(a.k.a. Red Car Day at Chez la Vache!)
Clic sur les images pour les agrandir
In a Ruby Tuesday post not long ago, «Louis» wrote about his favorite of all Packards, the '55 - and especially the '56 Caribbeans. One of the most famous styling cues on the '55 and '56 Packards is the "cathedral" taillight, designed by Richard Teague. Today's Ruby Tuesday post is the story of how those taillights came to be. The "Ruby" this Tuesday is the red in the taillight lens!
Richard Teague had been hired by Packard Styling in 1951 after John Rinehart, the designer of the 1951 Packards, left the company. In 1952, James J. Nance arrived as president of Packard. Nance's mission was to restore Packard to its glory as the premier luxury make in the U.S. Nance wanted an all-new Packard for 1955, but lead times being what they are in the auto industry, dictated that the first-under-Nance all new Packard could not be introduced until 1957. Nance gave Teague orders to make the Rinehart-designed 1951 body shell look as new as possible for 1955. Originally, the bulging taillights and the double bumper of the 1954 Packards were to be retained, but Teague used a new grill, a wrap-around windshield and new side trim for his proposed 1955s.
Packard president James Nance had a name for those taillights...
Teague recalls that on the afternoon of Good Friday, 1954, "...Nance had wandered back to Styling with his nodding disciples and bright young Ford escapees...a sort of shirtsleeves, 'let's look at cars' thing. I remember that he said we could live with the doors, but we needed a new look in the tail area."
The story, as recounted to «Louis» in a letter from Teague's widow differs a bit in detail from the version given in "Packard - A History of the Motor Car and Company". According to Mrs. Teague, Nance bellowed "Teague, those bulls nuts taillights have got to go! You're a bright guy, why don't you come up with something and I'll see you next week?" That important difference aside, the version quoting Teague himself in the book parallels Mrs. Teague's story.
Teague himself continues, "This was like 5 p.m. Friday, so I took a bunch of junk home in case I got time to work something out. Nance didn't much care about normal lead times - it was like April, and the car had to be built in the summer and ready by fall!"
"I lived in Rochester and it was Easter Sunday," Teague continued. "I didn't feel like going anywhere. I drew this thing up, and I knew it was impossible, there was no time, but JN wanted it so...I whipped it out in about four hours."
For all Nance cared, it might have taken weeks of research. "I was a big hero, J. Pierpoint Teague. 'G--d---it, that's it,' Nance said when he saw the sketch, 'put that sonofabitch on the car!' It was ridiculous. But we eyeballed it and I mothered it or fathered it and it turned out. The thing involved cutting of the end of the bumper and fender and was a monster job around the exhaust pipes, but he was in love with that taillight. I never saw a guy get so hooked on a design, and he gave me a $250-a-month raise - 33% - and a trip to Europe."
Teague's facelift of the 1951 body shell was so successful that most people thought the 1955 Packards were an all-new design. The 1955 facelift was carried over little-changed for 1956. As «Louis» recounted to you last week, Nance gave Studebaker most of the development money for 1956, trying to buy time until the all new 1957 Packards and Studebakers could be introduced. Alas, we never saw those cars in production...
Why are Teague's famous "cathedral" taillights called that? One story that circulates from time-to-time is that Teague was inspired by the lancet-shaped stained glass windows in church that Easter Sunday. Mrs. Teague in her letter informed «Louis» that while the shape was indeed inspired by lancet-shaped windows, her husband did not go to church with her that Easter Sunday - he stayed home working on the design. Teague had been leafing through a magazine that had photos of stained glass windows in French cathedrals, particularly Chartres, and the idea took shape, as it were, from there.
The Packard "Predictor" show car, designed by Teague and the planned but never built 1957 Packards had a variation of Teague's now-iconic "cathedral" taillights.