1957 and 1958 Packard Concept Cars

Engineering Features of the 1957 Packards
This sketch from January 1956 shows one proposal for a 1957 Packard Clipper convertible.
This sketch from January 1956 shows one proposal for a 1957 Packard Clipper convertible.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

The 1957 Packards offered advanced engineering features. Plans called for Bill Allison's effective "Torsion-Level" self-adjusting suspension to be simplified for greater reliability.

Ditto the firm's troublesome Twin-Ultramatic transmission. And according to engine designer Bill Graves, Packard's existing 374-cubic-inch V-8 would have been bored to a massive 440 cubic inches for 1957, good for at least 300 horsepower and probably far more.

Most intriguing of all was the novel plan for a new V-12, something Packard hadn't offered since 1939. According to Richard Stout, then of Packard Product Planning, this would have been derived from Clipper's smaller 320 ohv V-8, again to conserve scarce cash.

As Stout later wrote in The Packard Cormorant: "Eight of the cylinders would be bored, then the block moved [halfway down] to do the remaining four. The block was a 90-degree type, 30 degrees off for [the desired] in-step-firing V-12. To compensate, each throw was to be split and staggered 30 degrees to provide in-step firing. [It was] similar to the principle Buick [later] used to make its existing 90-degree V-6 into an in-step-firing engine."

This early sketch for the 1957-1958 featured flaring shark fins and headlamps set high in sculptured fenders.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Displacement would have worked out to 480 cubic inches, just seven cubic inches above the 1939 twelve, but with much "squarer" bore/stroke dimensions. Stout added that tooling would have cost only $750,000.

Another bold but ultimately unworkable idea for the big 1957 Packards was the "radar brake." This comprised a small grille-mounted radar sensor connected to an electric screwjack that engaged or disengaged the brakes independently of the driver. As Stout related, the radar brake proved itself when a Four Hundred hardtop so equipped was driven at a wall.

But later, "a company official drove the [car] home. On his first right turn the sensor picked up a cross-traffic car waiting for a light. Screech! Halt! Recovering, our shaken driver proceeded down a narrow street with parked cars, two-way traffic and pedestrians, all of which alarmed the sensor. . . . Our official was astounded [and] made a beeline for the company garage."

The V-12 wasn't as impractical as the radar brake, but both were forgotten along with the rest of the program when Nance failed to obtain financing.

One of many 1956 renderings for the ambitious but cost-effective new Studebaker-Packard
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Though not widely known for many years, Nance had proposed selling a "Predictorized" reskin of the all-new 1956 Lincoln as a desperate last-minute ploy to attract needed funds. The notion went no further than a single Teague sketch depicting a pretty and remarkably adept blend of two disparate designs.

The 1957 Packard Black Bess concept car was developed as a last-ditch effort to obtain money from the bankers. Continue to the next page to learn more about Black Bess.

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