America after WWII was a nation ready to prosper and display that prosperity, and there was no better way to do that than in the car we drove. All of the car companies had been secretly working on a new car for after the war. Theres always a problem, and it came in the form of labor strikes, and the fact that smaller companies like Packard couldnt get steel because of the shortage due to the war. All of the companies had ideas and designs, but when the war ended on August 15, 1945, there was just no time to tool up for a new car. When Packard resumed production in the Fall of 45, it was with the Clipper Series only, and it was with the 42 Clipper with a few minor design changes, ie: The center vertical grill bar spacing was narrower on the 42s and widened to match the spacing on the side grills in 46. The speedo and clock numbers were changed and the plastic ash tray detail just under the windshield surround eliminated.
The first series of Packards to roll off of the East Grand Boulevard assembly line were the small 8 4-doors. The all-new car would just have to wait! Ed Macauley was head of design at Packard and was the son of Alvin Macauley, who was president at Packard from 1916 until 1939. Ed oversaw and contributed to Packard design, similar to GMs Harley Earl, and like Earls experimental Y Job, Ed drove an evolving prototype named the Phantom on which he worked out his innovations. Some of these would later go into production, such as automatic transmission, power brakes, sliding glove box drawer and more. In 1941, Eds personal car had been built by Hess & Eisenhardt (armored car and limo builders). This is the car that evolved into the Phantom,which became the basis for the 48 Packard front end with its mouth organ grill for which Ed was given design credit. Designer Al Prance at Briggs Manufacturing (who built bodies for Packard from 1940-1954) was given credit for the new 48 body design. Before the car was introduced, many other people would be involved in its final design. Back at the factory, Packard management insisted on a lower, fatter profile despite objections from Packard chief stylist John Reinhart. Reinhart felt that the Clipper was a sleek and still new design that had only been out a little over a year when production of all cars stopped in February of 1942 for the war. The trouble was, it was now 1945 and the public had seen it for five years. Management won out and the Clipper resumed after the war for only two years (1946 & 1947).
The new 48s would be what was called bath tubstyling that was popular at the time, other car companies were designing similar cars with Nash and Hudson right there with them. By 1945, the 22nd (1948) series design was pretty much ready to go. The Clipper had been the 21st series and the 48s would be the 22nd series. It is important to understand that to recover some of the expense of retooling for the new car, Packard produced the 22nd series for more than one year. The 22nd series was launched in the summer of 1947 (at first with convertibles only). In the Fall of 1948 when the new 1949 models would usually be introduced, Packard continued its 22nd series. The 22nd 49s were designated by a 9stamped into the Briggs body tag. The 9was stamped between the body and serial numbers. This could be done at the factory, or, reportedly, some dealers took the 48s on their lots and just stamped the "9"on their leftover cars.
There were running changes made on the 9cars, but they basically looked like the 48s. The 22nd series ended on April 1, 1949 and the 23rd series began. The 22nd series would go on the books as the second-best selling, beat out only by 1937s 1500 series.
1948 offered these cars:
Eights4-door, Club Sedan, Station Wagon, 4-door Deluxe, Club Sedan, Deluxe;
Super Eight 4-door Sedan, Club Sedan, Convertible Victoria,
7-passenger Limo, 7-passenger Sedan;
Custom Eight4-door Sedan, Club Sedan, Convertible, Hearse
chassis, 7-passenger Limo, 7-passenger Sedan.
The 1948s would out-sell Cadillac for the last time and would keep Packard as Americas leading prestige car. In the 1948 Presidential election, candidate Harry S. Truman campaigned in a 48 Black Custom Convertible, and his opponent Thomas Dewey in a White Custom Convertible. The new ad for the 48 Custom was Guess what name it bears! Nowhere on the Custom was the Packard name displayed. You just knew it was a Packard! Wouldnt it be great for a car company today to have that attitude and confidence.
The Customs were designed to lead the way and their build standards were to be of the highest in the industry. The front would have a very beautiful and complex egg crate, hand-assembled grill that would continue on the rear of the car to complete the egg crate theme. The Customs hub caps had cloisonne medallions, the grill had a return of the family crest in cloisonne, new cormorant, double stainless mouldings running front to back along the rocker area (early 22nd series), inside there were wood grain dash and window mouldings with pear wood* panels, these were the top section of the door panels, heavy broad cloth door panels, seats and headliners. The seats matched the door panels but had a relief pattern that was called Shadow Cloth. The door and kick panels were a leather square-quilted pattern with thick cotton thread stitching. This also continued around the seat surrounds. The headliner seams ran front to back (fore to aft) instead of side to side and the carpet was Moss-Tred inside the car as well as in the trunk. It should be noted that the seats were designed by an orthopedic surgeon and had individual Marshall coils that were hand-tied together, topped with duck down padding, and the seats were adjustable for firmness.
Engines for the Customs were the continuation of the powerful 356, 9-main-bearing straight 8s; transmissions were 9-roller-bearing 3-speed on the column manuals with overdrive. Packard had introduced its Borg-Warner overdrive in 1939 with the R-6, then the R-9 from 1940, and changed to the R-11 in December of 1948. The R-9 was a good overdrive but it had a problem with the OD going into reverse and doing damage to the unit. The R-11 had a safety switch that cut power to the entire unit to prevent lockup and this R-11 unit was retrofitted in many of the R-9 cars by the dealer. Electromatic clutch was also available on the 48s and was a semi-automatic that allowed the driver to shift gears and come to a stop without using the clutch.
The car at the top of Page 114 is my car--a 1948 (pre "9"series) Custom Club Sedan (Coupe). It is in the final stages of restoration, but with much still left to do.
To see what has been done so far, see the photos in this article and visit our web site at www.southernwheels.com and read the Archives on this car. A lot has been written on these cars, so what I will cover is what hasnt been written, such as How the hood locks are built, What size screws/bolts are used in assembly, What new materials can be used in assembly now that some of the originals are no longer available. It will be challenging and fun and much of what we are doing applies to other cars of this vintage
We have done more work on the car since this article, and are now putting the newly plated chrome and will reveal a new way to get your interior done correctly without letting your car leave your garage!
Keep em driving.