Entries by Kim Parr

Perking Up Packard with a Penchant for Paint

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.

Chief Aeronautical Engineer Captain Lionel Woolson

Chief Aeronautical Engineer Captain Lionel Woolson

7 June 1888 - 23 April 1930

Captain Lionel Melville Woolson in a suit, sitting with his arms crossed on his lap

The Packard Proving Grounds is a site that has reached deep into the hearts of many people who found a connection here. It was for this very reason that Captain Lionel Melville Woolson had his cremains scattered
upon this site’s soil.

Born in Los Angeles, Woolson made his way to Detroit to eventually become an engineer for the Packard Motor Car Company. He developed aircraft engines that were used in several record-breaking speed planes. His final contribution to Packard in 1929 was to adapt a diesel engine that solved the weight problem in which previous efforts failed. His contributions to aviation safety were hailed as the greatest contribution to air travel, more than any other person of his generation.

Before working for Packard he joined the army air service in 1917 where he became the superintendent of ground testing of airplane motors at McCook Field in Dayton, Ohio.

The Shenandoah

Woolson designed the engines that ran the first American-built Navy dirigible known as the Shenandoah. The Shenandoah used helium to float and its engines ran on fuel oil instead of gasoline.

The Shenandoah dribble

Woolson's Untimely Passing

News article on the death of Woolson in a plane crash

While working for Packard developing aircraft engines, due to no fault of his own, Woolson and fellow pilots Carl Knight and Harold Scutt were killed in an airplane crash during a snowstorm near Attica, New York, on April 23, 1930.

News article reprint on Woolson's death in a plane crash

Woolson's Family

Woolson departed this world leaving behind a wife and daughter. His wife, Emma Fernande Graf, was born in Boufarik, Algeria in 1888. She moved with her parents to Detroit, Michigan in 1900. Emma married Captain Woolson and they had one daughter named Joy. Their daughter married Neil C. Talmadge, Jr. in 1950. Jesse Vincent, an engineer for the Packard Motor Car Company and who was friends with her father, walked Joy
Woolson down the aisle.

Years later, at the age of 64, on December 24, 1952, Woolson’s widow, Emma, married James Vernor II, the son of the founder of Vernors Ginger Ale. Sadly, James Vernor passed away just 1 1/2 years after their

The connections to the Packard Proving Grounds are truly amazing! And the contributions that Packard made to land, sea, and air travel are also staggering. The Packard Proving Grounds is honored to remember Captain
Woolson’s contributions to air travel and is proud to be the site of his resting place.

Packard Proving Grounds: Fulfilling the Need for Regulating Testing and Testers

Packard Proving Grounds: Fulfilling the Need for Regulating Testing and Testers

As the auto industry was proving to become a viable market, competition within the developing auto industry was thickening. 

When we think of the auto industry today we think of “The Big Three”. Let’s go back to over one hundred years ago.  Before the 1920s it seemed everyone wanted to get into the game. In 1908 there were 253 manufacturers manufacturing different types of automobiles, each claiming to be better than the other. 

The White Company from Cleveland, Ohio was manufacturing “White Steamers”. Their marketing campaign claimed that their automobile was superior due to being noiseless, odorless, and free of vibration. It also claimed to have perfect flexibility and reliability, to be easy on tires, and the easiest to drive. 

Detroit Electric claimed to render other electric types of vehicles obsolete by making theirs faster and able to drive a consistent average of 85 miles of continuous everyday service. 

Packard’s advertising set out to prove it to be the most luxurious automobile on the market. Its campaign used “Ask the Man Who Owns One” to prove its point.

The competition as to who was best and whose automobile was the best for the money whittled the number of manufacturers down to only 44 by the year of 1929.

Proving that your vehicle was better than others took a lot of testing and that testing first started out on open roads. Consider how much control the auto manufacturer had when testing was done outside of their gates. 

1915 Packard advertisement from the Packard Proving Grounds collection.
1915 Packard advertisement from the Packard Proving Grounds collection.

Regulating Testing and Testers

Automobile manufacturers soon found out that they needed to not only regulate the testing of vehicles but also needed to regulate the test drivers. 

In 1910 Packard Motor Car Company created a small 5” x 3” pamphlet that stipulated eleven regulations for their test drivers. Take a look at the pamphlet shown below that is archived in the Packard Proving Grounds collection.

The front of the Packard Motor Car Company Regulations for Packard Testers from 1910.
The front of the Packard Motor Car Company Regulations for Packard Testers from 1910.

The inside of the Packard Motor Car Company Regulations for Packard Testers booklet from 1910.
The inside of the Packard Motor Car Company Regulations for Packard Testers booklet from 1910.

