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“New $50,000 Packard Garage to Open Next Week”

The early post-WWII days for automobile dealers who handled new automobiles was a seller’s market due to the public’s pent up demand for a new car to replace older and tired pre-war vehicles. It was also a time when many new auto sales and service buildings were constructed, and more aged facilities were updated and enlarged.

To help supply the demand for new cars, Charles E Manausa, the Packard dealer in Ann Arbor, MI, had this new masonry sales and service structure faced with “buff brick” constructed at 314 South Forth Ave. in 1947. The lead press photo taken in late October was used in an article on the grand opening published in the Saturday, November 1, 1947, “Ann Arbor News” (above.) Another article published the day before is included (below) with more information.

Please share with us what you find of interest in these photos courtesy of the Ann Arbor District Library.

 

 

49 responses to ““New $50,000 Packard Garage to Open Next Week”

  1. I just ran the inflation calculator. That $50,000 is $575,000 in today’s money.

    Also, the cars reflected in the window to the right of the two display Packards don’t seem to match up with the cars parked on the curb. Could there be another row of used cars inside, parked against the far right wall?

    • Dave,

      Noticed the reflections in the front windows also. It appears the reflections of the cars parked in front of the dealership are about one car length to the right [behind where they are parked on the street].

      AML

      • I think one reason for the non-parallel reflection is that the side walk is rather wide, perhaps to allow outside display in warm weather. Have to consider the angle of reflectance and the angle of incidence, and all that stuff…

    • Seems like the building’s front windows are not parallel to the street and the reflections are thereby skewed a bit. In the third window from the left is a reflection of the car parked in front of the Studebaker (identified by the trunk straps). In the sixth and seventh windows from the left is a reflection of the car in front of that one (a ’38 Ford, perhaps, with a split rear window). The eighth through tenth windows from the left appear to reflect a vehicle parked farther up the street, beyond the right edge of the photo. Looks like the rear of a ’46-’48 Chrysler.

      • I hadn’t thought that the windows might not be parallel. You’re right, though, if you take the extra angle into account they do seem to line up.

    • I think there’s a parking lot to the right side of the building. If the far right wall is windowed the same way as the left wall, we might be seeing cars in the parking lot through the windows in addition to reflections.

  2. Looks like many dealerships from the 40’s and 50’s. Building still missing finishing touches. The streets have Chevys , Fords, and a new Studebaker parked. Only Parkards are in the showroom. Neat photos. Thanks, Dave.

  3. Thanks, this is a good opportunity to discuss how Packard promised their dealers 200,000 car annual production, dealers invested in new and modernized operations. The promise was never fulfilled and many saw their investments go down the drain as the new ’48 became old hat in 1949-’50. The optimism faded quickly.

    • Several years ago I read an article in Hemmings regarding a Packard dealer in Paris, Illinois. The agency owner was still living when the piece was written, and his comments were instructive. He complained that he could not get cars from the factory, and offered that he watched potential customers leave because he didn’t have cars to sell. I would be hard pressed to think he was the only one dealing with the problem. In

      • You are referring to Lumir Palma. He died in 2017 at age 100, believed to be the second to last living Packard dealer. His son is a contributing writer to Hemmings.

  4. In the Lead Photo a ’40 Dodge highlighted under the canopy and inside the showroom, what is probably a ’48 Packard Super Eight convertible as well as a Club Sedan.

    On the street the ’47 Studebaker Commander Starlight Coupe makes everything else look ancient.

    I’m amused with the Ann Arbor News referring to the dealership as “modern in design”…maybe modern for the Ziggurat of Ur from 21st Century BC Sumeria, but hardly up to date for the postwar.

    • Given the dealership was probably a customer of the paper’s advertising department they’d have to be at least somewhat complementary. “Plain-Jane” and “frumpy” would likely sour that relationship.

    • Not to worry- the Ann Arbor News on May 10, 1950 reported that Mr. Manausa had dropped Packard (apparently effective with the publication of the paper)- in order to begin selling Kaiser and Frazier automobiles.

