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1957 "Black Bess" & clone


WCraigH
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Some of us had a chat the other day about the 1957 prototype "Black Bess" and it's backyard made clone "Black Bess II". I found the pictures sent to me by the guy who made the clone and scanned them, but first, here's a shot of the Packard "Black Bess": 1957_Black_Bess640x313.jpg

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Here's the roughly finished body rolled out. According to the constructor, the roof is mostly 58 Chevy. The replicar was started sometime before 1986 and completed enough by 1999 to take to the Centennial in Warren, OH. He's building another, better one now based upon actual Packard blueprints he got somewhere. Gotta give the guy credit!<BR> BlackBessII_Body.jpg <P>[ 08-16-2001: Message edited by: Craig LV ]<p>[ 08-16-2001: Message edited by: Craig LV ]

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BH: very interesting commentary, thanks! Here's a shot of the "open perimeter tube-type frame" that our constructor duplicated from the 1957 blueprints. This is for "Black Bess III", if you will, but as yet unnamed by the constructor. It was build in 2000 according to the letter I got from him in Feb 2001. Since this guy has also constructed replicas of horseless carriaiges (1903 Overland, 1896 Stearns, etc), and his letter came on a letterhead stating "Antique Auto Repair", he's really into this stuff! BlackBessIII_Frame.jpg

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One quote from his letter of Feb 2001 says alot [about the Warren Meet]: "...One guy that gave me a really rough time was found to be sitting in the car photographing it at 6AM. Then he was seen to be sitting behind the wheel grinning pretending to be driving it..." Ain't that typical.

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Black Bess at Warren was pretty rough. It really didn't belong on the show field of the Opus. I should have been there at 6:00 AM. It was too hot the rest of the day.

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Dfield: I can't entirely agree<BR>with your statement. I have a friend in Minn. who feels the same way, but he is a body and fender man and he looks at the "Black Bess" as an abomination.<BR>If you look at the Magnum Opus as a grand car show or a concourse then your right it did not belong. However use the simpler definition of the term Magnus Opus I.E. Great composition of works in numerical order, then it fits perfectly. I for one would much rather have seen it than heard about it being done. Given the time the man had to work on it, and what he had to work from, my hat goes off to him, and I hope he finishes it.<BR>No one really knows what Packard had in mind at the time so I guess this guys rendition and interrpretation is as good as anybodys.

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Ok....so where do most agree that the original example went? I've heard stories of it being cut, yet then I've read of other 'prototype' cars being rediscovered in Detriot salvage yards every so often. Is there any historical documentation to support claims of either variety?

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Yes, I know of the Detroit salvage yard situation first hand from my brother, whose best friend graduated with him from Conneaut Ohio High School, and went to Detroit to work for GM> He nosed around salvage yards in the weekends, and Mr. LeTouri (incorrect spelling) found this stash of cars that were saved, but were supposed to have been destroyed in the 1950's. He contacted the gentleman who collects and restores these cars, and the transaction was completed.<BR>Some have already beenrestored, while at the last I heard, others were awaiting restoration. I was able to see some of the 1950's show cars at the Western Reserve Museum in Cleveland Ohio a half dozen years ago.

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  • 8 years later...

I decided to do some "bottom feeding" through the oldest threads on the Packard board and came up with this on Black Bess. I thought it was well worth a "bump."

Unfortunately, the photos don't seem to be coming up any more. I wonder if there is a way to display them... I don't believe by their descriptions that I've ever seen them. Maybe Craig could dig 'em up! :)

One post I think I can reply to. It's pretty well documented that Black Bess was indeed cut up, including a great anecdote about it, straight from the mouth of Dick Teague about how it was done. If anyone has the Kimes book, it's covered on page 621. Quoting parts of the text can't do it justice--it's such a wild tale, but Teague says on-the-record: "The pieces [of Black Bess] were lying all around like a bomb had gone off."

Kind of sad, but still, Bess was a very rough mule. "It looked like it had been made with a cold soldering iron and a ball peen hammer." (To quote Teague again from the same source.)

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Check out the Autumn 2009 issue of "The Packard Cormorant" magazine, which has just been mailed to all PAC members. The entire issue is devoted to the 1957-Packards-and-Clippers-that-might-have-been. There is an article on Dennis' "1957" chassis.

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The junkyard with all of the one-off protoypes was Warhoops, Joe Bortz got most of them and gave them a great restoration. They were all from GM at Warhoops, other brands have turned up elsewhere. Chrysler used to let executives drive the prototypes, then they could buy them, and several did.

