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55PackardGuy

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Everything posted by 55PackardGuy

  1. Brian, Maybe old Packards just thrive on neglect? They'll hold together just to prove they can do it--with no help from us. Any other Plucky Packard survival stories?
  2. Brian, OK, an anecdote on how long those Packards can sit and still be driveable: When we sold our '55 400, (it was one of the two "stored" for years outside) the man that bought it drove it straight from our house to his home in Detroit Lakes, MN, a distance of a couple of hundred miles. The entire "prep" for the trip consisted of airing the tires, charging the battery, and pulling off the ready-to-fall-off exhaust pipes. Of course, he had an escort for the trip, but he reported later that he had no need of assistance! This is naturally not recommended, but it was done. (Incidentally, he seemed to be most impressed by the fact that the electric antenna still worked perfectly, and he probably got to listen to the radio on the way as well.)
  3. PackardV8, I'm sending out a few letters and will let you know if I hear anything. According to the Starkweather article linked to my last post, the original owner's last name was Ward, not Lauer. Do you have any info on Lauer? Possibly from Ward's maternal side? You sure have a lot of good details on the car's history. If you click on the "Chase" chapter on the story linked to my last post, the only performance data given is "speeds in excess of 100 mph," but not who was winning when Charlie quit. Apparently, the police were following close enough to shoot out his back window. Check out the pathetic end to the chase. There's certainly nothing admirable about what this fellow (and probably his girlfriend) did, but it is a very interesting piece of Packard lore. My local video store did not haved "Badlands" but I will get it eventually and report back on its automotive accuracy. (After all, that's what this thread is about).
  4. I guess I fit the description of someone with a lot of enthusiasm. Luckily, there are not a host of Vieselmeyers out there, and an on-line search turned up only one living in Nebraska. I might drop her a line. Talk about enthusiasm, how the heck did you get the name of the last known owner? I don't think Caril Ann or the survivors of the original owners would want to talk about it... The original owners' LAST name was Ward-- C. Lauer Ward did live in Lincoln Nebraska with his wife Clara. I've seen the car referred to as the Ward Packard. The couple and their housekeeper were all victims. I'll try to place a link here to a site that gives more info, for Enquiring Minds. This should take you right to the page on the Wards, go to the next chapter for "the chase". http://www.crimelibrary.com/notorious_murders/mass/starkweather/finale_7.html?sect=8
  5. Sorry, PackardV8, but I guess I didn't make it clear in my post that AT FIRST I thought the title MIGHT be a typo (y'know, reversing two digits). I read the entire thread before responding, so I was up to speed on the controversy--and the year in question. I just thought it was worth noting that Packard had considered the idea of a V-12 back in '55, and that this may have lead the authors of the article to start what-if dreaming. Which is fine if you don't start presenting it as fact. I prefer to what-if dream about the future rather than the past, anyway. What if Craig gets the Panther going and takes it to an auto show and someone from Detroit notices what a great retro look it has and how well it handles and drives...
  6. You're absolutely right about condensation in the exhaust system leading to corrosion. If you're going to start the car, plan to drive it until it's completely warmed up. Also, those furry friends can get in from the top, too, so plug up the intake as well. Mice found the big oil bath air cleaners on our '55s really excellent places to nest. A few other winter storage tips from the Northland: 1. Disconnect and remove the battery. If it drains dead, it can freeze and break. 2. Put some Sea Foam in a full tank of gas, it's a good fuel stabilizer/dryer. A full tank prevents condensation on the inside of the tank, and possible rust. 3. Put scented dryer sheets on the floorboards, front and back--mice don't like the smell. 4. If you're worried about lubricating or rustproofing cylinder walls, put some Marvel Mystery oil in a squirt can and and give a few shots down the carb throat while the engine's running. (Shutting off the fuel supply and running until the carbs are dry is how I do it.) 5. Leave it sit without starting it--six months is a piece of cake, and starting it will do more harm than good. I use the oiling routine on the 292 Ford Y-block in my old Trojan runabout every fall to ease starts in the spring. Basically, you have some lubricant adhering to the cylinder walls and valve stems for initial cranking. MM oil is also a good varnish preventative. We "stored" two '55 Packards with 352 V-8s outside for literally years after fogging the insides with oil this way, and yes, they cranked and started without a problem years later (not recommended, but impressive).
  7. Well, I looked for "Murder in the Heartland" at Amazon... don't have it. "Terror in the Heartland" is about a tornado chaser. I also checked Lifetime's movies schedule--not on in the next two months. What's that show doing on Lifetime anyway? Oh, yeah, the romance thing. Anxiously awaiting any more info on THE car.
