The Packard Hawk was the sportiest of the four Packard-badged Studebakers produced in 1958, the final year of Packard production. In 1956, the Studebaker-Packard company was in financial trouble and the Curtiss Wright Corporation was put in charge of management. Everything was consolidated to the Studebaker plants in South Bend, Indiana. The 1957-1958 Packard models were essentially rebadged and retrimmed Studebakers. With a top speed of 125mph, the fastest Packard ever built, the 1958 Hawk was constructed around the 1957 Studebaker Golden Hawk 400, with a re-styled fiberglass front hood and nose, bonded to the stock steel fenders.
Instead of the Studebaker Hawk’s upright Mercedes-style grille, the Packard Hawk had a wide, low opening just above the front bumper covering the whole width of the car. Above this, a smoothly sloping nose, and hood—reminiscent of the 1953 Studebakers, but with a bulge as on the Golden Hawk—accommodated the engine’s McCulloch supercharger that gave the Studebaker 289in (4,700cc) V8 a total of 275bhp. At the rear, the sides of the fins were coated in metallized PET (Mylar) film, giving them a shiny metallic gold appearance and a fake spare-tire cover adorned the 1953-style, Studebaker deck lid.Widely spaced PACKARD lettering appeared across the lower section of the nose, and a gold Packard emblem in script—along with a Hawk badge—on the trunk lid and enormous tailfins. The interior was fully equipped with a striking leather design, and a full compliment of instruments was installed in an turned-aluminum dash. A swept-spoke Packard-branded wheel was also fitted. As on early aircraft and custom boats, padded armrests were mounted outside the windows, a rare touch.
The styling which was definitely controversial, and often described as ‘vacuum-cleaner’ or ‘catfish’ by detractors has come to be appreciated much more today, than on its debut. Only 588 examples of the 1958 Hawk were built, with Packard’s impending demise a likely contributing factor, rather than a lack of interest from the buying public. Most examples were equipped with the Borg-Warner three-speed automatic transmission, but something approaching 28 cars were produced with the B-WT85 3-speed w/overdrive manual transmission.
Studebaker-Packard was the first manufacturer to popularize the limited slip differential, which they termed Twin-Traction, and most Packard Hawks came with TT. It was certainly the fastest Packard ever sold, since it shared the majority of its components with Studebaker’s Golden Hawk. The list price with taxes and delivery was $3995, about $700 higher than the Studebaker model, but certainly value for money considering the more luxurious interior. Electric window-lifts and power seats (fitted on the car you see here) were optional extras.
Its rarity and status as the best-regarded of the ‘Packardbaker’ final-year cars have in recent years certainly made the Packard Hawk a highly sought after collectible classic. Values are roughly double those of the equivalent Studebaker, and because a Studebaker drivetrain was used, the mechanical parts needed to keep a Hawk on the road are more readily available. The Hawk is now a realistic car to put serious money into a restoration, and without doubt, is a unique car, worthy of a place in any significant collection of 50s vehicles.
The stunning 1958 Packard Hawk on display here is owned by Carey and Peggy Dietz of Arvada, Colorado. They have been caretakers of the car since 2007 when Carey’s father, who had owned the car since late 2000 decided it was too much of a responsibility for him to drive his “Baby” any more. Carey tells us the story of how his father came to own such an unusual car. “Back in 1982 my roommate showed me a magazine called Car Collector and Car Classics that featured a beautiful Packard Caribbean Classic on the cover. An eternal optimist, he went on to tell me “That’s what my car is going to look like when it is done.” Considering his car had rust holes everywhere I was somewhat skeptical to say the least. Well he did do it, eventually, and it really is beautiful!
Moving forward to 2000, my father called me and told me he was looking for a classic car to keep at his Florida residence for 6-months a year, and, since Packard had always been his favorite car, that is what he wanted. I pictured him driving a stylish 1930s open car, but before you knew it he had bought the one-owner Hawk from a widow in Las Vegas! The partly restored car needed to be painted and have the chrome re-fitted, but needed little else to bring it up to the sleek, stylish, show standard car you see here. On a visit to Denver my dad happened to stop in an antique store and find a copy of that very same magazine. It features a Packard Hawk on page 19!