The last Packard, a four-door Patrician, comes off the production line at Packard's plant in Detroit on June 25, 1956.
The milestone essentially marked the end of one of the oldest automakers known for building classic American luxury cars. Packard's slogan: the famously enigmatic, "Ask the Man Who Owns One."
Mechanical engineer James Ward Packard and his brother, William Dowd Packard, built their first automobile, a buggy-type vehicle with a single-cylinder engine, in Warren, Ohio, in 1899. At the urging of some investors, Packard moved its headquarters from Warren, Ohio, to Detroit in 1903.
The Packard Motor Car Co. gained fame with a four-cylinder aluminum speedster called the Gray Wolf. It debuted in 1904 and became one of the first American racing cars to be available for sale to the public. With the introduction of the Twin Six in 1916, packed with a V-12 engine, Packard became America's leading luxury-car maker.
Franklin D. Roosevelt used a 1932 Packard while governor of New York and before he became president.
Packards featured large, square bodies that suggested an elegant solidity, and the company was renowned for its hand-finished attention to detail.
In the 1930s, however, the vast resources of General Motors, by then the biggest automaker, and the success of its V-16 engine pushed Cadillac past Packard as the premier luxury car in America.
Packard diversified by engineering and producing a smaller, more affordable model, the One Twenty, which increased sales. In the postwar years, Packard struggled as Cadillac maintained a firm lead in luxury volume.
While some admirers referred to Packard as America's Rolls-Royce, some journalists gave the company's cars unflattering nicknames such as "bathtub" or "pregnant elephant."
With sales dwindling by the 1950s, Packard merged with the much larger Studebaker Corp. to streamline operations and slash production costs. It was the third such merger of smaller, independent American automakers trying to survive in the shadow of the Big 3 -- General Motors, Ford and Chrysler. The new Packard-Studebaker became the nation's fourth-largest light-vehicle manufacturer. Studebaker, burdened by debt, was struggling as well, however, and eventually dropped its big cars including Packard.
In 1955, on the verge of collapse, Packard designed an elegant show car in response to longtime customers' requests for a Packard that resembled the ones of the 1920s and 1930s. The $20,000 prototype -- dubbed the Request -- was enthusiastically received but was never approved for production.
Taking a page from GM's dream cars of the 1950s -- designed to draw consumers to auto shows -- Packard's show cars included the Pan American in 1952, the Balboa hardtop in 1953 and the Panther in 1954.
In 1956, Packard-Studebaker President James Nance decided to suspend Packard manufacturing in Detroit. While the company continued to build cars in South Bend, Ind., until 1958, the final model produced on June 25, 1956, is considered the last true Packard.
Packard had leased the Conner Avenue plant in Detroit from Chrysler. Three years after Packard vacated the factory, Chrysler demolished it.
Studebaker-Packard didn't drop the latter portion of its formal name until 1962, when the Avanti was introduced.