The 1956 Packard Predictor show car was the company's last gasp after the merger with Studebaker. It's bold styling and features exemplified the brand that evoked the confident marketing phrase, "Ask the man who owns one".
Now residing at the National Studebaker Museum in South Bend, IN, the car was designed by Dick Macadam and strongly influenced by Richard Teague who had been with Packard since 1951. Teague would go on to greater acclaim at AMCin the 1960's. The Predictor was built under the direction of Packard design chief Bill Schmidt and executed by Ghia of Turin. Ghia had built many of the Chrysler show cars of the era and their bodywork was second to none.
Like Chrysler, Packard was guilty of uninspired designs in the early fifties. Show concepts like this and others by Chrysler (via Ghia) were revolutionary and refreshing. Chrysler, led by Virgil Exner, finally punched through in 1957 with the exciting "Forward Look" models that had engineers at GM scrambling to catch up. It took GM two years to produce an equivalent, as the 1959 Cadillac punctuated the long, low and lean effect.
Perhaps the Predictor was the right car but it came too late to save the vaunted firm. It was intended to highlight a three car platform with 120, 125 and 130 inch wheelbases which would save production costs and utilize shared exterior panels.
A surprising number of the Predictor's design cues found their way into later models from other manufacturers. Many will point to the rearward slanting backlight that surfaced on the 1957 Mercury Turnpike Cruiser and the 1958 Continental Mark III as well as the later Mercury Breezeway as coming from the Predictor. It has also been noted that the slim vertical nose bears resemblance to the ox yoke grille from Edsel and later, from Pontiac. Hidden clamshell headlights were distinctive and used on the 1963 Chevrolet Corvette. The swiveling bucket seats found their way into Chrysler models several years later.
The Predictor was powered by a 300 HP Packard V-8 and while driveable, the electronics were poorly wired and it was at its best as a static display model. It actually caught fire and had to be partially rebuilt due to the electrical problems. It is a one off model and was the only Packard concept car owned by the corporation when they went out of business. It became part of the assets that went to the National Studebaker Museum where we can all share in its beauty and innovation .