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What if Studebaker, AMC and Checker had merged?

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  • Laemmle
    replied
    If my grandmother had testicles, she would be my grandfather.


    quote:Originally posted by Son O Lark

    What if the unions took a large cut in the early fifties? What if....? What if Eleanor Roosevelt could fly? What if Superman aligned with the Axis powers?

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  • MotorHead
    replied
    quote:Originally posted by 56H-Y6

    Hi

    Bob, I love to read your recollections of your family-owned dealership, however briefly it existed. It sounds like an experience I wish I had had as a youth.

    On the causes for the inopportune delay in availability of the '55 Packards, the blame can be layed squarely on management and at the door of the Connor Avenue plant when complete assembly was moved from East Grand Boulevard at the end of 1954 production.

    Here's why, Chrysler purchased Briggs Manfacturing in 1953 upon the death of Walter Briggs. Briggs has been Packard's sole sources of bodies since 1941. Chrysler agreed to supply Packard with bodies but only to the end of the '54 model run.

    Within Nance's staff, there was a movement to have Packard assembly placed in a modern, one story assembly complex, with attendant cost reductions and streamlined operations.
    As it happened, Connor Avenue was a one story factory, and Chrysler agreed to a five year lease of the plant to Packard. Sounds good so far, here was the problem:

    East Grand Boulevard Plant: 3,000,000 plus square feet
    Connor Avenue:................759,749 square feet

    Previously, Connor Avenue had been completely occupied by body production, then management crammed complete chassis and final assembly operations into this cracker box space!

    Load this disasterous move onto assembling a more complex and unfamiliar new model in tight quarters.......delays, quality problems, higher unit cost.

    While the purchase of Studebaker is frequently blamed for the financial difficulties, the move to Connor Avenue should be recognized for contributing as much or more to the financial Waterloo that occurred a little more than a year later.

    Steve

    Source: "Connor, Briggs and Chrysler: Trends and Fate" by John M. Lauter, [u]</u>The Packard Cormorant[u]</u> Spring 2007 Number 126
    Steve, You have it "exactly correct". And I would like to add a snippet to your excellent post: If manufacturing had REMAINED at E. Grand Boulevard, ther would have been no "quality problems" with the 1955 Packard line. None whatsoever. The '55 (and '56) models were essentially a very clever restyling of the 1954 line, and the excellent crew of assemblers that Packardf had maintained prior to the arrival of Nance would most likely been able to assemble the '55s flawlessly with their eyes shut and one hand tied behind their backs!

    The ENTIRETY of the '55 model year quality problems derive directly from the switch to the ill-suited Conner St. Plant. Nance should have saved the money. The '55s would have been stellar performers, and the orders would have been filled on time, with no production bottle-necking, thereby yielding an excellent sales year, with the attendant large profit, and no damage to their quality reputation. The '55 Packard was stuningly beautiful (I have one, so I am not objective!)

    Jim Nance made an extraordinarily bad choice in moving assembly from E.Grand on such short notice and to such an ill-suited destination.
    And the "supposed" need for a body plant, once Briggs sold out to Chrysler, was also "in Jim Nance's head". George Mason had already put-in-place the rough outline of an agreement for the 4-way merger of Nash-HudsonPackard-Studebaker....and Nash had all the body plant capacity that Packard could have possibly required.

    The problem was that Nance wanted to be "top-dog". He wanted to be dependent on no one beyond his own control...and that meant not being dependent on AMC for its bodies. But that was purely an ego-driven decision. Nance likely figured he could sway Mason to his way of doing things, but Nance was very disdainful of George Romney (Mason's lieutenant)to the point of deliberate insults. When Mason died unexpectedly, and Romney became president of AMC, that likely "sealed the deal" in Nance's mind...he would fabricate his

