Distinctive, bizarre, and very un-American, the ’58 Hawk was a pastiche of European styling cues. Inspired by the likes of Ferrari and Mercedes, it boasted tan pleated leather, white-on-black instruments, Jaguaresque fender vents, a turned metal dashboard, gulping hood air-scoop, and a broad fiberglass shovel-nostril that could have been lifted off a Maserati. And it was supercharged. But Packard’s attempt to distance itself from traditional Detroit iron failed.
At the time it looked like automotive suicide – and there is certainly a direct relationship between the Packard Hawk’s outrageous styling and the final demise of the company.
Despite dominating the market niche for hand-built luxury cars, Packard could not survive the Great Depression on those alone. In 1933 the decision was taken to launch a mass-market model and – although quickly derided as a ‘Junior Packard’ by disgruntled owners of prestigious Packard Twelves and Eights – the One Twenty proved to be a company-saver.
The 1930s-constrained by The Great Depression – were a testing time for American car companies and several smaller players went to the wall. One of the keenest contest was in the luxury car-market, where Cadillac and Packard were both chasing top dollar from elite car buyers who had managed to retain serious purchasing power.