Gear Head Tuesday – Fuel Injected ’56 Packard

Gear Head

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We have written a number of times about the planned but unbuilt 1957 Packards. These cars would have offered a number of automotive “firsts” – including the first line of American cars with fuel injection, replacing the carburetor, as standard equipment. The system planned for the ’57 Packards would have been a mechanical system. The sophisticated electronic fuel injection systems we know today were out of reach for anyone at the time.

Because of Packard’s extensive knowledge of aircraft engines, adapting a mechanical fuel injection systems to its automotive engines was a natural step for the company. Mechanical fuel injection had been used on aircraft engines dating back to World War II. More impetus to use fuel injection on the planned ’57s came from Packard president James Nance who was determined to restore Packard to its former glory both as a prestige marque and as the leader in the automotive industry in advanced engineering.

In 1956 Packard engineers had fuel injection installed on at least one car for testing purposes.

The collapse of Packard resulted saw to it that the planned ’57s were never produced, thus Packard was unable to introduce fuel injection as standard equipment for the 1957 model year.

What would a fuel injected Packard have been like? The answer to that question is given by “Roscoe,” owner of the beautiful Corsican Black – Naples Orange ‘56 Packard Executive hardtop we saw last week.

Naples Orange and Corsican Black were two of the colors Packard offered in 1956, but the combination as applied to “Roscoe’s” Executive was not available. His car originally left the factory painted in the Mojave Tan – Dover White combination. The owner of the car prior to “Roscoe” had it repainted in this stunning combination. “Roscoe” has owned the car since 2001. The Caribbean twin antennae on the rear fenders add a nice, sporty touch to the car.

The most intriguing thing about this particular Packard is that it has been fitted with a mechanical fuel injection system as would have been standard equipment on the ’57 Packards.

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“Roscoe” has provided us with intriguing details of Packard’s development work on the fuel injection system along with two factory photos of a Packard V-8 fitted with the system:

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“Roscoe” provides us with another glimpse of what Packard was thinking in those tumultuous days – a paper weighing the advantages and disadvantages of a transaxle system and independent rear suspension.  What is often forgotten today is the Predictor show car of 1956 was fitted with a transaxle. The main advantage of using a transaxle (where the transmission and rear axle is one unit) is better weight distribution which in turn would improve a car’s handling. American cars fitted with their big V-8 engines were front heavy and didn’t corner well. A transaxle system would have done much to solve that problem. The only American car to actually have a production transaxle system was the compact Pontiac Tempest of the early ’60s. The paper shown below also has notes about the fuel injection program:

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We thank “Roscoe” for sharing the photos of his beautiful Packard and the intriguing insight into the thinking of Packard’s engineers even as the company was collapsing.

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“Roscoe” provides us with a look at the car’s history by sharing these repair orders he found in the car:

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2 Comments

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  1. Dave Brownell 27/09/2016 — 09:15

    Regarding the interest in transaxle so, let’s not forget that one of McFarland’s engineering subordinates was John Z. DeLorean who went rather directly to GMs Pontiac Division just in time for important work on the Tempest. That car gave us the “half V8”, the “rope” flexible drive shaft that connected to what was essentially a swing arm transmission (manual or PowerGlide) borrowed from a Corvair.

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    • Dave – thank you for that! This is an interesting insight into how that transaxle Tempest came about. That trio of early ’60s GM compacts – the Tempest and its Oldsmobile and Buick cousins were something of the last gasp of the “Car Guys” at GM. These cars were technically innovative, but after their launch the control of the company was increasingly in the hands of the accountants of the financial staff and those hands strangled the “Car Guys,” leading to GM’s sad decline and those horrible cars GM built from the ’70s into the early 2000s.

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