      The Ann Arbor auto sales musical chairs had apparently been started by Stadium Motor Sales who had dropped K-F to take on the Hudson line. Apparently relations between Mauausa Motor Sales and Packard had chilled, as the Ann Arbor News story reported that Packard Detroit District Zone Representative William Gareiss claimed no official notice had been received but that he had heard about it through the grapevine.

      • Packard had a real problem with dealer retention. These are from the books Packard 1948 to 1950 and Packard 1951 to 1954 both by Robert J. Neal
        As of January 1st:
        1947: 2,065
        1948: 1,724
        1949: 1,563
        1950: 1,662
        And it got worse,
        February 1950: 1,636
        July 1950: 1,451

      • Hi Tinindian, sounds like this Manausa fella went from one failure to the next. Wonder if he went on to Studebaker, then Rambler,,, 🙂

        • I’m going to not be specific about the Ann Arbor auto sales situation as TOM apparently has more posts on the way.

          In general though the immediate post war years were a time of opportunity and hope. There was a lot of pent up demand due to increased income and there had been no domestic auto production during the war years. Which of the manufacturers would join Ford, GM and Chrysler? We know the answer now, but lots of people like Mr Manausa didn’t know how things would turn out. What looks like a bad decision now…well…it’s not really fair to look back at the long list of failed auto manufacturers and say ‘anyone knew that would happen’.

      • A few years later, an Edsel dealership opened at that address. A year after it opened, one of the owners committed suicide. A succession of restaurants later occupied the site, some lasting quite a long time, others not so much. As said above, the site is now occupied by the Ruth’s Chris Steak House. The building has been remodeled and now sports a second floor in the front part of the building.

    • The Studebaker is a Champion. It came with rubber gravel shields, and smaller taillights. The Commander had larger taillights and chrome gravel shields.

      • John,

        At first thought the STUDEBAKER was a Champion too, but the short level chrome molding forward of the front tire indicates to me the car is a plain DeLuxe Commander vs. a Regal DeLuxe Commander. I’ve seen a picture identified as a DeLuxe Commander with the black rubber splash guard. Haven’t seen a picture of the rear light lens of a plain DeLuxe Commander, if they were three parts or two.

        AML

  5. That’s a ’41 Dodge under the canopy missing the emblem at the point of the hood pieces and a ’40 Hudson, ’41 Buick, and, the only visible two-tone car, a ’41-’48 Chevrolet behind it. All cars in the photo painted drab colors, riding on blackwall tires and needing a good wash job!

  6. I think the title of the article is a little bit erroneous. It should have read: “Packard Dealer To Open New $50,000 Sales and Service Center Next Week.” Interesting article however. Hopefully Mr. Manausa got to stay in the car business for a while.

  7. Aw, I got a little verklempft seeing this. If this had been a Milwaukee dealer, my grandfather, in the fall of ’47, walked into a Packard dealer with $2,800 dollars in his pocket, I think it was Koeppel Motors, and drove out with a new ’48 Packard Custom 8. It was his 1st new car and was very proud of it. We wondered why a Packard? My grandfather just missed WW2, and we figure, as patriotic as he was, he bought a Packard because of their efforts in the war. Hemmings did a piece on lost Packard dealers, apparently, Milwaukee had 3. This dealer is not mentioned, however. My grandfather drove that Packard until 1961, when he hit a bus ( so the story went) In the 13 years he had it, he only racked up 41,000 miles, but people didn’t drive a lot. Fact is, he took the bus to work and the Packard sat in the garage. I remember, as a kid, looking at it the garage all bent up. I know it devastated my grandpa, and he replaced it with a ’61 Chevy Impala, but I know for a fact, if he could have bought another Packard, he would have.

    • PackardInfo lists 3 or 4 Packard dealers for Milwaukee – Koeppel at 1808 West North Avenue, Taugher at 2009 E. Kenilworth Place, and two Packard of Chicago, one at 3501 Grand and one at 3501 W. Wisconsin (possibly they’re the same place and the road was renamed at some point?).

