REVISED AND UPDATED — Here’s a familiar photo in auto history: the 1956 Packard Predictor, the fabulous showboat built by Ghia. Except that’s definitely not Ghia headquarters in the background. Hmm. Let’s take a closer look.
The famed Packard Predictor concept (they were called dream cars or idea cars then) made its debut at the 1956 Chicago Auto Show with its construction officially credited to Ghia. However, the building serving as the backdrop in the publicity photo above? That’s not the Ghia facility in Turin. That’s a well-known Motor City car-building facility of the time, Creative Industries of Detroit.
Creative built countless prototypes and short-run cars for all the Detroit automakers. The outfit did everything, from hand-built show cars like the Predictor to the production run of Dodge Charger Daytona winged aero cars. Later the company became part of Masco Industries, then MSX. Companies like Creative did a very good business around Detroit, and they still do, performing much the same back-room work that Ghia was known for, but in a more discrete fashion, allowing the automakers to take the credit. Car enthusiasts might be surprised to learn how much of the work in the Motor City is actually done by subcontractors.
And so the photo of the Predictor parked at Creative had always bothered MCG a little. If the Predictor was a Ghia creation, what’s it doing parked in front of Creative? The photo is no snapshot; it was carefully staged. There’s even an alternate version (see gallery below) featuring a fashion model, an addition that would easily double the cost of the photo session.
This small mystery was cleared up for MCG by good friend and ace auto historian Bill Glass. Yes, the Predictor was indeed constructed by Ghia in Turin. That’s a fact. However, shortly after its arrival on these shores, the car developed a nasty electrical short (insert Italian coachbuilder joke here) and burned nearly to the ground. At that point, the Predictor was sent over to Creative for a hasty and complete do-over. And thus we have this photo today of the Predictor in front of Creative’s distinctive machine modern facade at 3080 East Outer Drive.
The one and only Packard Predictor is still with us today. You can see it at the Studebaker National Museum in South Bend, Indiana, a great car collection that’s well worth a visit. See MCG’s full photo feature on the museum here.