Revisiting the Packard Predictor concept (1956)

The Packard Predictor concept made its debut at the 1956 Chicago auto show. Measuring 5638mm long but only 1402mm high, it was the epitome of jet age glamour for the company and the last Packard show car ever created.

The exterior design, by Richard Teague under the direction of Studebaker-Packard design chief Bill Schmidt, featured headlights hidden behind clamshell doors, a large wraparound and wrap-over windshield, retractable roof panels and fenders level with the hood and rear deck. Packard’s ‘cathedral-window’ rear lights – in the largest form they had ever been — sat below see-through tail fins and above the exhaust ports nestled in the rear bumper.

The Predictor’s interior was all about decadent, power-operated luxury: The seats would swivel at the push of a button to ease ingress and egress, the reverse-canted backlight was part-retractable, and a number of toggle switches adorned a steel plate in the roofliner to operate other functions. The four individually contoured seats were very contemporary as well as practical, with reversible cushions — leather on one side, fabric on the other. This idea was taken from Packard’s limited-production Caribbean model.

Built by Ghia of Turin, the car’s faulty electrics caused a fire that nearly burned it to the ground when it was delivered to the US. It had to be swiftly recommissioned by Creative Industries of Detroit.

“The Packard Projector is a portrait of styling philosophy,” Schmidt wrote in the February 1956 issue of Car Life magazine, using the car’s original name, which was later changed. “While futuristic in the sense that it features many advanced styling and engineering innovations, the Packard Projector is not a ‘dream’ car. Many of its features are on present Packard models, and those not of the present are in every case practical and under serious study for production models.”

Alas, the Predictor’s ‘predictions’ for the Packard brand would never materialize. Though some of the show car’s innovations would later find their way onto GM-and Ford-owned brands, the company’s financial difficulties would relegate it to the annals of history.

The Packard Predictor – the only one ever made – still exists today. It currently resides at the Studebaker National Museum in South Bend, Indiana.


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