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Perking up Packard with a Penchant for Paint

Kim Parr

Kim Parr

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Within our car collection you will find one of only a few known to exist 1954 Packard Pacific hardtops that were painted in the rare color scheme of Carnation and Amethyst.

Pacific paint - Amethyst
Packard paint - Amethyst
Packard paint - Amethyst

In the 1920s Packard offered lacquer paint on their vehicles which gave the option of more variety of colors, but this amethyst color was significantly trendier than what Packard typically went for.

Edward James Paul Cunningham, the young manager of the trim and color styling studio for Packard, introduced this unique and stylish Carnation with Amethyst scheme for a limited number of Pacific hardtops. He joined Packard at the age of 24 in 1952 with a mission to encourage Packard into adopting brighter, trendier colors.

Ed Cunningham (left) with Neil Brown, Jr. (right) inspecting upholstery.
Ed Cunningham (left) with Art Miller (right) at Packard Styling.

Cunningham proposed the amethyst exterior color at a presentation he gave at the factory. The color proposition shocked the conservative Packard management, but not the California Packard dealer, Earle C. Anthony, who sat in on the presentation. Mr. Anthony also had a passion for color and was excited to offer his Californian customers something uniquely different.

Earl C. Anthony

 

Dick Teague and Bill Graves holding a trophy for Packard Styling of the 1953 Caribbean Convertible.

Bill Graves was Packard’s former VP and Chief Engineer and later the Director of the University of Michigan’s Automotive Engineering Laboratory and faculty advisor at the University of Michigan. 

The Packard Styling Team in front of a 1957 fiberglass mock-up. Left to right; Dave Barr, Bill Braathen, Don Beyreis, Don Bailey, George KrispinskyBill SchmidtDuane Bohnstedt, Fred Wagner, Stan Thorwaldsen,

Ed Cunningham and Riley Quarles.  Dick Teague who was a member of the team was on vacation the day this photo was taken and therefore not pictured.

The amethyst color was created by combining a number of different pigments. The carnation pink, used to paint the hardtop, was created by blending yellow oxide with a trace of red oxide that created just a light hint of pink to what at first appears to be white.

Cunningham spoke at the 2004 Packard International Membership Meet in Orange, California recalling that initially five cars were painted with an “R” in its paint scheme code meaning “for management revue”.

He also said that Packard later approved another run of fifty additional Pacific hardtops to be painted in the Carnation & Amethyst scheme using the “LE” paint-code, and that these were made within a week to ten days. The L corresponded to Carnation and the E to Amethyst.

The car was displayed by Earle C. Anthony with mirrors underneath to show off the amethyst underbody. Even the Packard crest, which usually featured a red background, was made with an amethyst background for this special vehicle. The car also had a crest emblem on its sides and featured a white and black interior.

Cunningham’s fondness for the amethyst color shows in this sketch held within our archive.

We are proud to have a number of Cunningham’s sketch designs within our collection. These show how creative and artistic Edward truly was.

Ed Cunningham has an interesting history behind him that started in Los Angeles, California. He was born on March 18, 1928 to parents Edward and Marjorie (Chapman) Cunningham. 

Living in the thick of California’s growing film industry he studied motion picture production under William Churchill de Mille, the older brother of Cecil B. DeMille, at the University of Southern California.

William Churchill de Mille became famous for adapting Broadway plays into silent films. His brother Cecil altered their last name by capitalizing the D in their last name.

Edward did not end up working in the film industry, but instead found work in selling imported vehicles to movie stars when he took a job with International Motors in Beverly Hills, California.  

He then founded a company called Autocessories and later served as Vice President of import car distributor S.H. Arnolt Company.

Left to Right: Darryl Larson, Earl Bunge, Ed Cunningham, Art Miller.

After all of these experiences Cunningham became the Styling Manager for Packard Motor Car Company. This is where his influence of colorful styling helped create the unique and rare Amethyst Pacific that now is part of our collection at the Packard Proving Grounds. Unfortunately, Packard went out of business not long after this project.

Chrysler Corporation must have been impressed with his designs as they snagged him up as their Styling Manager.

Cunningham then became the Design Director for Chatham Manufacturing Company where he worked for 36 years! While working there and becoming a sales consultant for them he made 22 trade missions to the Pacific Rim where he personally negotiated the first American textile sale to any Asian automobile manufacturer.

What a fantastic work career Edward had! Not only was he a designer, his creativity stretched into lapidary and writing humor columns for several national magazines. He enjoyed fishing, movie history, and restoring antique houses and classic cars.

His affiliations were many that included the Industrial Designers Society of America, Delta Sigma Phi, the Huron River Club, Antique Automobile Club of America, The Packard Club, the Model A Ford Club and he also founded the Detroit Colour Council which still exists today.

Edward James Paul Cunningham left his mark on this world leaving his wife Bonnie Brown Cunningham, his son Edward, daughter Carrie Kauffman and grandson Felix Kauffman behind in Fletcher North Carolina on March 29, 2012.

The Packard Proving Grounds is proud to keep the history of Edward Cunningham alive.

Author

  • Kim Parr

    Kim Parr is the Collections Curator for Packard Proving Grounds Historic Site. Kim has over 30 years of museum experience. (Lead of Living History Programs and worked with Collections at Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village, initial staff to open the Automotive Hall of Fame, curator of the Selinsky-Green Farmhouse and director of the Macomb County Historical Society and Crocker House Museum.) She also started the Museum Studies program at U of D – Mercy. Kim studied at the Universität Bielefeld and is a graduate of the University of Michigan.