First Day Of The Last Month

I hope our reality is not as ominous as the post title might sound. All I mean is that IF everything goes according to plan, then by the end of this month my wonderful wife and I will be living in the desert.

She is very excited. I am excited to a degree, but mindful of all that remains to be done.

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My one-week hiatus from blogging probably “cost” me the second best month for views/visitors among the 33 (now 34) calendar months Disaffected Musings has existed. For the first half of September, the average number of views/visitors per day was easily the second highest, exceeded only by May of this year.

I find it odd that the two most read posts for September were written in January (Where Is Cristy Lee?) and February (Throwback Thursday 36). The “old” Throwback Thursday post had twice as many views as the Cristy Lee post and I still have no idea why so many people read it. Yes, I just can’t resist poking the world in the eye with a stick.

I guess it is a good thing that people can find older posts and will read them. If some of those people begin to read the blog on a regular basis, that is also a good thing.

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On this day in 1954 the Studebaker-Packard corporation officially came into being. After years of stop-start and often surreptitious talks among most or all of the American independent car manufacturers, the “mergers” began with Kaiser and Willys in 1953 and the Nash-Hudson amalgamation in early 1954 that became American Motors. George Mason, Chairman/CEO of Nash-Kelvinator, was the leading advocate for a “mega” merger of at least Hudson, Nash, Packard and Studebaker into one large company that could have competed with The Big Three. Sorry, Patrick Foster, but this idea of a grand merger did not only exist in the mind of Packard CEO James Nance.

Of course, we all know Studebaker-Packard failed quite rapidly. “Real” Packard production ended in 1956, with the company’s de facto acquisition–a de jure management contract–by Curtiss-Wright. Studebaker closed its long-time South Bend, Indiana plant in 1963 and got out of the automobile business completely in 1966.

People far more qualified than I should and have given their opinions on what went wrong. James A. Ward’s The Fall Of The Packard Motor Car Company and More Than They Promised: The Studebaker Story by Thomas E. Bonsall are two excellent books on the companies, the merger and their ultimate failure.

As I have written here so many times before, fewer automobile companies means fewer sources of innovation for engineering and for styling. In this context, Packard had long been an innovator and even up to the end was generating new ideas. Its Torsion-Level Ride was introduced for model year 1955 but only used through 1956, and the basis of such a suspension system was basically copied by Chrysler beginning in 1957 and was used all the way until 1989.

For me, I lament the loss of new styling cues or even variations on old ones that might have arisen in a car built by an American Motors (or United Motors) company formed from a large merger. As it is, some of the last Packards of the 1950s and the last Studebakers of the 1960s remain quite stylish, in my opinion.

 

See the source image

 

This 1956 Packard Four Hundred (note “400” is spelled out behind the front wheels) was a lot offered for sale at the Mecum auction in Indianpolis in 2016. To me, that looks as good or better than anything offered by The Big Three during the same period.

 

See the source image

 

The number of photos of the Studebaker Gran Turismo Hawk that have appeared in this blog is way into double digits. Speaking of digits, if our net worth had at least one more, we would have a house with a garage of sufficient size that would probably have examples of one or both of these cars.

With the departure of 56PackardMan from the blogging world, this blog receives many fewer comments on Packard and defunct American car companies. Given that fact, I am writing about those topics less often. Today gives me a good reason to write about the subject again.

Please feel free to share your favorites (if any) among the American car companies that are no more.

 

#FirstDayOfTheLastMonth

#Studebaker-Packard

#DefunctAmericanCarMakes

#somanycarsjustonelife

#disaffectedmusings

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4 thoughts on “First Day Of The Last Month

  1. I guess my favorite defunct company would be Plymouth, as I have owned many and still have 2. While known for inexpensive cars, they would also manage to have versions of those cheap cars that were performance bargains (relatively speaking). While everyone is familiar with a Road Runner, most don’t know that you could order a base Belvedere in 1966-67 with the 383 and it was only rated 5 hp less than the Road Runner engine of 1968-70.
    Second would be Studebaker, even tho I’m a late admirer of the brand. My 1960 Lark came from the factory with the 259 V8 and factory 4 barrel carb. This carried a factory rating of 190 hp and is capable of surprising many with it’s acceleration. Throw in the various Hawk models (1956-1964) and the Avanti, and you had some serious performance available.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Many thanks for offering your thoughts on your favorite defunct makes. Because of my long connection to them, I am a big fan of Pontiac.

      I openly pine for a car from a defunct American company, but when push comes to shove I doubt I will ever own one. I’m just not wealthy enough or good enough with wrenches to make sure the car would be reliable.

      Like

  2. I’d guess the ones I miss would be Pontiac and Oldsmobile. Granted, they were just parts of the GM behemoth. The trouble is, brand-engineering and lack of focus really did them in. I understand how it made little economic sense to have 4 divisions with their own engine design of 350 cubic inches (as well as a couple of 400s, 454/455/455, etc). After that once they went to corporate engines and homogenized the styling, there wasn’t much to distinguish a Monte Carlo from a Cutlass from a Grand Prix (luckily the Regal had the blown V6 in the 1980s).
    I say that with some caution. Every era has cars that generally look alike. Many complain now of how every car looks the same. But, show a 20-something the cars of 1958 or 1970 and they’ll say ‘they all look alike’. It’s when you’re ‘into it’ that you can immediately see the nuances, otherwise they really aren’t much different.
    Anyway, mostly, they just lost their way in terms of the cars themselves, and the marketing. Hard to ‘build excitement’ in a Montana van or a Cavalier rip-off Sunbird. And they were right, the Alero was never my father’s Oldsmobile. The divisions just lost their purpose and faded away.

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    1. Excellent points, sir. The litany of decisions by GM that now seem ill-considered often only seem that way with the benefit of hindsight.

      Car companies have to make a profit or they usually won’t stay in business for long.

      Liked by 1 person

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