      • The Taugher store was (is?) a beautiful place…art deco architecture, terrazzo floors, etc. I moved into the neighborhood in the mid 60s and was pleasantly surprised to learn it had been a Packard dealer at one time. The two outlets with the 3501 address are the same place. What was once Grand Avenue became Wisconsin Avenue.
        There were six car dealers within a couple blocks of each other at 35th and Wisconsin. The Packard dealer there lasted to the bitter end…or until at least 1955 that I can recall with certainty. It eventually became a Buick dealer for a spell.

  8. You would think that after the beautiful showrooms built during the 20/30’s , that a Packard dealer could opt for something a bit more stylish then this ugly looking joint ?

    • No point going all in, if you didn’t trust Packard. Look at a post above. The dealer bailed on Packard. Not to say that what he bailed to was better.

  9. Ever wonder why it is that, in vintage street scenes like this one, the older cars are invariably dented and banged up far more commonly than we usually see today? Maybe it had something to do with high hoodlines and high rear windows that made it difficult for the driver to see the corners of the car. Or perhaps it reflected rapid vehicle depreciation which may have led to driver carelessness and indifference to their cars’ condition as they (the cars, that is) aged.

  10. I think this building still stands. The building at 314 is now heavily modified in front. What can be seen of the side of the building in google street view show it to be a rather old building behind a newer face and that is relatively unchanged throughout the streetview history going back to 2007. The way it looked before the latest remodel shows more of the basic structure of the building.

  11. Packard still had the best chassis in the industry throughout the entire decade, but despite a sellers’ market, the Company lost 28% of their US dealers between 1947 and 1950. Much as Mechanix Illustrated’s Uncle Tom McCahill raved over the 1946 junior Clipper Deluxe eight, he dismissed the 1948 bathtub as “a goat” and “a dowager in a Queen Mary hat.”
    The arrival of the all but identical 1949s left dealers with large inventories of ’48 tubs, president/GM George T. Christopher asking the board for $2 million in dealer allowances to dispatch the leftovers, the resulting price cuts on nearly new models curbing resale values, dogging Packard the remainder of its days. Christopher was one of the GM production men brought in to cost the excellent new One Twenty junior car introduced for 1935, in 1939 combining junior and senior production, which made perfect sense, Consumer Reports annually giving the 120 or its Clipper variant their Best Buy rating in its price class every year from 1938-47, all Cadillacs 1936-on “junior-based,” sharing increasing components with lesser GMobiles, all Lincolns but a handful of Model Ks from 1936-on Ford V-8 60-based Zephyrs.

    In any event, all independents doomed in the postwar world of frivolous annual model changes, costly TV advertising, unable to match Big 3 component purchasing power, unit costs, tooling amortization. George Christopher remained true to his DNA, going after Oldsmobile and bottom-rung Buicks, cheapening Packard’s once inviolate image.

    The immediate postwar Bentley Mark IV and R-R Silver Dawn shared the junior Clippers’ 120″ wb, the Silver Wraith the senior Clipper’s 127″ wb, most bodied by Pressed Steel of Cowley near Oxford, who supplied much of the English auto industry even as Briggs supplied Chrysler, Ford and from 1941-on, Packard. The Mark IV and Silver Dawn were cramped, relatively funky barouches, no finer than Packard’s overdrive junior Clippers, but retained one thing Packard no longer had, tasteful advertising.

    Compare, for example, Peter Helck’s magnificent 1933 Packard ad, “Hush,” with the Company’s shrill ads of the late ’30s, ’40s, which appeared Mickey Rooney/Deanna Durbin “Hey, kids, let’s put on a show in the barn” alongside Buick’s and Cadillac’s casual Constance Bennett/Cary Grant sophistication.

    Perception is everything in a fickle public’s mind.

