Tag Archives: Film noir

Packard in the wild: “Ask the man who disowns one.”

Front end loaded

Front end, loaded

Dignity maintained

Dignity maintained

Packard typically occupies the same frontage in an old car thought balloon as Deusenberg and Pierce Arrow.  The truth is that for all the special custom-body, coach-built, “classic” Packard there were many more mass-produced lesser Packards.  In their day, these were driven by prosperous business people and bourgeois strivers rather than movie stars, gangsters and maharajahs.   “Ask the man who owns one” was Packard’s slogan and those Rotarians, Masons and country club members supposedly had the answer.

(Almost) the end of the line

(Almost) the end of the line

Sill, it’s not very common to see a Packard of any provenance in an ordinary street setting but a few are out there, their glory faded but not forgotten.  Packard’s ’58 model year was its last but the truth is the marque’s glory days ended on December 7, 1941 with the end of peace and civilian auto production halted until after V-J Day.  Packard was never particularly competitive against Cadillac, Lincoln and Imperial in the post war era.

Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 2.58.09 PM

We were delighted with the images of a ’54 Clipper, Packard’s lower priced line,  captured by Feral Cars Field Scout Ben Edge in far away San Luis Obispo, California, Its rich patina can only happen in nature; it’s just not possible to replicate that kind of surface rust, oxidation and paint peel in a lab or even through CGI. This was the last year of Packard’s straight 8 cylinder motor which could be had in either 327 or 288  cubic inch versions in the “Clipper by Packard.”  Silky smooth and refined power was assured though the configuration was a rolling anachronism: all other top end domestics had already switched to V8 years before.  Our man in SLO reports that the car was found in the town’s historic district, around the corner from Clippers Barber Shop. Guess which NBA also-ran team he’s a fan of?

Champagne wishes and caviar dreams to go

Champagne wishes and caviar dreams gone to seed

Feral Cars Field Scout Matthew Reader gifted us with a singular shot of this quite perfect ’56 Packard Patrician that reminds us why these dreadnaughts are worth caring for.  It’s a car so stately that a very close copy, the GAZ Chaika, was used to ferry multiple generations of top level Soviet bureaucrats and party apparatchiks in the good old days. Is not ironic, then, Comrade,  that it takes model name from the Roman designation for aristocrat, member of the power ruling class power elite? Da! Is ironic!

Moscow mule

Moscow’s mule

The cars that Packard built after the war were exemplars of the bulbous school of automotive design, the vehicular embodiment of the look R. Crumb seems to most appreciate in terms of his feminine ideal.  This ’48 sedan is another patina machina of note.  We found it parked in a lower Hollywood neighborhood that, even in this age of gentrification, is still on the seedy side.

..and try any funny business, see?

..and don’t try any funny business, see?

It’s a ghostly remnant from the age of film noir when Hollywood was populated by hard boiled P.I.s who, invariably, took on cases presented to them by dames with gams up to here.  Just another long, throat-scorching pull from a flask full of Old Grand Dad, a fresh Lucky Strike and then it’s off in the Packard to see what her ex-husband has to say about the death of her latest boyfriend, “a fella from San Peedro, named Hubert Buckley.”  The wiseguys shooting craps on Selma Avenue called “Huckle Buck Chuck.” When he was still living…

Findadeath.com staff car

Official staff car of www.findadeath.com

We found this impressive ’48 Packard sedan with only 57,000 miles offered for under $13K in nearby Maple Lake, MN.  You’ll want to stash in your moll’s driveway until the heat’s off.

Is that Mike Wallace’s voice narrating this film that Packard asked its service people to watch and study back in ’52? Le’s hope there wasn’t a mid-term!

Ask the man who owns one.. if you can track him down.

Ask the man who owns one.. if you can track him down.

If you’ve stalked a feral car and would like to submit a photo of it for posting consideration please send it to us:   info (at) feralcars (dot)com OR through our Facebook page.

Note: While we strive for factual accuracy in our posts, we readily acknowledge that we we sometimes make inadvertent mistakes.  If you happen to catch one please don’t sit there and fume; let us know where we went wrong and we’ll do our best to correct things.

Postwarriors: “the greatest generation” revisited

After having been so rudely interrupted by Pearl Harbor, domestic auto production resumed in 1946. GM, Ford, Chrysler and the independents — Packard, Studebaker, Nash, Hudson — had spent the war years building tanks, planes and whatever was needed to ensure victory over the Axis powers. This United Auto Workers song gives an encapsulated history of the union’s efforts to organize Ford Motor and to rally behind the war effort.  It really speaks volumes about that extraordinary time.

