Star letter: ZIS is not a Packard

Published: 10:44AM May 17th, 2012

Dear Classic American,... Your recent Packard feature was interesting and mostly accurate, but two points need correction if I might. The oft-repeated story that during the Second World War ‘Packard sold the body dies for the bigger models to the Russian Government, which turned them into the 1945 ZIS’ is a nice fable, but fable it is.

After the disintegration of the Soviet empire, when it became easier to examine (even acquire) some of these cars, it became quite obvious that the measurements were off. Dies do not make similar panels; they make exact panels. Yes, the overall design was copied from the 1942 Packard line right enough, and some folks swear that the Moscow factory did import hardware assistance of various kinds; but the product was just a copy. Comrade Stalin liked Packards, and if he told you to make something like that, you just did it. The styling of the fenders and other parts of the car were copied from GM. By the way, that was the Soviet Government, not the Russian Government.

As for the assertion that ‘the Curtiss-Wright corporation acquired Studebaker-Packard’, we need to lay that one to rest as well. C-W bought management control; what it acquired were tax credits and some of S-P’s best facilities. The contract was terminated a couple of years later, about the time the Lark was introduced.

George Hamlin
Clarksville, Maryland, USA

George Hamlin is an author of Automobile Quarterly’s Packard and senior editor of The Packard Club’s Packard Cormorant journal, so I think we can safely assume he knows what he’s talking about. Thank you George.

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