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  • edpjr
    replied
    I guess "what if" questions are best reserved for deep thinkers and philosophers. But, as one who loves nostalgia, I think it would've been marvelous to have seen Studebaker cars make it into the 70's. They missed the era of the greatest performance cars, the times when gas economy REALLY meant something, the van craze, the Jeep craze, the times when pickups became stylish second cars, etc. I feel like by 1970, Stude would have put forth a true competitor to the Hemi Cuda, the Boss Mustang, and the 427 Vette. Perhaps, it would've been an Avanti derivative. And when gas got scarce in 1973, Stude would've been all over designing engines and cars to get high fuel mileage. There might've been less Chevettes, VWs, Mustang II's and maybe lot's less small imports. We may never have heard of the Gremlin, Pacer, or later cars like Saturns and Coopers. Perhaps somewhere in a parallel universe or different dimension, AMC and Chrysler folded, and people are still driving new Studebakers made in the USA (and Canada)....instead of Nissans, Toyotas and Hondas.

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  • 8E45E
    replied
    quote:Originally posted by Warren Webb
    I remember a used car lot in South Amboy, N.J., Jensen's Auto Sales, selling new VW type 3's in a coupe form while the authorized dealer just down the road had the fastback & wagon versions.
    Of all the Eurpoean and Asian automakers that sold cars both in the United States and Canada, Volkswagen seemed to have the most different variations of models that were available in one country, but not the other despite being right next to each other. I found out years later that the Type 3 Notchback and Type 3 Karmann Ghia were Canadian-market-only models, and some models such as the 411 2 door and the Quantum was not available in Canada. I am kind of surprised a dealer would attempt to market that one particular model in the U.S., though, especially when it wasn't a whole lot different from the Fastback. I still have the Canadian 1971 Type 3 brochure with the Notchback in it.







    Craig

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  • Warren Webb
    replied
    A grey market car, in this case a VW, was one that was imported from Europe without VW co-operation. I remember a used car lot in South Amboy, N.J., Jensen's Auto Sales, selling new VW type 3's in a coupe form while the authorized dealer just down the road had the fastback & wagon versions. This was at the time before federal regulations kicked in & the market was getting hot for imports. Studebaker, as a Canadian manufacturer, could import & distribute the cars & make a profit. Also at this time the U.S. congress passed a fair trade law that allowed Canadian built Studebakers to enter the states without tax. With this, they were able to import the grey market cars & distribute them around North America, much to Volkswagen's dismay.

    60 Lark convertible
    61 Champ
    62 Daytona convertible
    63 G.T. R-2,4 speed
    63 Avanti (2)
    66 Daytona Sport Sedan

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  • edpjr
    replied
    Makes sense. In fact, my 1959 Lark was purchased brand new from the local Oldsmobile & Pontiac dealer.

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  • 8E45E
    replied
    quote:Originally posted by edpjr
    are you saying the Big 3 had plans for their compacts even before the Lark came out? What is your info source and how did Stude manage to beat them to the road by a full year model?
    Ford's own PR paper on the Falcon:










    E.T. Reynold's own autobiogaphy about the Lark:



    Craig

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  • edpjr
    replied
    Two questions: (1) what is a grey-market VW, and (2)are you saying the Big 3 had plans for their compacts even before the Lark came out? What is your info source and how did Stude manage to beat them to the road by a full year model? I read in aged Stude literature that the Big 3 reacted to the Studebaker Lark having success that Nash/Rambler never had. I owned a '59 2dr-HT Lark with factory 259 CID V-8 4V dual exhausts and auto trans for 8 years back in the 70s. One of my best friends owned a Corvair and my brother had a Valiant. Neither car was remotely as nice (or fast) as my Lark.

    quote:Originally posted by Warren Webb

    I wouldn't say that Studebaker failed to be sucessful as a distributor of Mercedes due to the fact that many of the dealers that handled Mercedes kept on when Studebaker stopped as a car manufacturer. They did distribute VW, but only the non-authorized grey market cars, which in 1965 they earned around a million dollars profit, hardly a failure. The compacts of the big three were already in the loop when the Lark had its success in 59, so you cant say that they saw that success & reacted with the Falcon, Corvair, & Valiant. Lark sales dropped in 60, but the profit was minimal and whatever profit there was no doubt came from other divisions from divercification.

