Gear Head Tuesday – A Designing Woman

Gear Head

In a recent thread about Designers at, Mary Ellen Green, was one of the designers mentioned.

Posture Perfect Seat

Quoting from the thread:

“MaryEllen (Green) Dohrs – the designer of the 1955 Caribbean and 400 seats. We had her as a speaker at the 2013 PAC National Meet. She started her career at GM as an interior designer and later worked at Sundberg-Ferar in the middle 1950s when Dick Teague hired her as a contract employee.  

Lovely woman. I’ve interviewed her several times and she tells great stories of what it was like to work in the male dominated auto world in Detroit.

She did a superb job with the seats in the Caribbean and Four Hundred. The shape of the seat back was an early attempt at ergonomics. The interior of the Patrician sedans was different from the interiors of the Caribbeans and Four Hundreds, and was designed by someone else. The interiors of the Patrician were more subdued than those of the Caribbeans and Four Hundreds, appropriate given the more sporting nature of the convertible Caribbean and the hardtop Four Hundred. (For 1955, the “Patrician” and “Four Hundred” were separate body styles, whereas from 1951 through 1954, the top of the line four door sedan had been named “Patrician 400” – or some variation of that.  The “Patrician 400” was a reference to the 400 people listed on the New York Social Registry. In 1955, the four door sedan became “The Patrician” and the two door hardtop, which had been called the “Mayfair” for 1951, 1952 and 1953 and the “Pacific” for 1954, became “The Four Hundred.”) With the introduction of the 1955 models, Packard offered a stunning array of exterior paints and interior colors and materials – a sharp contrast to the very limited choices in modern cars. Packard’s 1955 exterior colors were “Jewel Tones:”

  • Jade
  • Tourmaline
  • Emerald
  • Zircon
  • Ultramarine
  • Sapphiire
  • Moonstone
  • Gray Pearl
  • Fire Opal
  • Topaz
  • Turquoise
  • White Jade
  • Agate
  • Citrine
  • Sardonyx
  • Onyx
  • Rose Quartz

The interior colors and materials were chosen to compliment the exterior paint. The cars of 1955 were far more colorful than the cars of our current era; the colors reflected the optimism of the Eisenhower years in America. Below are some examples of the interiors of 1955 Packard Caribbeans and Four Hundreds designed by Ms. Dohrs.

55 Caribbean_Interior

Above and below – 1955 Caribbeans, all-leather interior in three colors complimenting the tri-tone exterior.


Below: 1955 Four Hundred Interior, in this case a fabric and leather combination. All leather choices were also available for the Four Hundreds.

1955-packard-400-dash 1955-packard-400-door 1955-packard-400-int2

Below: “Take the key and see” and “Let the ride decide” – the 1955 Packards were the most advanced cars on the market, but the introduction was marred by the hasty move to the Conner Avenue plant and resulting quality glitches. Packard’s reputation took a hard hit and the company never recovered. Packard closed on 26 June, 1956.


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