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Packard Pan American on Display at John Ramp Inc. Grand Opening

Updated:  While perusing a number of new car dealership photos yesterday, a picture containing another view of one the six custom-built Packard “Pan American” show cars constructed by the Henney Motor Company came to light.

The lead image contains a view of the 1953 grand opening of the new and modern John Ramp Inc. Packard Dealership located at 1703 E 38th Street in Indianapolis, IN, and in it one of the “Pan Americans” is visible on the left-hand side of the showroom.

In addition the concept cars were on exhibit in the automaker’s display at all of the large auto shows around the country and the world. The cars also made the rounds of many of the Packard agencies across the country. In this one instance, it was reported that “forty-five thousand visitors registered at the grand opening” and viewed, a “Pan American,” the new “Caribbean” convertible and Ramp’s new facility.

  • A view of the showroom with a “Caribbean” convertible visible on the left-hand side and a second open car on the right. The “Pan American” may have been situated behind the long line of visitors on the left. 

At the end of today’s post is an advertisement for the Henney Motor Company, the coachbuilder that constructed the six cars wherein it takes credit for the design by in-house auto stylist Richard Aribib. The vehicle won the top awards at the New York and Los Angeles Auto Shows.

Learn more about the “Pan American” in an article by Leon Dixon at Hemmings Daily and share with us what you find of interest in these photos courtesy of Automobile Historian Alden Jewell.

Update: Thanks to Robert Kremer’s comment we now know that the John Ramp Inc. building has been remodeled and survives.

  • Enlargeable version of this photograph gives a better view of the “Pan American” and the facility – Below a Henney Motor Company advertisement of the concept car. 

29 responses to “Packard Pan American on Display at John Ramp Inc. Grand Opening

  1. In the lead photo, someone in a raspy looking Plymouth( or Dodge) looking to upgrade. I wonder how many people in the 2nd photo, turned around and walked out seeing what Packard had to offer for ’53. I only see one 22nd( or 23rd) series Packard, no not many return buyers, it seems. Although, it could be, those 48-50 Packards were great cars ( I had one) and they just didn’t need a new car yet.

  2. In the lead picture, to the far left parked in the driveway, it appears the owner of a fairly new Cadillac (62 sedan?) has either dropped by to look at Packards, or has maybe already traded for one.

      • Gene, thanks, but I was wondering about the building, and John Ramp, Inc. Did the building survive? What became of John Ramp, Inc.?

        • Mike,

          I was wondering the same thing. I’d say it’s an excellent example of Art Deco, but being in the’50s, it’s really mid-century modern. Either way, it should have been repurposed and preserved. However, I remember that a lot of mid-century modern was fell to the wrecking ball or were very unkindly ” remodeled” in the ’60s and ’70s.

          • After viewing the updated link the the current building, it may have been “saved” but it was very unkindly remodeled and doesn’t resemble any style of building, as I feared.

          • My Mac Maps shows an overhead view of the structure. The concentric elevations on the roof are gone, except for a remnant of the smaller set.

  3. Great pictures !!!

    In the lead photograph there are plenty of PACKARD models to identify, but on the far left, parked in the lot, is a two-tone four-door 1951 BUICK Roadmaster, or possibly a Super.

  4. I went to the dealer release party of the new Audi A3 and there wan’t that big of a crowd. I think half of us were there for the beer and munchies.

    • Not only were there a lot of people, but notice how well-dressed they are. Bet you didn’t see that at the party you saw.

  5. In the lead picture, parked on the street behind the tired 1950+ PLYMOUTH, are two 1953 PACKARD Clipper automobiles; and parked near the garage door [on the right] is 1953 PACKARD, either a Patrician or Cavalier.

  6. The John Ramp dealership building no longer exists. It’s address was 1703 East Washington Street, Indianapolis, Indiana. That would have put it the first building east of the intersection of East Washington and the North State Sreet . It appears there is a surface parking lot on that property now.

    • According to the May 24, 1953 edition of the Indianapolis Star (page 49), the E Washington Street Ramp store had an address of 2302. That ad proclaims Ramp to be the largest Packard dealer in the entire world. The E 38th Street store appears to be the one featured in the top photograph. A Google search of the 38th street address yields an image that is clearly the old showroom and service areas.

  7. According to old newspaper ads online, John Ramp had three stores in Indianapolis, and billed himself as the largest Packard dealer in America. The main store at 1703 E 38th Street appears to still be standing, although repurposed.

