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Packard of New Orleans – Fading Old-Line Luxury in The Big Easy

Packard of New Orleans was located on Saint Charles Avenue at Saint Mary Street in the historic Louisiana City. The “Uptown” section of the Avenue is lined with old money mansions, and one of the City streetcar lines established in 1835 continues to travel on its grass-lined median. Not much is known about this dealership at this point or when it first went into operation or closed, although this set of images appears to have been taken between 1951 to ’53. Some later time when Packards were no longer sold at the facility, it housed Mel Parnell Plymouth. The last photo (below) dated May 9, 1957, by the source, contains Parnell’s dealership.

The building has survived and is now divided into a number of retail shops. The used car lot shown in the lead photo was located on the other side of Saint Mary St, which now contains an AT&T store. This facility may have been a Packard dealership for some time, and it would be interesting to know if any of our readers can turn up more information about it. The photos are courtesy of the Louisiana State Library.

1953 Packards Packard New Orleans

1953 Packards Packard New Orleans

1953 Packards Packard New Orleans

Mel Parnell Plymouth

33 responses to “Packard of New Orleans – Fading Old-Line Luxury in The Big Easy

  1. Tremendous showroom ! You don’t see display themes anymore. Boat and trailer , beach scene, etc. You would think a convertible would be used instead of a 4 door. The used car lot is sparse. Plymouth dealer has new 57 on the floor. Great photos. Thanks, as always.

  2. I have to admit, I’ve never seen a stand-alone Plymouth dealership; they were usually paired up with Chrysler or Dodge.

    • There were some, and a bit of a push to separate Plymouth from the other Mopar brands, which all sold Plymouths, in the late 50’s, but it came a cropper. Instead , in 1960 they took Plymouth from Dodge – but gave Dodge the Plymouth-sized (original) Dart – and the soon to-die DeSoto, while also adding the technically separate Valiant to C-P dealers.

      The contrast between the elegant Packard lettering and Mel Parnell’s sign couldn’t be starker. Although the Packard dealer seems to have made up with his window signs.

  3. Someone gave me a 1954 Packard which I drove around California when my kids were little. It was a big heavy car, maybe 7,000 pounds. It used a lot of gasoline and a lot of engine oil and a lot of radiator water. I did not feel like the quality was there like the Packards made before WWII. It was fun driving it but I had to be careful with the power brakes or the kids would fly to the front seat.

  4. In the Lead Photo, to the left could be a dark ’51 200, a light 49-’50 Super, I can’t say on the one behind the Ford, a dark ’52 250 and up and a ’51 Chevy Styleline sedan. The Ford is a ’54 Customline or Crestline Fordor V8.

    In Item 1 of 4, at the beach on the showroom floor there’s a dark ’51 400 in the background; the others might be 200s.

    In Item 2 of 4, it could be a collection of ’53 Clippers with a Patrician or c
    Cavalier sedan on the left.

    In Item 3 of 4, on the street a ’46 –’48 Ford Deluxe Fordor on the left, a ’53 Buick Riviera of in determinant series. I can’t count the portholes and there doesn’t appear to be a chrome strip on the rear quarter, so likely a Special. To the right, a ’53 Chevy Two-Ten sedan. On the next block could be a ’54 Ford and possibly a ’41 Cadillac.

    In Item 4 of 4, at Mel Parnell’s Plymouth with ‘57’s on display, parked on the left a ’51 Buick Special Riviera coupe and an odd convertible that resembles a ’50 Plymouth but it’s got ’50 Dodge bumpers with the lip on top and relocated Plymouth taillights. Parked on the right ’57 Sport Suburban, a ’49 or ’50 Lincoln Cosmopolitan sedan and a ’57 Belvedere down the street

    • Jack, if it is a Crestline, it wasn’t as common as a Customline sedan which sold over 260K, but at 99K sold I wouldn’t call the Crestline particularly rare.

    • Definitely a Cavalier as the Patrician has a noticeable chrome plate present directly in front of the back wheel on both sides of the car.

    • The “odd” car in front of the Buick I believe is a 49 Dodge Wayfarer, and I can’t tell if it’s a business coupe or a roadster, either of which would have had a single bench seat and no back seat. The Wayfarer had the same front clip and bumpers as Meadowbrook and Coronet, but only had a 115 inch wheelbase vs. the 122 of the senior Dodges. Taillights were also different, in appearance and in location. There was also a Wayfarer sedan (I have one) with a back seat and a semi-fastback roofline. The Wayfarer sedan taillights are similar in appearance to, but not interchangeable with, the coupe/roadster taillights (DAMHIK). The Coronet/Meadowbrook taillights sat on the rear fender tops and were completely different in appearance than any of the Wayfarer models, as was the license surround/brake light. All had the same motor, so the Wayfarers, being lighter, were also faster than the senior models. Last, while there was a Coronet convertible, in 49 the Wayfarer drop-top was a true roadster, with side curtains instead of roll-up side windows.

