Friday, March 1, 2013

1956 Packard Predictor (Ghia)

The 1957 Packard Predictor concept car was known as the "dream car." It toured the show circuit earlier in 1956, and was a great influence on future Packard concept cars.

Built by Ghia of Turin, the Predictor was executed under Packard design chief Bill Schmidt, but strongly reflected Teague’s thinking.

Advanced features included a windshield that wrapped up as well as around, quad headlights hidden behind clamshell doors, fenders level with the hood and rear deck, and a square, chiseled shape.

Also on hand were several ideas from recent Teague-styled Packard concept cars: reverse-slant retractable backlight (previewing the 1958 Continental Mark III), shapely "cathedral" taillights, and smart ribbed bodyside moldings that ran from the doors right around to the front.

That trim ended abruptly to frame a slim vertical nose with Packard’s traditional "ox-yoke" radiator shape, which Nance had lately been trying to resurrect as a sales-booster. (It might have been used for 1954 had time allowed, though Teague managed something far better for the one-off 1955 Request). "Rolltop" roof panels slid away to ease entry/exit in what was a pretty low car; they could also be left open for ventilation — a kind of embryonic T-top.
Inside, the Predictor was all convenience, with electronic pushbutton Ultramatic transmission; electric servos for decklid roof panels, and windows; and individual contoured seats with reversible cushions — leather on one side, fabric on the other, as on Packard’s 1956 Caribbeans.

Roof sail panels wore portholes like those adorning contemporary Thunderbirds, plus courtesy lights and a jeweled escutcheon. The decklid was adorned with a large "circle-V" emblem created by Teague with hopes of establishing another "timeless" automotive symbol akin to the Mercedes-Benz tri-star.

Powered by a 300-horsepower Packard V-8, the Predictor was fully driveable — when it was working right. Ghia had botched the electrical system, so activating any of the fancy servos usually caused a short circuit and great clouds of smoke. Of course, such problems would have been worked out for production, for the Predictor was nothing less than the blueprint for a very ambitious new S-P line.

The Predictor outlined a whole raft of cars built from just three basic platforms: a 130-inch wheelbase for Packard and Packard Executive (the latter basically a detrimmed Patrician), 125 for Clipper and Studebaker President, and 120 inches for Studebaker Commander and Champion.

Though hardly original, this plan was a great cost-saver, allowing the three makes to look quite different from each other despite a common inner shell and some shared exterior panels. It was a grand strategy worthy of General Motors-S-P’s last attempt to cast itself as a "full-line" producer.

Shortly after purchasing Studebaker, Packard's corporate brass envisioned a bright future for the brand and commissioned a concept car to showcase that talking point. The Predictor, styled by Richard Teague (later of AMC fame) and built by Ghia, was everything a whiz-bang Packard of the future should be. Scalloped fenders and a long, flat hood put Chrysler's Flite-Sweep concepts to shame, while fins, taillights, and grille were slightly modified forms of what designers were pitching for an all-new 1957 sedan.

Hotness then (1-10): 10

This was nothing short of a show stopper in its heyday, and considering it was the brainchild of Packard's styling department-which was normally resigned to producing dowdy luxury sedans and the occasional Caribbean-it was a revelation indeed.

Hotness now (1-10): 4

Like many gizmo-centric concept cars of the jet age, the Predictor didn't age very well. The styling is lanky, awkward, and carries none of the subtle grace of production Packards. Even some of the "futuristic" features-like self-retracting T-top panels, hidden headlamps, and a reversed rear window-aren't exactly things to write home about today.

Could it have saved the brand?

No. In fact, it may have helped kill it. Packard chose to buy Studebaker virtually sight unseen, and only discovered after the fact just how badly the company was hemorrhaging cash. Things were so bad, in fact, that Packard found it more expensive to build its own wares in Detroit than it was to retrofit Studebaker Hawks with awkward fiberglass noses and Packard badging. By 1959, the brand was dead. Seven years later, so was Studebaker.
Source: Internet