cormorant which was generally reserved for the fanciest models.

1951 Packard
This was Packard's final new body introduced before the firm was reduced to selling redecorated Studbakers in the late 50s. Competitors' '51 models had heavy, flashy grilles, so Packard had to follow suit. Even so, the traditional form remains.

1955 Patrician
A major facelift of the 1951 body. The spear and cormorant are missing (though the object on the hood might be a stylized bird). After the 1956 model year "real Packards" were no longer built.

Packard motifs on 2007-vintage bodies
These are ballpoint pen doodles by me. Since hood ornaments are scarce these days, I omitted the cormorant, but the other cues are present. The image at the bottom is a wispy '32 Light Eight.



posted by Donald at February 23, 2007


Like your doodles. How come we haven't seen any before? You ought to be able to pick up some work as a car designer!

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on February 24, 2007 8:13 AM

Friedrich -- You haven't seen 'em before because (1) I didn't have a scanner until recently and (2) I had no strong reason to post sketches.

I mentioned in some of my early Guest Blogs that, when I was a kid, I wanted to design cars. But I was never rerally good enough to be a standout and drifted into others fields after I hit the wall in a required Physics course.

Although I can sketch okay, I lack the training and coordination to do presentation-style renderings. That means whatever of my stuff that turns up here on 2Blowhards will have an unfinished, not-quite-professional look.

And thank you for your kind remarks; apparently I didn't totally discredit myself when I took the risk of actually doing art rather than simply yakking about it.

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on February 24, 2007 12:42 PM

A company from Arizona now owns the Packard name and supposedly is going to resurrect the brand. They built a prototype a few years back but otherwise haven't done anything beyond the talking stage.

Posted by: Peter on February 24, 2007 3:59 PM

Donald, you will find at least one guaranteed principled lover of unfinished sketches every time you'll chose to post yours.

Professional rendering kill the artist's impulse.

Posted by: Tatyana on February 24, 2007 5:55 PM

Styling cues, I suspect, can only do so much; the '48 through '50 Packards with the so-called "pregnant elephant" styling still exhibited the standard indicia, but gawd, they were ungainly-looking. Still, they didn't sell that badly, inasmuch as all the cool kids (well, okay, Hudson and Nash) were busy turning out bathtubs on wheels.

Then again, I have a certain fondness for bullet-nose Studebakers, so take this with many grains of salt.

Posted by: CGHill on February 25, 2007 12:19 PM

Nice cars!

Posted by: Coral on February 25, 2007 7:01 PM

I remember being out on one of the Chicago expressways on a Sunday morning some years ago, and I was passed by what seemed to be the local Packard Club on maneuvers. Now, that was impressive, seeing all those old cars in one place at one time!

I also recall that when I was a kid, ten or so in the early '60s and first becoming aware of cars, the old lady down the street had what must have been about a '55 or '56 Packard. She was widowed, and it may have been something her husband had bought as a relatively luxurious car for the two of them in their old age -- and now he was gone, and it seemed like a little too much car for just her. And by the early sixties it also seemed kind of unusually old, so maybe the lady was trying to make it last as long as she did without having to buy something to replace it. Anyway, it struck me as just an odd car, as I knew of no other Packards in town, a relic of a bygone age I knew nothing about...

Posted by: Dwight Decker on February 27, 2007 12:27 AM

There's plenty of continuity in style to be found if you look a little further afield :-). In addition to the classic Rolls Royce grille, first found on the 1907 Silver Ghost and continued to the present day - also requiring something of a continuity of style around the bonnet and front wings - the Aston Martin front grille and many profile elements have been essentially based around function (going very fast) since the 1957 DB Mark 3. I cna always spot an Aston from at least a hundred yards, but maybe that's because I'm enthusiastic enough that I drive a DB7 Vantage :-). Mind you, probably the ultimate continuity of style is the Porsche 911, in its numerous incarnations...

Posted by: Dave Walker on March 1, 2007 12:58 PM

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