The Demise of the Packard Panther
Packard Panther Daytona production was precluded by Packard's mounting financial problems after purchasing Studebaker, plus the very limited Fifties market for sporty domestics (even Corvette almost died in 1954). Thus, only four Daytona Panthers were built, all essentially prototypes. Mitchell-Bentley modified the last two with "cathedral" taillights and other 1955 details in a vain attempt to sell them for the new model year.
M-B also applied "Mitchell" script to one, ostensibly a gesture at self-marketing, and grafted on one experimental hardtop. Happily, all four of these cars survive today. The red example seen here is Panther #2, the Daytona speed record car.
Packard's legendary West Coast distributor, Earle C. Anthony, desperately wanted a production Panther, and even circulated drawings of one based on the stillborn 1957 big Packard design. But the idea never had a chance in the midst of the financial disaster that was Studebaker-Packard in those years.
Not that it was missed much, at least by its creator. "I can't stand it," Teague says of the 1954 Panther Daytona. "But then, I didn't like anything I ever did." Snorts a prominent hobby editor: "You could entitle that [car] 'Why Packard Failed.' You'd have to tie bones onto it to get the dogs to chase it."
But the bulk of opinion is far less harsh among Packard partisans, who must, after all, be allowed a certain bias. Yet though even they admit that the front end is pretty grim, the rest of the Panther is sleek and interesting, at least in its clean, original 1954 form. And there's no doubt that if there were more than four to go around, we'd see a lengthy line of eager buyers clutching checkbooks and wads of bills. Too bad they'll never get the chance.