Packard's Twenty-Third Series
But while wagons had always been a couple hundred dollars more expensive than sedans, cost control went out the window with the Station Sedan. At $3,425, it commanded 50-percent more than a Packard Eight sedan and competed price-wise with the Cadillac Series Sixty-Two rag-top. A Lincoln convertible, or Packard's own Super Eight ragtop, sold for $200-$300 less. It was practically the most expensive station wagon in the country, undercutting Buick's Roadmaster Estate Wagon, which rode a 129-inch wheel-base and boasted 150 horsepower, by only eight dollars.
It's all the more baffling, then, that this pricey model rode the standard Eight's 120-inch wheelbase and shared its lower-suds drivetrain. Super Eights had a 327-cid, 145-bhp straight-eight and Custom Eights got a 356-cid, 160-bhp engine with nine main bearings for unsurpassed smoothness. Packard did build one prototype wagon on the 127-inch Super Eight chassis, which with its longer hood looked a lot better, but nothing ever came of it. Given the number of sales the standard model attracted, one can see why, but why didn't they make it a Super Eight from the beginning? Or hold the price to $2,500 on the junior chassis?
The decorative wood on this 1948 Station Sedan was
expensive insect- and fungus-protected Northern birch.
The answer to the last question is probably that it cost a bundle to manufacture in any form. First off, the Station Sedan required unique roof and rear steel panels. The only structural wood was in the side window and tailgate framing. But this wood, and the decorative wood ribs on the doors, were expensive insect- and fungus-protected Northern birch (or white ash, some sources state).
Bill Williams, writing in Special Interest Autos in 1973, pointed out that "Packard's Station Sedan looks like a woody, but it uses an all-steel body with bolted-on wooden ribs over simulated woodgrain panels. These painted-on panels were originally applied by rolling graining ink onto a colored enamel ground coat, then sealing the two with a clear, synthetic baked enamel. This wasn't the Di-Noc method, although the factory did suggest using Di-Noc decals if the sheetmetal had to be completely refinished (as in an accident). The factory also recommended restoring the wooden ribs every year or so by sanding them lightly, applying a toxic wood sealer (to kill fungus that might cause wood rot), then applying one of several recommended varnishes. The wooden cargo deck and inner tailgate needed similar periodic restoration. So despite being basically an all-steel wagon, the Station Sedan demanded as much upkeep as real woodies."
Notably, the Station Sedan was the only Twenty-Second Series model that wasn't updated for the Twenty-Third Series, chiefly because its low sales level didn't justify the effort. And according to authors George Hamlin and Dwight Heinmuller in Packard: A History of the Motor Car and the Company, "In fact, evidence indicates that Twenty-Third Series Station Sedans were actually leftover Twenty-Second Series cars (they bear bumpers and engine numbers from the latter)."
In any case, the facelifted Twenty-Third Series models, which debuted on May 2, 1949, celebrated Packard's Golden Anniversary. Changes were minor: bodyside trim relocated to mid-body height, solid chrome front bumpers, oval taillights in large chrome pods, an enlarged rear window on sedans, five more horsepower for Eights and Super Eights.
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