Tuesday, April 29, 2014
1954 Panther-Daytona Roadster
Packard was not going down without a fight. Things were looking bleak on East Grand Avenue in Detroit, but to let the motoring world know that Packard was alive and well, the company introduced a special show/experimental car in 1954. Styled by Dick Teague, the car was quickly sent to the annual Speed Weeks action at Daytona Beach in February of that year. With noted race driver Jim Rathmann at the wheel, he set an official 110.9 mph on the sand while recording an unofficial 131 mph. Called the Gray Wolf II, it took its name from the record-setting racer of 1903 and 1904 giving a 50th anniversary purpose to the car as well. It is powered by Packard's 359 cubic-inch inline Eight equipped with a McCullough supercharger thereby boosting output to a claimed 275 horsepower.
The car was renamed the Panther-Daytona after its debut at Speed Weeks. A total of five were crafted by Creative Industries of Detroit. The fiberglass-bodied two-seaters hit the show circuit for the 1954 model year. At least two were modified to 1955 standards in anticipation of a repeat performance for the next season's shows. Modifications included a new grille, 1955-style taillights and a two-tone paint scheme. It is believed however, that none appeared at shows during the 1955 model year.
The Packard Panther, originally named the Grey Wolf II, has a one-piece body of molded fiberglass up to an inch thick. This particular example once belonged to the company chief, who redesigned the rear end with cathedral style taillights.
This is the fourth of the Panthers to be constructed and was originally owned by Rex Terry, general manager of Creative Industries. Like the first three cars, it featured the 1954 Clipper taillights, before being updated with the 1955 'Cathedral' taillights and bumpers. It should be noted, Panthers were the first Packards to employ a wrap-around windshield, and the front bumpers previewed what would appear on the 1955 Packards. After the update, Terry's was repainted an iridescent pearl over black, and included gold-plated 'V's scripts reading 'Creative' at the leading edge of the rear quarters. Panther #4 went through at least five owners before becoming a part of the current Marano collection a few years ago.