  8. Good points, all. Once again, my initial post has disappeared without a trace just as I was finishing it. Am I being punished for being long-winded? Here's the gist of it: No doubt Packard lost some ground due to WWII sacrifices, as a lot of companies did. However, they seemed to get the short end of contracts or help after the war. According to the Kimes book, Defense Secretary Wilson and Treasury Secretary George Humphrey didn't give the company the time of day when it asked for some help. (I guess they just weren't Chrysler.) It seems that Packard management had made an assumption that they had to have new cars for 1957. Once again, according to Kimes, they felt their "dealer organization would not hold together" without a new car. I'm not so sure they were right about this. Their dealers may have been more in need of reassurance that cars would be readily available, which was not the case in '56. Also, there was likely to have been "pent-up demand" among Packard customers who would have readily accepted delivery of face-lifted '56s. Many saw the '55s as new cars, in spite of the use of main body shells dating from '51. In some ways, they were new cars--engines, suspensions, transmissions. One big stumbling block was the acquisition of the cramped Conner manufacturing plant. However, building the same basic cars for the third year might have allowed for manufacturing efficiencies and better quality control (Ask the Man Who Tried to Build One there). An anecdote about Packard customer relations of the day: After purchasing a new 1955 Clipper Custom, my father was irritated by a noisy, loose windshield. He was visited by a field rep (no dealers near our small town) who offered this advice: "what do you expect when people have to have those big heavy windshields--they're gonna rattle." My dad was not optimistic about how long the manufacturer of his new car would be in business with customer relations like that. Perhaps Packard could have reduced the pessimism in its dealer ranks, but management seemed to be concentrating more on getting an all-new car out in 1957. I think the next generation Packards would have been great, but it may have been better in the long run to plan for their debut in '58. I'll give this a rest for now, and ask once again--anybody out there have some "Packard Inspriations" for torsion bar suspensions and modernized mechanicals? Last night, I got to thinking (it can happen)--what a natural for a stable, durable SUV platform. Or a shortened version with a light body for a sports car. How would a lighter body affect handling, and how could the "spring rates" of the torsion bars be modified to accomodate it? Are you out there, Craig? Do you know what happened to the "sectioned" Executive shown on your website? That thing looked like it would be very sinister. Lower and lighter. And, of course, the Panther...
  9. Brian, Thanks for the tip on the "Fall" book. In my own mind, after the great mistakes of buying the Conner plant and Studebaker, Packard STILL had another chance in the spring of 1956: Do a facelift of the '56s (including a "Request") keep the dealers reliably supplied with them, and promote them aggressively. Keep the new chassis/body/engine refinements in the works and debut some of them in '58, if they managed to make money with the '57s. Look at Chevrolet, they offered the same cars from '55 through '57. Why try to top that? The '56 Packards were still way ahead of the competition engineering-wise. The Packard History notes that Auto Age judged the car the best handling of 1955 and the "best car of the year" for brakes, handling, steering and suspension. Other magazines also had high praise for them. When a company has an engineering edge and is strapped for cash, the last thing to worry about is "improving" things that are great already. It's like they couldn't resist bettering their last effort, which is commendable but not practical in the company's situation. What I'm tacitly saying here, of course, is that if I'da been there I coulda saved Packard. That's my conceit. The main thing now is to know what actually did happen, and to think about how best to keep the marque alive with the cars that are out there, and maybe even come up with some contemporary concepts based on the last generation. The suspension, in particular, still begs for development. Things like the Packard Panther Project (where'd it go?) are very exciting. If I had money in my old age, that's the direction I'd think about going. This may not fit the original thread very well--I think it was something about a 1965 V-12? (I was sure the year was a typo when I first logged onto it). Maybe continue this on a new thread, like '55-'56 Packard Inspirations... any interest?
