For all his brilliance, Preston Tucker "was out of his pond. He remained a stranger and perhaps even a threat to the SEC, and he didn’t know anyone in government. Preston was careless in some of his pencil-work, perhaps in a bit of his talk, too. Nevertheless. Tucker conceived an amazing automobile. Nevertheless, the government did overreact, despite all he did to earn it.
It sounds irreligious, but I’ve never been able to relate to Ferraris. Give me a quirky English rig with an interesting pedigree and a shape you don’t see every day. There’s something about the smell of leather, the way the rain beads on the bonnet, that reminds you of the day when almost anybody in England could build a sports car, and most of them did. A worker in Coventry once said to me about the Triumph TR6: "It rides hard and smells of oil, mate. They just don't make cars like that any more!"
"We built the Playboy just for the fun of doing it. Stepped on it, and the dogs barked and the chickens ran.... The letters poured in. A girl in Ohio wrote: 'I don’t want a position with your Company. I just want to meet the man who wrote that advertisement. I am 23, blonde, weight 130. My wings are spread. Just say the world and I’ll fly to you.' I think the best things are written like that. You write as you feel…. Stephen Foster asked his brother to name a southern river to use in his song…rejected “Peedee” for the name “Suwanee.” Brother knew his geography, Stephen knew rhythm.... With the right copy you can get a smile out of the Sphinx."
Detroit spent millions trying to understand what buyers wanted—and acted accordingly. It wasn’t a case of “Grosse Pointe myopians” dictating their preferences. Almost every failure—from the Henry J to the Edsel to the longer-wider-faster American Motors mid-60s models—was an example of product planners misreading market forces. Every notable success, from the early Rambler to the ponycar to the musclecar, was an example of getting it right. For whatever they built (and they built some pretty bad cars): Don’t blame Detroit. Blame us.
“For those who love speed coupled with utility features of general motoring, Packard builds its Speedsters. Perhaps it is the inherent flow of speed joined to the swift grace of smooth design that suggests these interesting body treatments. But Speedsters they all are, from test car to Runabout. For those who thrill to the maximum speed of an open car on an open road.” —Packard Motor Car Company
Performance may be described as “comfortable.” Zero to 60 must take 20 seconds, and we've not pushed her over 70. But at 60, 1950 Eight is just cruising. Gas mileage averages about 15 mpg. But hey, remember, this is 1950, and gas is only 15 cents a gallon. (A fun feature at gas stations: Packard’s “whistling gas tank” stops whistling when you’re nearing full, captivating locals. Nothing like that on an Audi A6.)
Parry Thomas was buried in the graveyard of Byfleet, near Brooklands, the great oval racetrack where he built his fame. His marker reads: “Life is eternal and love is immortal, and death, which is only the horizon, is nothing save the limit of our sight.” A wreath of violets, anonymously sent, carried the legend, “Ride On, Ride On, in Majesty.” Ride On, Don, Dave and Randy.
Picture Stevens, trailing a silk scarf, driving a very loud open sports car with what the British call “assurance.” Picture an army of gendarmerie, including aircraft. Failing to catch him, they block the road ahead. Now picture the nearest constable (seven feet tall as they all are). Jerking his thumb at the Excalibur’s sartorially splendid driver, he shouts: YOU—OUT! Kip paid his fine. It was substantial.
For 30 years I've written the bimonthly Values Guide for "Collectible Automobile," which for 40 years has consistently turned out quality articles and fine photography on collector cars. I write without a byline, hoping to avoid being denounced by owners who think their car is worth a lot more than the market says it is. But sometimes we make a mistakes....
In reality, Packard’s crucial mistakes were made years before. After the war, when a company could sell anything on wheels, Packard could have reverted to type, rebuilding its reputation as a luxury automaker. Instead it pursued the lower-priced markets that had saved it in the Depression. Stemming from this marketing mistake was a series of product decisions that flew in the face of Packard’s proud heritage.