    But even with smarter, more sophisticated marketing, Packard was doomed. One of two domestic automakers to emerge from War II profitable, Packard increasingly focused on their last hassle jet engine contracts, phoning in the cars, chasing after GM, instead of standing a bit above and to the side of the industry as they had into the ’30s. The new for ’48 288-ci and 327-ci eights were durable, refined, smooth but cost the Company a minute fraction of engineering a new ohv V-8, something intended for 1954 but not introduced until ’55 and then with teething problems.
    Packard’s sole novelty of the ’50s was Torsion Level, developed by Bill Allison, an outside engineer who had to sell the hell out of it to Packard’s hidebound, coupon-clipping, aging management, after having been turned down by others, Chrysler wanting to introduce torsion bars at the front of their ’55s but postponing two years for fear of appearing to copy Packard by half, GM its troublesome air bag suspension 1957-58.

    Hispano-Suiza survives making pumps for nuclear power plants, Rolls-Royce’s business 1935-on was aero engines, the cars an increasingly assembled, boutique product, albeit deftly marketed.

  12. In an America that shoots when chicken sandwiches are sold out (what will occur when rare earths for smart phone batteries [or electricity to charge them] are limited?), and that confuses wants with needs, shortages are rare, but in 1947, consumer goods, construction material, and autos were still in short supply — and Packard was still trying to get back to where it had been before the war. Packard had been #9 in sales (98,020) in 1940: beating out Chrysler, Hudson, Mercury, DeSoto, Nash, LaSalle, Lincoln, Willys — and #18 Cadillac (13,043). Packard fell to #17 (51.086) in 1947, behind #16 Cadillac (61,926) — and ahead of only #18 Lincoln (21,460) and #19 Crosley (19,344). In that post-war era, concrete block (when available), plate glass (when available) and lead paint (when available) were counted as accomplishments, not as failures. America did not see limestone/granite/bronze car showrooms as requirements and/or marble/quartz/stainless kitchens as entitlements because America had suffered through decades of worse times. Most Americans believed in “bootstraps” and thought that “making the best of things” meant making people and politics and products better through education and effort and economic successes.

    Sometimes it succeeded; sometimes it failed, but, unlike today, it took “responsibility.”

    In 1948, Packard [#13; 92,251] beat Cadillac [#15; 52,700] again (Kaiser was #14 with 91,851), and saw relatively robust sales of the last truly all-new 1951 cars, but it never fully recovered.

    If only it could have been merged with other old car companies, maybe it could have done so.

    If only it could have been Studebaker-Packard or Studebaker-Nash-Rambler-Hudson-Packard.

    If only it could have been DaimlerChrysleJeepsmart or FCA-Peugeot-Citroen-Ding-Dong-Done.

    If only America’s political “leaders” could see that China could someday assume control of Jeep.

    Could a “Packard Palace” have proved a profitable promise for the limited resources of 1947?

    Or could it have been like a beautiful new suburban showroom a 50-year Pontiac dealer built for his Honda franchise in the late 1980s? When he sold more Hondas than Pontiacs and the Pontiac building was enlarged and renovated, it became the Pontiac sales and service facility. When Pontiac died, it became the new Mazda store. When Mazda profits proved too few for more than two franchises in a mid-sized metro, it became a used-car showroom. When used-car sales were lost to auction-house chain stores, it became an empty box with plastic wrap photos on its glass. Surrounding that still-new-ish building are hundreds of new Honda cars and trucks. Down the road several hundred feet surrounding a not-new building that used to be a wood shop (fences/sheds/outdoor furniture) is an overflow lot full of hundreds more new Hondas. Most are most attractive. Most are mostly made in America. Are they American cars?

    They are not Pontiacs and they sure are not Packards.
    Ponder while you eat pizza in an ex-Packard place.
    And Soul Cycle in a one-time Studebaker store.
    Or see CBD for sale in a former Cord shop.
    Ask what went wrong with Pontiac.
    And, perhaps, also with Cadillac.
    Ask where America has gone.
    From 5 cents for an apple.
    To 5 bucks for a java?
    Drink and think.
    Don’t drive.
    Drunk.

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