There are the usual things to consider such as when the cars were to be returned to the factory and what tools they must carry with them while out on the road. But, there are other control measures that enliven the mind to what it must have been like in the “hay-day” of being a test driver when no one was looking over your shoulder. Consider the temptation to stop at a saloon for a shell of beer, or simply make many stops to have a smoke or do some shopping along the way. It’s interesting to read that they did not specify a speed limit on public roads other than on the Boulevard. Surely they must have been interested in how fast their vehicle could drive, but placing the risk upon the test driver alleviated any repercussions to the company. 

The regulations also kept their test drivers confined to the Detroit city roads within the roads marked in green on the map shown below.

Detroit City Map from 1911.
Detroit City Map from 1911.

Map courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Relocating Testing from the Streets of Detroit to the Proving Grounds

Unfortunately, the crowded, twisting, and patrolled roads that the test drivers were confined to offered a limited variety of conditions to prove their vehicle upon. There was also concern about competition seeing their future product developments. It became clear that to become the best automobile out there the car must be tested in every conceivable condition which could keep the public safe and their progress out of view. A proving ground could also provide a place to race a vehicle any time they wished without worrying about any interferences or obstacles. Test drivers and testing could be controlled and supervised within such an environment.

Originally, Henry B. Joy, president of Packard Motor Car Company from 1909 to 1916, wanted the now site of Selfridge Airfield in Harrison Township to be the site for Packard’s Proving Grounds. The Board of Packard did not think that his property offered enough variety of conditions for their vehicles to be tested upon. When the U.S. declared war on the German Empire on April 6, 1917, he decided, that same month, to do his bit by donating his “Joy Aviation Field” to the U.S. Army to establish a flying school for military aviators. 

Nine years later suitable property was found just a little more than 20 miles north of the Packard factory in Detroit.

The New Packard Proving Grounds

In 1926 Packard purchased 320.68 acres in Shelby Township, Michigan. The following year they purchased 107.32 additional acres, and lastly, in 1928 they purchased another 76.18 acres. In total, they purchased 504.18 acres, at a total cost of $175,845.95, to build their new testing facility and track upon.

Detroit Free Press news article titled "Proving Ground of Packard Has Speedy Concrete Track."
This Detroit Free Press news article was printed on July 31, 1927, before they purchased additional property.

Packard Proving Grounds property purchase and track diagram
The graphic above is from the Packard Proving Grounds collection.

A two-and-a-half-mile concrete oval race track with a timing tower was built. The oval track’s sides were built at an angle described in the graphic above. This allowed a test driver to let go of the steering wheel without losing control. Miles of twisting test roads were also created that offered a variety of difficult driving conditions. An airplane hangar, repair garage with engineering laboratories, and a lodge built for the superintendant were also built upon the site. The lodge had a garage attached that had dormitory rooms built above for onsite workers and visitors to stay in. The beautiful Tudor Revival lodge building and garage were designed by noted Detroit architect Albert Kahn.

Aerial view of the Packard Proving Grounds tracks.
Photo of the Packard Proving Grounds property and tracks.

1932 photo of the Timing Tower at the Packard Proving Grounds with a Packard staged in front of it.
1932 photo of the Timing Tower from the Packard Proving Grounds collection.

The new Albert Kahn-designed Lodge House and Garage at the Packard Proving Grounds in 1928.
Photo of the newly built lodge from the Packard Proving Grounds collection.

Opening Day at the Packard Proving Grounds: June 14th, 1928

Leon Duray racing on the new Packard Proving Grounds Track on opening day June 14th, 1928.
Leon Duray racing on the new Packard Proving Grounds Track from the Packard Proving Grounds collection.

In 1928, the Packard Proving Grounds was touted as "The World's Fastest Speedway" as Leon Duray set a world speed record of 148.17 MPH.

When Packard’s Proving Ground opened on June 14, 1928, the day was inaugurated with a race upon the newly paved oval track. George Stewart, the Detroit cab driver who became renowned Leon Duray, Indy race-car driver, raced the 91-cubic inch, front drive, Miller Special #4 and set a world record for a closed course of 148.17 miles per hour. This declared Packard’s oval test track as the fastest track in the world. Packard’s track remained the fastest track in the world for more than 24 years and held this title until it was handed over to the Monza in Italy after WWII.

Leon Duray and his team on the track at the Packard Proving Grounds on Opening Day June 14th, 1928
Leon Duray and his team on the new Packard Proving Grounds Track from the Packard Proving Grounds collection.

Join Us to Celebrate the Packard Proving Grounds' 95th Birthday

This June 14, 2023 marks the 95th anniversary of the inauguration of the Packard Proving Grounds. It will be a day we celebrate with a car show and a celebration cake and ice cream social. We hope you will join us in celebrating the preservation of this historical site and look forward to celebrating our 100th anniversary in just five years.

Click here for more information on this exciting event and make sure to RSVP to hello@packardprovinggrounds.org. 

Lucile Vincent mistress of the Packard Proving Grounds

Lucile Vincent: Mistress of Packard Proving Grounds

Behind all of the noisy background of proving Packard vehicles on the track and trails was a family living “life” here. 