Delightfullly delovely

Delightfullly delovely and, yes, that’s an AMC Hornet aft of its stern

Initial postwar cars were, essentially, carry overs from the 1942 model year as was this ’47 or ’48 DeSoto sedan we found the other day  mouldering away and dragging its tail a bit.  It’s impressive in terms of sheer mass and presence — the roof being more than 5′ 6″ above the road) and that front grill is straight out of the deco age.


Bulbosity sans filler cap

We think it just hangs around the eastern fringe of Hollywood hoping to be cast in a remake of a  film noir of the era like Dead Reckoning starring George Clooney in the Bogart role and Scarlett Johansson in the part Lizabeth Scott (born Emma Matzo — no kidding!)  created.  Hard core hip-hopper culture devotees should check on this “grill.” Surely, it will soon be the envy of L’il Wayne.

Thrill grill

Thrill grill

DeSoto was an object of middle class aspirations to move up a notch from lower class Dodge but stopping short of the old money subtext underpinning the upmarket Chrysler.  The back end on this one seems to have given way though it may have been intentionally lowered. Tough guys know that a few stiffs in the trunk tend to make a car ride on the low side and draw suspicion which some might think a “dead giveaway.”

Sophie Tucker, your Uber is here.

“Sophie Tucker, your Uber car has arrived.”

In an earlier post we covered this ’49 Packard Custom 8, photographed by Feral Cars Field Scout Davin Seay.  It, too, seems to have been designed by adherents of the  pontoon school of styling back in New Deal days.  Packard was a car for patricians, Cadillac being for the nouveau riche as well as for prosperous, yet showy, ethnic types. While a DeSoto could be had for far less than a Packard, Chevrolet was very much an entry level play.

Heavy Chevy

Heavy Chevy

We’re just nuts about the patina on this, apparently, untouched mid-line ’48 Chevrolet Fleetmaster sedan. It’s noteworthy that all the trim pieces, both bright and body-colored, are right where they should be and all are in undamaged, original condition.  We do think those whitewalls and the chrome wheel trim rings are un peu de trop for a car with such unassuming working class roots.  Then, again, maybe they’re a reflection of hopes for upward mobility during that ever so optimistic post war era.


Qualifies for Medicare

The origins of the brand names of these three cars bear addressing.  Packard, the oldest marque here, was founded in Warren, Ohio in 1899 by brothers  James Ward Packard and William Doud Packard.  Chevrolet came next, founded next in 1911. The car was initially a partnership between former Fiat and Buick race car driver Louis Chevrolet (b.1878 in the Swiss canton of Neuchâtel) and GM founder Billy Durant, then on the outs with the company, to build a low priced Ford competitor.

DeSoto is, strictly, the product of marketing.  The name on Chrysler’s one-step-down (from Chrysler, itself) and two-steps-up (from Plymouth and Dodge) marque was derived from Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto. This was an obvious attempt to mimic Cadillac, named in 1902 after the French explorer who 200 years earlier, founded Fort Pontchartrain du Détroit.  While he’s credited for being the first Westerner to see the Mississippi River back in 1541, de Soto’s resume also includes the destruction of the Inca civilization, introducing plagues of fatal diseases to the New World, not to mention the wholesale massacre of indigenous people.  And you thought Jeep’s Cherokee is an example of corporate insensitivity!

Hernando's ride away

Hernando’s rideaway

Badging on our ’48 DeSoto is a mid-century vamp on Hernanado de Soto’s family coat of arms.  That’s a profile of the fun-loving conquistador, himself, above a stylized representation of his crest.  Class! See?

DeSoto, Packard, Chevrolet and lots of other makes are chronicled in this Noire Car video guide with a very ‘cool school’ vibe.

We sincerely urge you to purchase this extended wheelbase 1946 DeSoto Custom that has only 76,000 miles.  You’ll make the $19K asking price back in a few weeks by renting out this 7-passenger party van of its day for weddings, bar mitzvahs and bank robberies.

If you’ve stalked a feral car and would like to submit a photo of it for posting please send it to us:   info (at) feralcars (dot)com.  Include your name, location of the car and some thoughts about the vehicle and we’ll look into getting it posted