The new series of HBO, Lovecraft Country created as The Interesting Jordan Peele Rework noted HP Lovecraft’s bizarre and virulent racist Mythe of Cthulu into something that incorporates the realities of 1950s American culture and racism, plus all those creepy, many-eyed monsters old HP loved so much. As a period room it’s filled with vintage irons, but now I want to focus on ‘center car shows because that’s something a little unexpected.
I don’t want to give anything away, but I can tell you that the protagonists of the show are on a road trip, and one of them has a company that directly deals with road trips across America, and it seems that the car used for this purpose, affectionately called “Woody”, has been around for quite some time. He is treated with genuine affection, which makes a lot of sense, in the context.
Woody is, as the name suggests, a paneled station wagon. It’s not the usual Buick or Ford Woody, however, and it’s not even one of the Big Three – Woody is the 1948 Packard Station. ensuite. Yes, that’s right, Packard couldn’t quite bring himself to call their woodland wagon a wagon, because it was something a little odd – a woodland wagon adapted from their all-steel sedan.
Unlike most woodland station wagons of the day, the Packard only used an actual wood frame for the tailgate; the wood on the sides of the doors and pillars was just applied for aesthetics, something that would actually predict future wagon designs, which would almost all have non-structural faux wood.
The resort’s sedan styling matches the chubby look of all of Packard’s early post-war models, with a small, gravestone-shaped grille in the center that has been largely overcompensated by a series of three chrome grille bars. full width that mixed into the bumper, which had another pair of full-width chrome bars, complemented by large vertical bumpers.
You can see that the sedan version has pretty much all of the same body panels, with only the roof, side windows / D-pillars, and wooden tailgate being unique.
I love the look of the back of this thing, with its split tailgate that just feels like a bit too small for the car and has a wonderfully awkward hinge setup, which several scenes from the series manage to show in action:
See those big ass hinges out there? There appears to be a multi-step process for sliding and pushing the levers and the arms to open and close the tailgate.
These beasts used Packard’s inline eight-cylinder engine connected to a three-shaft transmission, something fairly conventional for the time. Those big, nearly five-liter engines put out around 130 horsepower, which for the time was respectable, and could probably get one of those massive tree beauties up to around 85 mph, but hit 60A took more than 18 seconds.
The show has a number of scenes of the old Packard getting really twisted out which is thrilling to watch as handling these could be seen as a dinghy at best, but the stunt pilots do a job. fantastic with them.
These Packards were only made from 1948 to 1950 and never sold in numbers even close to what the Big Three offered. It would have been easy to throw a much more common wood in this role – in fact, other similar wagons like the Buicks are mentioned specifically in other contexts – but I like that some sort of outsider was chosen.
It fits better, one way or another, with who the main characters are here – the underdogs themselves, certainly not those in positions of power or even control over their own lives, in many circumstances. A well-built, reliable, but unusual car is a good choice.
The series has a lot of other interesting cars, including the usual assortment of usual 50s suspects in Central America and more unexpected ones like this Bentley S1 from the mid to late 1950s. I bet we do. will talk later.
The Packard gets brutal treatment in this first episode, so hopefully we’ll continue to see him throughout the series. At least that gorgeous cormorant hood ornament, at least. This thing is fantastic.