Lucile Vincent, wife of the PPG’s superintendent, Charles Vincent, was busy raising her three daughters within the beautiful lodge built by Albert Kahn. When the family moved to the Packard Proving Grounds in 1927 the area was quite rural and far from family and friends. 

It is noted that she followed her husband in a Packard vehicle to help create the winding rugged back trails upon the property. And we can probably guess that she may have done more for the Proving Grounds and the staff that worked here than what was documented.

A recent discussion with her daughter, Roberta (also known as Bobbie), revealed a fact that shed a whole new light upon the domestic history of this family at the Proving Grounds. 

Bobbie talked about taking over the cooking at the age of ten due to her mother’s poor health. 

Her mother suffered from mastoiditis, which infected her brain, when Bobbie was only seven years of age. Lucile was sent to Harper Hospital in Detroit for treatment where she was recorded as having the highest temperature ever recorded there at that time. 

Bobbie was sent to spend the summer at Dr. Earl Merritt’s summer home in Canada while her mother recovered. Dr. Merritt’s first wife, Jacqueline Blythe Blood Merritt, was related to Lucile’s father’s side of the family. He most likely looked after Lucile during her stay at Harper Hospital in Detroit as that is where he worked. Bobbie has fond memories of learning how to swim while staying with him.  Unfortunately, she also has the memory of falling into a water-hole. Thankfully, she was rescued by Dr. Merritt’s twin daughters, Phyllis and Patty, and had water pumped out of her lungs. 

Lucille Vincent louning in a lawn chair with a dog on her lap at the Packard Proving Grounds Historic Site
Photograph courtesy of Packard Proving Grounds Historical Site archives

Chocolate cake recipe from a vintage Baker's Chocolate ad in Life Magazine, 1941
Chocolate cake recipe from a vintage Baker's Chocolate ad in Life Magazine, 1941

Lucile was only in her early forties when she became so ill that she had to learn how to walk and talk again. She was still shaky on her feet when they had to move out of the Packard Proving Grounds in 1941. Packard moved out of the grounds when Chrysler Defense Engineering leased the grounds to test tanks and armored vehicles for the war effort.

Bobbie vividly remembers listening to FDR’s “Day of Infamy” speech while her father sat in the red leather chair next to the large Stromberg radio. She had the feeling that this would change her life. 

While yet recovering, Lucile and Bobbie moved to their newly acquired farmhouse in Avoca, Michigan. Bobbie was in the 6th grade at that time. Her two eldest daughters were already out of the house and her husband was living, most of the time, in an apartment in Detroit to work at the Packard factory on the Liberty engine. Lucile and Bobbie would live with him in the apartment during the winter months. 

At the age of ten, Bobbie helped with growing, preserving and cooking their food. She has no memories of her mother cooking after she became ill. 

I asked Bobbie if she had a special recipe that she liked to prepare. She spoke of the neighboring farm boys, Jack Packaberry(son of a Detroit Policeman who moved to a farm after retiring) and Bill Reid (who was noted as being clumsy) used to come over for her chocolate cake. Bobbie kept in touch with Bill and his wife for years. She lost touch with Jack after leaving the farm in 1949 to study nursing.

Perhaps she used this popular chocolate cake recipe from 1941!

Despite her illness, Lucile kept busy creating textiles. She was talented at crocheting and knitting. Proof of this can be found in Roberta’s room where her beautiful popcorn crocheted blanket is laid out upon the bed. Lucile added onto the blanket when they moved to Arizona so that it would fit their larger Queen-sized bed. Bobbie said it was the last thing that she made.

Roberta's room at the Packard Proving Grounds Lodge House with a popcorn-crocheted blanket
Roberta's room at the Packard Proving Grounds Lodge House with a popcorn-crocheted blanket

Lucille's Family Tree

Finding Lucile more and more interesting has encouraged me to dig deeper into her family tree. Lucile’s mother was Mary Blood Cookson. Her father, Lucile’s grandfather, was John Allen Blood, the brother of James Harvey Blood who was married to Victoria Woodhull; one of the most interesting women in American history. Victoria Clafin Woodhull was a women’s rights advocate, popular public speaker, a newspaper publisher who introduced Americans to the works of Karl Marx, and the first woman to operate a Wall Street brokerage firm. Most notably, despite not reaching the mandated age of 35 to serve as President, is also considered to have been the first woman candidate for the U.S. Presidency in 1872.

Victoria Woodhull, Women's Rights Advocate
Victoria Woodhull, Women's Rights Advocate

Col. James Harvey Blood
Col. James Harvey Blood

Photographs courtesy of Wikepedia

It’s interesting to note that, despite the then news sensation that her Great-Uncle and Victoria Woodhull were in their day, Bobbie said she never knew this part of her family history. She said that she only heard stories about her father’s side of the family and very little about her mother’s family.