February 19, 2009
CarDomain Obscure Muscle Car Parking Lot: The 1958 Packard Hawk
By Jim Brennan
Welcome to the CarDomain Obscure Muscle Car Parking Lot, a regular feature which aims to expand the notion of what a muscle car is. Today’s featured car is that last of the once great Packard line of cars, but by this time they were nothing but glorified Studebakers. Let me introduce you to the 1958 Packard Hawk.
Continue reading after the jump!
The Packard Hawk is one of the oddest vehicles to ever see the light of day. Built by Studebaker/Packard Corporation, it was the last production car to carry the Packard Name. It was also the fastest production Packard ever built. The 1958 Packard Hawk was the sportiest of the four Packard-badged Studebakers produced. Packard, for the 1957 and 1958 model year, were all rebadged and retrimmed Studebaker products. The 1958 Packard Hawk was essentially Studebaker’s 1957 Golden Hawk with a fiberglass front end and a modified deck lid.
Instead of the Studebaker Hawk’s upright Mercedes-style grille, the Packard Hawk had a wide, low opening just above the front bumper and covering the whole width of the car. Above this, a smoothly sloping nose, and hood, reminiscent of the 1953 Raymond Lowey Studebaker Starliner Coupe, but with a bulge as on the Golden Hawk, to accommodated the engine’s McCulloch supercharger. This gave the Studebaker 289 CuIn (4.7 L) V8 a total of 275 bhp. At the rear, the sides of the fins were coated in a brilliant PET film, giving them a shiny metallic gold appearance. A fake spare-tire bulge, again fashioned from fiberglass, adorned the 1953-55 style Studebaker deck lid. ‘PACKARD’ was spelled out in capitals across the nose, with a gold ‘Packard’ emblem in script, along with a Hawk badge, on the trunk lid and fins.
The interior was full leather, with a fully instrumentation in an engine-turned dash. As on early aircraft and custom boats, padded armrests were mounted outside the windows, a rare touch. The styling was definitely controversial, often described as ‘vacuum-cleaner’ or ‘catfish’ by detractors. Interestingly, the styling has come to be appreciated more today than in its debut.
Most were equipped with the Borg-Warner three-speed automatic transmission. Approximately 28 were produced with the B-W T85 3-speed w/overdrive manual transmission. Studebaker-Packard was the first manufacturer to popularize the limited-slip differential, which they termed Twin-Traction. Most Packard Hawks came with TT. Basic price started at $3995, about $700 higher than the Studebaker model, but with a more luxurious interior. Electric window-lifts and power seats were optional extras.
Distinctive Packard Hawk features rarely seen in Studebakers also included all-leather seating with matching interior trim made of Naugahyde. Dashboards displayed Stewart Warner tachometer and supercharger manifold pressure gauges. The speedometer showed a top speed of 160 mph, and it was published that this car could flat-out run faster top end than the American-made sports cars of the Big Three.
Its rarity and status as the best of the ‘Packardbaker’ final-year cars have made the Packard Hawk quite collectible. The 1958 Packard Hawk was a last-gasp effort to save the once-proud automotive manufacturer from extinction. Only 588 Hawks rolled off the assembly line before the Packard name went defunct. For their time, Packard Hawks were nearly as expensive as Cadillacs and Lincolns, which contributed greatly to their limited marketability. It is estimated that about 200 have survived.
Well, once again, because of the rarity of this particular car, there are no CarDomain members who are showcasing one of these thought provoking rides. Now for the question at hand, is the Last Packard, arguably a trimmed up Studebaker, an obscure muscle car, or is it just an oddity? Your comments are appreciated.
And while you’re at it, check out the other vehicles outlined in this series: The Rambler Rebel, the Mercury Marauder X-100, Dodge Lil Red Express, Jensen Interceptor, The Pontiac Can Am, The Studebaker R-2, and the Oldsmobile Jetfire.
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