      • Curtis, I believe you’re right…I hadn’t considered the variations of the Wayfarer Roadster/Sportabout. Thank you.

  5. I lived in N.O. in the late 1970s and St. Charles Ave. had definitely seen better days.A lot of the “old money mansions ” had been chopped up and subdivided into tiny apartments.

  6. The interior showroom photo with the flowers eerily reminds me of a funeral home–almost appropriate at that point in Packard’s history.

  7. Packard was well known for its fancy showrooms and placing flowers in them and one can clearly see that in the third photograph which features the new Dick Teague designed ‘53 models. The car with the vases of flowers surrounding it is a two-tone Clipper Deluxe sedan, their most popular model by a large margin, the car facing the camera is the more expensive Cavalier, behind it is a Clipper Special, and in the back appears to be a Clipper Deluxe coupe. Packard had good sales numbers that year under their new president Jim Nance selling 90,000 vehicles, but it was the last good sales year that they ever had as it was all down hill from then on.

  8. The Detroit Public Library Digital Collection has a photograph of Packard of New Orleans dated 1930. It’s pretty clearly the same building shown above. Try a Google search for “Packard dealership, New Orleans.”

  9. Okay, I might be showing my (lack of) age, but I’ve never heard of a dealer setting a scene like that beach scene.

    Was that a common thing?

  10. The building at 1820 St. Charles St. has a newer ornate cast bronze plate affixed to the front of the building which reads:

    Built in 1929 for the Packard Motor Sales Company
    Architect: Albert Kahn, Inc. of Detroit, Michigan
    Engineer: Percy C. Kuhn of New Orleans, Louisiana
    Owned by the Lange Walker Allen Family since 1965

    A friend, visiting New Orleans a few years ago, snapped a picture of the plaque knowing that this Packard guy would appreciate it!

    • Albert Khan, that rings a bell. I believe he was the person who designed the big Packard plant in Detroit around 1905 which still survives today in part and mostly in ruins. He probably designed some other Packard showrooms as well.

      • A number of good articles describing Albert Khan’s work for Packard are found in back issues of “The Packard Cormorant” PAC quarterly publication. Back issues are available through the PAC store on-line.

  11. In the last picture parked on the street is a Plymouth wagon just like the one I grew up with it was dark green so we called it “the green tank” what a great car.

  12. I grew up in New Orleans in the 1970s and clearly remember the Mercedes-Benz dealer on St. Charles Ave. having Packard lettering on their building. A bit of “driving” up the avenue on Google Maps shows this building at 2001 St. Charles is now a hotel. A website states that it dates back to the early 1900s and was once used as a dealership by many different makes including Packard, Studebaker, Cadillac and Mercedes-Benz and was home to the Abbott Automobile Co., a pioneering family in the local auto business. Perhaps this is where Packard was sold after their merger with Studebaker?

  13. Chrysler, Dodge, and DeSoto dealers all sold Plymouth until the re-organization into Chrysler-Plymouth and Dodge / Dodge Truck divisions after the elimination of DeSoto. There were a few Plymouth stand-alones after that. When I worked at a C-P dealership from 1978-1996 I seem to remember there were 6 Plymouth-only dealers left. Ironically, there were two in Pennsylvania, about one mile apart.

  14. The same sort of Moorish/Spanish architecture was found at Simonson – Schatmeyer in Santa Monica California. By my time (late 50’s – early 60’s) Packard was gone but they still had Studebaker. And — those weird “furrin” cars, Mercedes Benz, as sort of an afterthought because Studebaker had the distribution rights. The dealership, which at some point became merely “Simonson,” went on to make a fortune selling Mercedes to the increasingly wealthy West Side population.

  15. I’m surprised no one commented on Mel Parnell . I am assuming this is the same major league ball player who pitched for the Red Sox in the ‘50’s. Hard to imagine two people with that same name.

    • I’m sure it must be the same guy. Baseball’s Mel Parnell was born and raised in New Orleans and still lived there when he passed away in 2012. Parnell was a left-handed pitcher who spent his entire MLB career with the Red Sox.

  16. Studebaker-Packard did distribute Mercedes Benz and DKW cars in the US for several years. and quite a few of those dealers went over to M-B only before Studebaker ended. Perhaps the owners moved the Packard dealer to another location and then back to here later when M-B cars got pretty popular.

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