I fully believe the story Dick Teague related in the Kimes book, I knew Dick and his recall of events was very strong, he didn't have to search his mind for these stories, he recalled them as though they happened yesterday.

I find the pictures of the "real detroit" 1957 Packards fascinating, especially the 400 2 Dr. HT, I think they look as good as anything out of Detroit that model year. The verticle grille is still a hard call, the basic design of those "longer, lower" cars called for more horizontal motifs, but Packard customers wanter to see the old grille again, and wrote letters to Packard to that effect. It kind of hurts Packard's legacy that the Edsel was the only other contemporary car to "insert" a vertical grille into the broadly horizontal design.

Well, at least the Packard didn't resemble a urinal!

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Anyone have pics like those that were posted on this thead originally? I have seen pictures of Black Bess, but not like those described.

To continue Teague's story, he had an old-time Packard worker (even names him) come to cut up Bess with a torch. There was more than one car there, and the man asked "which one?" and Teague replied "the black one." Well, after all the smoking pieces were laying around "like a bomb had gone off" Teague plays a monumentally dirty trick, saying to the worker "What have you done? I didn't mean THAT one! I meant the other black one!"

As the poor fellow turned green, Teague let him know it was a "joke." There's a guy who left Packard with a story to tell about the whacky managers that worked there! I hope he found another good job.

(I'm just paraphrasing these quotes, but I doubt Teague remembered his exact words either.)

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Thanks Brian. I'll have a look.

Anyone else here has some more of the lore and legend of Black Bess and her progeny?

The only thing I have read or heard first hand is Dick Teague's story of the "last days in the bunker" and what became of it. I have a friend who was a young engineer at Packard (he had the drafting board next to John DeLoren), he stayed until they closed the doors, he may have had some experience with that project, I'll ask him.

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Oh my gosh, no. I am the one who has cited the similarity of the pre-1957 Chrysler products to Packards (Chrysler people might see it the other way around). Starting with the 1957 model year Chrysler started acting like a grown-up major auto manufacturer and began the whole process of body engineering and fabrication, and the 1957 models proved how little they knew about it compared to GM and Ford. Hell, even AMC had a better handle on body engineering and fab. For an auto company that has always been referred to as "the engineering company" I find that title curious. Engines, absolutely, no question. Transmssions, definitly. Chassis, yes. Body--no way, whole car as a package, questionable. 1957 marked the beginning of the dark ages for body making at Chrysler, a state of affairs that lasted until Iacocca-led Ford recruits saved them from themselves.

I think the '57 Chrysler platforms would be dimensionally off from what Packard had in mind when looking at pictures of Black Bess and the other 1957 clay models.

Edited by mrpushbutton (see edit history)
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Oh my gosh, no. I am the one who has cited the similarity of the pre-1957 Chrysler products to Packards (Chrysler people might see it the other way around). Starting with the 1957 model year Chrysler started acting like a grown-up major auto manufacturer and began the whole process of body engineering and fabrication, and the 1957 models proved how little they knew about it compared to GM and Ford. Hell, even AMC had a better handle on body engineering and fab. For an auto company that has always been referred to as "the engineering company" I find that title curious. Engines, absolutely, no question. Transmssions, definitly. Chassis, yes. Body--no way, whole car as a package, questionable. 1957 marked the beginning of the dark ages for body making at Chrysler, a state of affairs that lasted until Iacocca-led Ford recruits saved them from themselves.

I think the '57 Chrysler platforms would be dimensionally off from what Packard had in mind when looking at pictures of Black Bess and the other 1957 clay models.

If Chrysler bought the Briggs company didn't they keep the Briggs engineers and designers?

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If Chrysler bought the Briggs company didn't they keep the Briggs engineers and designers?

Chrysler bought Briggs, then ran it their way. The pre-1956 Chrysler bodies were engineered by Briggs as an independent engineering concern. They built some of those bodies, Chrysler built others that Briggs engineered. After the aqusition of Briggs, Chrysler ran their new ABD (Automotive Body Division) their way, and the results show. Two different products under the skin, and the latter was inferior in design and execution than the former.

As I said before, they entered the dark ages in 1957 when they ran the crash program through on that ground-braking style, sacrificing quality of build as they went. I know an engineer who went from Briggs to Chrysler, he backs these statements (he is one of the veterans who attest to how loose body making was at Chrysler) , having lived it. From my viewpoint Chrysler stayed in solid-last in domestic body engineering and build intil the Ford personel saved them from themselves. They finally acheived par status with the LH patform in the early 90s.

Chrysler had treated body design as a given, almost like "easy compared to Engine (Transmission, Chassis, etc.) design" when in fact it is a vital part of what makes a car.

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