    60 Lark convertible
    61 Champ
    62 Daytona convertible
    63 G.T. R-2,4 speed
    63 Avanti (2)
    66 Daytona Sport Sedan

    Leave a comment:


  • Warren Webb
    replied
    I wouldn't say that Studebaker failed to be sucessful as a distributor of Mercedes due to the fact that many of the dealers that handled Mercedes kept on when Studebaker stopped as a car manufacturer. They did distribute VW, but only the non-authorized grey market cars, which in 1965 they earned around a million dollars profit, hardly a failure. The compacts of the big three were already in the loop when the Lark had its success in 59, so you cant say that they saw that success & reacted with the Falcon, Corvair, & Valiant. Lark sales dropped in 60, but the profit was minimal and whatever profit there was no doubt came from other divisions from divercification.

    60 Lark convertible
    61 Champ
    62 Daytona convertible
    63 G.T. R-2,4 speed
    63 Avanti (2)
    66 Daytona Sport Sedan

    Leave a comment:


  • edpjr
    replied
    I guess I got this harebrained idea because as a kid in the early 1960's I walked to and from grade school every day right by Wayne Johnson Motors where they sold Ramblers and Studebakers. I found out just recently that Mr. Johnson committed suicide in his dealership circa 1966 or '67. My granddad also worked at the local Yellow Cab Co., and my Mom didn't drive, so I was quite familiar with Checkers too.

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  • edpjr
    replied
    I understand that Studebaker failed to be successful as the North American distributor of Mercedes Benz AND that they turned down the opportunity to distribute Volkswagen. Sheesh, what dumb decisions. I do recall though that the '59 Lark was a smashing success bringing Studebaker over a $50M profit that year. That was a lot of $$$ 50 years ago. But the Lark's initial success prompted the Big 3 to release the Corvair, Falcon and Valiant in 1960 which greatly diminished Lark sales. It looks like 1959 would've been the optimum time for Stude to approach AMC/Kaiser and Checker about a merger. They had a well received car in the Lark and their balance sheet must have looked pretty good too. And, they also had the truck line. The Volkswagen deal by itself would have cinched Stude's survival though. Everybody had one of those VW Bugs in the 1960's. My Dad and Uncle ran an Auto Supply Warehouse in Western NC back then. Their salesmen drove company cars which were either Rambler station wagons or VW's. The Bugs were dirt cheap to buy and operate, and the Ramblers could be used to haul parts and accessory orders.

    Leave a comment:


  • 56H-Y6
    replied
    Hi

    Bob, I love to read your recollections of your family-owned dealership, however briefly it existed. It sounds like an experience I wish I had had as a youth.

    On the causes for the inopportune delay in availability of the '55 Packards, the blame can be layed squarely on management and at the door of the Connor Avenue plant when complete assembly was moved from East Grand Boulevard at the end of 1954 production.

    Here's why, Chrysler purchased Briggs Manfacturing in 1953 upon the death of Walter Briggs. Briggs has been Packard's sole sources of bodies since 1941. Chrysler agreed to supply Packard with bodies but only to the end of the '54 model run.

    Within Nance's staff, there was a movement to have Packard assembly placed in a modern, one story assembly complex, with attendant cost reductions and streamlined operations.
    As it happened, Connor Avenue was a one story factory, and Chrysler agreed to a five year lease of the plant to Packard. Sounds good so far, here was the problem:

    East Grand Boulevard Plant: 3,000,000 plus square feet
    Connor Avenue:................759,749 square feet

    Previously, Connor Avenue had been completely occupied by body production, then management crammed complete chassis and final assembly operations into this cracker box space!

    Load this disasterous move onto assembling a more complex and unfamiliar new model in tight quarters.......delays, quality problems, higher unit cost.

    While the purchase of Studebaker is frequently blamed for the financial difficulties, the move to Connor Avenue should be recognized for contributing as much or more to the financial Waterloo that occurred a little more than a year later.