  10. Okay, here's my two-cents worth. I agree there are a lot of myths and misinformation out there, but one source I bank on is a book that I think is trustworthy. Many of you have probably heard of it. I've seen it mentioned as the "AQ Book" in one post: "Packard: A History of the Motor Car and the Company" edited by Beverly Rae Kimes, published 1978 by Automobile Quarterly, produced in association with Princeton Institute for Historic Research. It covers everything from the startup to the downfall of the company, and includes over 800 pages of text and beautiful, unretouched photos. Black Bess appears in all her glory, photographed outside from two angles with obviously real trees and grass around. The front end looks remarkably like an Edsel. 1957 prototypes are pictured, and engineering data and plans are covered. The book states that no less than 8 plans for future lines were in the works in April 1956, including 3 based on Lincoln body shells. It also mentions a proposed V-12 based on a "stretched" 320 V-8 block that would have had a final displacement of 480ci. President James J. Nance was said to be in favor of it, but the V-12 was killed in a board meeting on July 21, 1955. I seriously doubt that any significant attempts to resurrect the marque in the mid-sixties would have escaped the researchers of this book. All the noodling around and scheming during the last years of Packard seemed to serve one purpose: it kept management's eye off the ball, that is, building cars and making money. They didn't even have a decent manufacturing plant for their workers! Fortunately for us all, many great engineers and craftsmen kept working in spite of directionless management, and produced some great cars. Sincerely inviting feedback, Guy Strauss
  11. Thanks Craig and Dave, Maybe I'm kind of morbid, but I am really fascinated by that car and the "dark side" of the Packard mystique. The '55s and '56s have some menacing aspects. I'll definitely be renting or buying "Badlands" (which has a starring debut by Martin Sheen, costarring Sissy Spacek--and maybe a Packard) and I hope to find and tape that Lifetime show Craig mentioned. That much footage must be a record for a last generation Packard, expecially in action. Maybe I can make some VHS copies if folks are intersted? A question: Has there ever been a sexier vehicle/star combination from Hollywood than Faye Dunaway and her creamy Packard convertible in Chinatown?? Just wondering...
  12. I like to watch for '55's and '56's. I agree Plan 9 has a great action shot of a '55. There is also a glimpse in a parking lot scene in American Graffiti of a '55 or '56. On T.V., I recall the original Blue Knight police drama (NOT the series with George Kennedy) featured a black and white '55 400 that was the bad guy's car. In the final scene the car is being towed away. That's the way I remeber it, anyway. Anyone know if this was a theatrical release? I think it was made-for-TV, but maybe a copy exists somewhere. I'm also looking for a copy of Badlands, which is about the Charles Starkweather crime spree in '58. If it has the correct cars, it will include a black '56 Packard that Starkweather and his girlfriend stole and used to flee the police after their murder binge. This story is also supposed to be the basis for Kalifornia, Natural Born Killers, True Romance and, some say, Wild at Heart. I haven't seen any of these except Wild at Heart, which uses a Thunderbird. The Starkweather Packard is legendary. Might it still exist? I'll report back if they have the right model in the movie. Or maybe somebody knows...
  13. Randy, Sadly, I'm not a Man Who Owns One. But I love the cars, especially the '55 and '56 models. Think of me as a lifelong fan, with quite a bit of general knowledge. I am now tinkering with my first true hobby car, a 1989 IROC Camaro. But I still dream of owning another '55 or '56. Just a reasonable driver would be fine. I lean toward the 2-doors, especially the 400. It's great to keep in touch with the passionate car people on the web. A book recommendation for all: "Packard, A History of the Car and the Company" edited by Beverly Rae Kimes, published 1978 by Automobile Quarterly. It's huge, expensive, and very rewarding.
  14. G's 55, Constellation, and all, I'm new here, and nowhere near as informed as many others, but I have some info on these topics that you all may find interesting. My family owned three '55 Packards, two Clipper Customs and one 400. All had 352 V8s but only one had lifter noise: the 400. It continued after an engine rebuild by my father, who was a mechanic by trade and not used to rebuilds that clattered. He suspected the oil pump, but never found out for sure. The car had adequate oil pressure (monitored by a mechanical gauge) and plenty of power. So we drove it, hard, for many thousands of miles, and it didn't break. It just chattered a little at idle. So, in some ways, it may depend on whether you can grit your teeth and live with this--it's not necessarily fatal to the engine, but it can be annoying and/or embarrassing. Hydraulic valve trains of the day were pretty experimental. Anybody remember when people dubbed the new GM offering the Oldsmobile "Racket" V8? Regarding heat and the Ultramatic, this was absolutely a problem. My father tore down and rebuilt at least two of these transmissions, and his theory about their failure was: At speed in Direct Drive, the drive clutch would begin to slip, generating excess heat and burning up internal components, (some metal parts were "burnt blue" on inspection). Dad figured out a way to modify the transmission on the 400 for improved clutch engagement (I don't know how--maybe higher pressure) and its tranny survived years of teenage mayhem from my brother's driving with no problems. Unfortunately, dad isn't around to ask about what he did. All I remember is, that according to him, the Ultramatic's Achilles Heel was an inadequate direct drive clutch system. Of course, excess heat may have actually caused the slippage to start out with. If I had one of these cars now, I'd definitely get a trans cooler or (Sacriledge!) put in a TH400 (I've seen kits for this). Maybe all this is common knowledge to you folks? I'll shut up now.
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