10 Packard concept cars and Chrysler La Comtesse add dream factor to Amelia Island concours
Of late, the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance has been a hot spot for postwar concept cars, and the momentum is continuing for the 2014.
On March 9 of this year, the 10th and 18th fairways of The Golf Club of Amelia Island (Fla.) at The Ritz-Carlton will be awash in 1950s dreams, and if you attend, you won’t want to be awakened. The lineup at the concours will include the 1954 Chrysler La Cometesse and all of the Packard concept cars from the 1950s. Yes, all 10, and all from the famed Ralph Marano collection.
The Chrysler La Comtesse
After decades in the shadows, Chrysler’s La Comtesse Concept Car will again be introduced to the public at the 19th annual Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance.
The 1950s introduced new automotive, chemical and paint technologies that led to a sea change in the habits of car buyers. Color, almost subliminally, rose to the top of the buyers’ priority list. Simultaneously, Motor City marketers realized that the woman of the house chose the color of the new family car. The La Comtesse concept was Chrysler’s first attempt to have male engineers and stylists create a car aimed at women.
Based on the Newport Deluxe two-door hardtop frame, La Comtesse has a transparent Plexiglas roof panel, a continental kit and Kelsey-Hayes wire wheels. The two-tone paint is Dusty Rose with a Pigeon Gray roof. The coupe’s six-passenger interior contains yet more period pastel: crème and dusty rose leather with platinum brocade inserts in the rear seats. La Comtesse was a subtle foreshadowing of Dodge’s La Femme option package.
A fresh restoration by Chrysler allows the six-decade-old concept car a second introduction, this one to a new generation of American car buyers, in the Chrysler Concept Car Class of the 19th annual Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance.
The Packard Concept collection
“Ask the man who owns one” was Packard’s slogan from the earliest days of the marque. On March 9, 2014, Packard fans visiting the 19th annual Amelia Island Concours can ask the man who owns 58 Packards.
Ralph Marano, Sr., an orthodox Packard man, has been seized by one of the most dignified, delightful and elegant obsessions in the car collecting hobby. Ralph really likes Packard show cars. He likes them so much that he has collected all ten.
Marano’s Packard collection numbers an astonishing 58 cars. His Packard show car inventory, all ten Packard concept cars from the 1950s, will become The Packard Concepts of Ralph Marano at the concours.
Touchingly, Marano’s newest Packard show car is the 1955 Request, the last of Packard’s concept cars. The car earned its unusual name from the unexpected avalanche of letters delivered to Packard headquarters during the 1950s asking for a return, or at least a reprise, of Packard’s distinctive and famous vertical grill design of the 1930s and 1940s. Packard’s Chief Stylist Richard Teague acquiesced.
After a tour of Packard dealers following the 1955 car show season, the Request returned to Detroit just in time for the company to close its doors forever.
The Request was driven out of the factory and vanished for more than two decades. Marano found the car, with accident damage, sitting in a field. In 1983, it was restored and it re-debuted at the Packard Club annual convention in Oakland, Calif., wearing proper Packard ivory and copper paint.
“Ralph Marano’s Packard show car collection is something that can’t be seen anywhere else,” said Mark Becker, Vice-Chairman of the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance. “The Marano Packard Concept class is the first time ‘Amelia’ has featured a class dedicated to the cars of a single personal collection. This is so rare that we even named the class for him. With the Chrysler Concept Cars class and Marano’s Packards, there might be a light element of fifties-themed time travel to the 19th annual ‘Amelia’.”
Other show cars from the Marano collection that are expected to attend the concours include the 1953 Packard Balboa and the 1952 Packard Pan-American, among others.
Contact the concours
The 19th annual Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance is scheduled for March 7-9, 2014. For more information, visit www.ameliaconcours.org or call 904-636-0027.
Auctions during the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance