View Full Version : Studebaker And Packard Workers

07-09-2017, 07:44 AM
My wife and I were watching This Old House last night. The're refurbishing a few of Detroits abounded houses. She asked why there were so many abandoned houses in Detroit. I replied they were probably owned by Packard workers and Packard's suppliers employees.
Then came the next question, how many Packard employees left Detroit and went to South Bend? I had no idea but to say maybe a few? Anyone know ?

Mark L
07-09-2017, 04:44 PM
I can't answer your question. With all the economic upheaval that's happened in Detroit since Studebaker-Packard closed the Packard facilities in Detroit in the 1950s, I think the number of currently abandoned homes that are still standing that were previously owned by former Packard employees would be a very small percentage of the total. To keep vagrants and criminals out, entire blocks of homes have been torn down.

07-09-2017, 05:01 PM
...Then came the next question, how many Packard employees left Detroit and went to South Bend? I had no idea but to say maybe a few? Anyone know?

Once the Packard plant shut down...were there really any real Packards built? I thought they all were just Studebakers with an added dipsy doodle here and there with a Packard badge slapped on it. What value would it be to have an ex-Packard builder retrained to build a Studebaker? Except for a few profitable runs of Larks...they were having enough trouble keeping South Bend residents employed.

Seems to me, the decline and exodus from Detroit, didn't happen until long after other independents, including Studebaker-Packard, were long gone.

07-09-2017, 06:05 PM
My understanding is that the shutdown and dismantling of Packard Division was well underway in the summer of '56. And Studebaker in South Bend wasn't exactly an economic opportunity zone to attract displaced Packard people. Just to make things worse, the record auto industry sales of '55 had tapered off a little by '56. Then came an economic recession.

Doubtless John is right... the impact of closing Packard was just a ripple in the eventual tidal wave of decline that overtook Detroit in later decades.

07-09-2017, 06:35 PM
Packard was only a small percentage of auto workers in Detroit. Chrysler and GM were the big players within the city limits. What killed Detroit was the riot in 1967 and intercity busing of students starting in 1970. Both started the White Flight to the suburbs. I grew up in the North East suburbs of Detroit (St Clair Shores). My grandmother lived in Detroit until the late 1980's. Before moving back to Florida last spring, I stopped by her old neighborhood. The 'hood looked like Beirut but her house still looked OK.

07-09-2017, 10:04 PM
Thank you for the information. Thinking back, I would guess there wasn't much chance of a line worker transferring from Packard Detroit to Studebaker South Bend.i
It's so sad what happened to Packard and Detroit

07-10-2017, 08:19 AM
Its likely few if any Packard line workers moved from Detroit to South Bend when the Detroit Packard operation was shutdown. The South Bend plants were operating well below capacity, were still reducing staff to adjust to diminished 1956 demand versus 1955. The 1957 Packard was projected to sell between 4000-6000 units, not enough to require additional assembly workers. No specialized assembly skills were needed, such as experience with torsion bar suspension installation or Ultramatic set-up. Line workers who had been prior assigned to President operations most likely were tasked with Packard assembly as well.

During 1956, Detroit was absorbing much more than just the shutdown of Packard. American Motors had reduced Hudson operations to the six cylinder engine line only when the 1955 Hudson, built on the Nash platform, assembly as integrated into the Kenosha, WI plant. Hudson’s body plant was acquired by Cadillac, eventually building bodies for most of the cars we knew in the 1960’s-1970’s.

Additionally, when Kaiser-Willys decided to exit the passenger car business, ending Willys Aero production after the 1955 model year, Murray Corporation who had been the body-maker completely shutdown its Detroit body-making division. Although Murray had been a major player in prior decades, outside body suppliers to major automakers, most all had been acquired by those companies, Briggs being the last major, bought by Chrysler in 1953. This was one more unfortunate action for Packard, as they had used Briggs as their sole volume body supplier since 1946. This came to be after the 1941 Clipper body operations were contracted to Briggs, the last of the Packard-built in-house body-making ending with the 1942 non-Clipper models.


07-11-2017, 12:25 AM
The top 5 cities in 1920 - NY, Philly, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland.
The top 5 cities in 2015 - NY, LA, Chicago, Houston, Phoenix. Philly is #6. Detroit and Cleveland don't make the top 20.
Big manufacturing has left the building.