    Steve

    Source: "Connor, Briggs and Chrysler: Trends and Fate" by John M. Lauter, [u]</u>The Packard Cormorant[u]</u> Spring 2007 Number 126

    Leave a comment:


  • BobPalma
    replied
    quote:Originally posted by autocrat

    "Remember, my father was a Packard dealer in 1955, when I was 9 years old"

    I wish I could have seen them new! Did your Fathers store dual with anything else? In 1955 my Dad brought home a near-new yellow 54 Commander Conestoga. I was three, but I can remember.
    My first car was a yellow/white 56 Clipper Custom 4 door, 70,000 miles, rust-free, original paint, original intact black/white interior. Loved the way it smelled! There was a small curb scrape on the passenger side rear fender. Engine ran good. The power steering only operated in one direction, the power antenna was stuck down, and the Ultramatic shuddered after the 1-2 shift. $50.00 bought her in 1969, when I was 15. I had no license, my future brother-in-law drove it home.
    Today, that would be like bringing home a 1996!

    Cool beans, Autocrat! Yes, by 1969, a 1956 Clipper Custom 4-door was only worth $50, I'm sorry to say...and that's if it ran!

    Dad and Uncle Milt started out in Paris IL with Packard alone on June 15, 1953. Within the first year, they added Willys to get the Jeep truck line because they were in a farming community and added Nash to get the little, low-priced Rambler and lower-middle-priced Statesman series.

    They finally merged with the Studebaker dealer to get his larger facility. So, by June 1955, they had every independent except Hudson! BP

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  • autocrat
    replied
    "Remember, my father was a Packard dealer in 1955, when I was 9 years old"

    I wish I could have seen them new! Did your Fathers store dual with anything else? In 1955 my Dad brought home a near-new yellow 54 Commander Conestoga. I was three, but I can remember.
    My first car was a yellow/white 56 Clipper Custom 4 door, 70,000 miles, rust-free, original paint, original intact black/white interior. Loved the way it smelled! There was a small curb scrape on the passenger side rear fender. Engine ran good. The power steering only operated in one direction, the power antenna was stuck down, and the Ultramatic shuddered after the 1-2 shift. $50.00 bought her in 1969, when I was 15. I had no license, my future brother-in-law drove it home.
    Today, that would be like bringing home a 1996!

    Leave a comment:


  • Bill Pressler
    replied
    I admire the V8 Packards, despite the teething issues. It seems like the '51-54 Packards were durable cars, but I remember reading that in the '54 model year, Packard was down to 27,000 sales...yikes!

    I do think (unscientifically) that Packard was in a way-better cash position than Studebaker at the time of the merger. I think some (not all) of that has to do with the fact that it seems like Studebaker spent more on post-war product (new cars for '47, new trucks for '49, V8 engine in '51, Automatic Drive pretty early on, '53's which were really two different lines of cars, etc.) than did Packard up 'til that time.

    That said, I could enjoy a '56 Four-Hundred Hardtop!

    My hometown Stude dealer actually also sold Packard starting in '41. Around '50 they dropped Packard, or were dropped by them, but picked them up again for the '55 model year. They later picked up Benz in late '57 according to their dealer contract card in the SNM. This last item is very surprising to me given the general blue-collar state of that town in the '50's, but then we had plant managers, Thiel College professors, and doctors in town too I guess.

    I can only remember one Checker in town, when I was a teenager. It was a russet or copper-colored sedan with small hubcabs and blackwalls. It was owned by a rather eccentric older guy who did like to talk about it when asked. It was at the oldest a '73 'cause it had the big bumpers. He liked to tell how he had to go to Kalamazoo, MI to pick it up at the plant. A few years later I saw it in the back "make us an offer" lot at the local Pontiac dealer.

    Bill Pressler
    Kent, OH
    '63 Lark Daytona Skytop R1
    '64 Daytona Hardtop

    Leave a comment:

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