    • The current building at 1703 E. 38th Street does retain traces of the original architecture, with the curved roof lines of the show room and the service department to the east. The building is now a church, Iglesia De Jesucristo Palabra Miel.

  8. Having 3 stores in Indianapolis would make it a neat trick to make John Ramp the “largest Packard dealer in America.” Earle C. Anthony on the west coast had at least 4 Packard dealerships, 3 of which were gargantuan and architectural masterpieces by major architects. One dealership was in Los Angeles, Another SanFrancisco. Then Oakland, California. And Beverly Hills. The downtown Los Angeles dealership alone was many stories tall and the showroom held 25 Packards. The Ramp dealerships were nice… and this one shown is fabulous, but hard to imagine that the Ramp dealerships out-did Earle C. Anthony in either sales or size.

    • Leon, I agree. In 1953 such unwarranted claims could be made in an era long before the internet…back when few had the wherewithal or inclination to research their veracity. It’s not as if there would be an entry for any car dealerships in the family encyclopedia…and if you did find the facts, how would you spread the word? So the claimants were generally safe making them.
      Though most of the other Anthony dealerships are either gone or converted to lofts, at least the original Earle C. Anthony Packard dealership in San Francisco , designed by Bernard Maybeck and completed in 1926, still remains in all its grandeur (inside and outside) as the British Motors dealership on Van Ness Avenue.

    • Maybe he should have billed himself as the largest Packard Dealer east of the Mississippi! I’m pretty sure that the Packard dealership that Earle C. Anthony had in Oakland, which by the way was a magnificent looking building, was gone by then. I believe he sold it around 1940. But he was definitely Packard’s biggest overall dealer by a wide margin.

  9. Great photos! The Pan American on display here is one of the 5 second-series cars. It is not the original. But people obviously loved it and the new Caribbean. Beautiful dealership! Wow!

  10. Poor John Ramp! If he had known that Packard would be going belly up in just three years time – thanks in large part to the mismanagement of the company by new president Jim Nance – he would never have built that expensive and impressive looking building. I just hope that he found a new brand to sell after having spent all that money. Many Packard dealerships became Mercedes Benz dealerships after their demise and they are still around today. I personally never liked the Packard Pan American as it was too long in the trunk, and particularly as it was only a two seater. Same problem with the Panther, though not quite as bad. The Caribbean however was gorgeous, though very expensive for any one who wanted to buy one. You could buy about three Pontiac Chieftains for the price of just one Caribbean! Definitely for the rich.

  11. I remember sitting in my High school ‘Study Hall’ that was located in the school Library and seeing the New Announcement Ad. for the 1953 Packards in the newspaper. Several months later I was with my Dad at a Packard Dealership where he ‘test drove’ a new Navy Blue four door Sedan with matching cloth interior that was absolutely wonderful ! I think the Salesman said it was a “400 Series”, ….. But alas Dad said he could not afford it !

  12. The subject property in the photo became a Ford dealership; Var Heyl Ford. (I’m not sure of the spelling, but that’s close.)

    Everyone who bought a new Ford there automatically became a member of “The Var Heyl Ford Club” with associated membership benefits. I’m not sure when it closed as a Ford dealer, probably sometime in the late 60s or early 70s when the neighborhood changed dramatically…and not for the better.

    Although the showroom windows were long ago boarded up, there’s enough left of the building’s shape that you can tell it’s the same place, per John Fry’s above post.

    It’s only two blocks east of The Indiana State Fair Grounds, where the Mecum Indy Spring Classic collector-car auction is held every May. Anyone who’s really interested in seeing the property need only leave the auction and drive two short blocks east on 38th street to the property.

  13. Pan American number 1 is now on display at the Packard Proving Grounds in (Utica) Shelby Township, MI courtesy of the Detroit Historical Society.

  14. Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco was known for years as “Auto Row.” Several of the large Art Deco showrooms survive, but as far as I know only one is still part of the auto world. The S.F. Academy of Art University houses its very fine classic car collection there. Incidentally, the University curriculum includes classic automobile restoration classes.

  15. My grandfather and father worked for John Ramp for many years, including crewing his Indy 500 cars and owning several other race cars he sponsored. There were several brands Ramp sold,, but mostly Chrysler Plymouth Dodge. I am interested infinding/buying any Ramp photos and memorabilia from these dealerships and race cars

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