A sketch for the new-generation 1957 Packard Caribbean convertible.

©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

1957 Packard Black Bess Concept Car

The 1957 Packard Black Bess concept car was a last-ditch effort to obtain money from the bankers. Unfortunately, Bess's end was bittersweet.

Packard's own 1957 was all but finished long before that trying summer of 1956. Again, as engineer Herb Misch later noted, the reason was to give Nance something tangible to show the bankers.

What's more, tooling could have been ordered right then, though it's questionable whether Packard could have started production in time for model-year 1957.

A sketch for the new-generation 1957 Packard Four Hundred hardtop coupe.

©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Among the rubble in the Detroit bunker was a single running prototype of the big new 1957. Factory hands dubiously called it "Black Bess."

Teague remembered it looking "like it had been made with a cold soldering iron and a ball-peen hammer . . . a last-ditch effort to come up with some money for die models. The doors opened, but it was a very spartan mule. Herb Misch had put it together. There wasn't anything old on it except the V-8. . . ."

The fate of Black Bess is the sort of bittersweet tale that auto-industry insiders find irresistible. Teague said Misch called up one day in 1956 and told him to see to the car's destruction.

This 1958 Packard rendering shows only minor trim changes that are usual for a new design in its second season.

©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

But Misch didn't have the heart to carry out the "execution" himself, so Teague called in Red Lux, "an old welder in the studio who had been there since the cornerstone. There were two or three other cars . . . including another black one, a Clipper. I said, 'Okay, it's official, cut the black one up.' I came back around 4 p.m. and he was just finishing. The pieces were lying all around like a bomb had gone off. It was probably the dirtiest trick I ever played, but I said, 'My God, Red, what have you done? Not this one, man, the one over in the corner!'. . . . His face drained, and when I told him I was just kidding, he chased me around the room. You've got to have a sense of humor in this business."

Teague always did. He certainly needed it during Packard's last days in the bunker.

For more on concept cars and the production models they forecast, check out: