Packard’s once stately image had begun to flounder in the late 1940’s. The rather conservative management that had been in place prior to WWII had ensured there was plenty of cash in the coffers, but they were also slow to move when it came to the rapidly changing market in the post-war period. Subsequent managers made some questionable decisions about the company’s future, and the brand began to suffer. While one director ceded the luxury car market to Cadillac, instead focusing on mid-range volume cars, his successor returned to building expensive, low volume luxury cars – confusing dealers and consumers in the process. As a result, Packard sales suffered as the 1950’s wore on, and when GM and Ford embarked upon a ruthless price war, it was the independents that bore the brunt of the fallout. As a result, Packard merged with the financially struggling Studebaker Corporation in 1954 to create Studebaker-Packard. Packard still had reserves of cash, while Studebaker had a large network of dealers that Packard hoped to capitalize on. Sadly, the merger never truly delivered the results either company had hoped for, and the two once legendary car companies ultimately faded, with Packard ceding its name in 1958 and the whole entity disappearing in 1962.
But it was not all bad news from Studebaker-Packard. Some of the most stylish and distinctive automobiles of the 1950s came out of the South-Bend Indiana plant. With input from the great industrial designer Raymond Loewy, the clean and elegant Hawk was a unique departure from the often heavy-handed styling of the era. The Champion Starlight coupe formed a basis for the Hawk, and it became more elaborate over the years, but still retaining that low-slung and sophisticated look. Packard’s version of the Hawk was mechanically identical to the Studebaker, though it wore distinct front end styling with a full-width grille, rear fins, a faux spare wheel cover in the trunk lid and a more luxurious interior. It also came standard with Studebaker’s Supercharged 289 cubic inch OHV V8. At the time it was seen by cynical buyers as a little more than a dressed up Studebaker, but today’s enthusiasts have come to appreciate the Packard Hawk for its unique styling and its significance as the last production car to bear the famous Packard name.
This 1958 Packard Hawk is one of only 588 produced and comes from Packard’s final year of production, marking the end of a truly great legacy. This particular car is a good, honest and largely original example that comes most recently from an enthusiastic owner who kept it for the last 30-plus years. It has had some light restoration work done as needed over the years, but it remains mostly original and has never been totally disassembled and fully restored. The distinctive black body is straight and sound, wearing a hobby-level respray that has a few flaws, but is otherwise attractive for a driver-quality example. Structurally, it appears very solid with no apparent signs of rust, excessive filler or large repairs. The interior is similarly presented; original, careworn and charming, with any light restoration work performed on an as-needed basis to maintain the car’s condition. The original Studebaker 289 runs well, though the factory supercharger is in need of a rebuild and as such, the belt has been removed to prevent any damage.
Good, unmolested original cars have a particular charm to them that can be difficult to articulate until they’re experienced in person. Never restored, but careworn and tidy, this honest and usable Packard Hawk is a rare and desirable car that is ready for its next keeper to lavish care upon it.