You may not have heard of Roger Carnahan Hatton before, but he lived a full life in the way that many of us hope. His father founded R.C. Hatton Farms in 1932 in Pahokee, Florida, and Roger incorporated the company in 1964, making the farm a pioneer in developing crop production methods, not to mention developing several sweet corn varieties. And, of course, Roger was a gearhead.
Alas, Roger left this world earlier this year, though not without the love of family or his love of cars. Two of them will be on AutoHunter, powered by ClassicCars.com, beginning Monday, November 14 and they reflect the discerning eye that Roger had.
The first one is truly historic, a 1949 Cadillac Coupe de Ville. Nineteen forty-nine was the first year of this model but, oh, what a model it was! Along with the Buick Roadmaster Riviera and the Oldsmobile 98 Holiday, the sporty Coupe de Ville was the industry’s first production “hardtop convertible,” later known as a two-door hardtop. The Coupe de Ville was trimmed at a higher level than most Cadillacs, featuring standard power windows and even imitating the headliner of a true convertible.
Plus, this was the second year of Cadillac’s humped rear fenders, so the pubescent fins combined with the clean greenhouse styling (due to no B-pillar) was a design triumph among American postwar cars.
Additionally, 1949 was the year that Cadillac, along with Oldsmobile, introduced a high-compression OHV V8 that was the first step in what would lead to the “Horsepower Race” starting in 1955, if not things embraced by the burgeoning hot rod set, NASCAR and drag racing.
Roger’s Fiesta Ivory on Fiesta Ivory Coupe de Ville, features an ivory vinyl and brown cloth interior and, of course, is powered by the new 160-horsepower 331 hooked up to GM’s renowned Hydra-Matic Drive automatic transmission. The odometer reads 48K miles though no word on whether those are original miles on the chassis. This one hits all the buttons for an American postwar car.
Cadillac’s main competitor, Packard, used to lead the luxury segment in America, but the period after World War II was not kind to the company thanks to stale styling, a problematic merger with Studebaker, and being slow to develop a modern V8. Nonetheless, Packard came back with a vengeance in 1955 with fantastic style and engineering. Truth be told, the new Packards were heavy redesigns of the 1951 body, which accounts for the high beltline, but they were as nice as anything in the market.
Engineering-wise, Packard introduced several technical innovations. The first was an all-new V8 measuring 352ci with up to 275 horsepower. This was class-leading among American luxury brands, with only the 1955 Chrysler C-300 offering more horses. Twin-Ultramatic was also new, an automatic (the only one produced by an independent automaker) that featured solid engineering but unfortunately required doting maintenance to keep it operating properly.
Another new feature was four-wheel Torsion Level suspension, which set a new standard for ride and handling. Though 1955 was a strong year for just about everyone, Packard’s new stable was so fantastic that sales nearly doubled from the 1954 model year. Alas, the recovery was not enough, and Packard would start using Studebaker bodies in 1957 and disappear after 1958.
This 1955 Packard is a Four Hundred, a “Senior” model only available as a two-door hardtop, so it would have been the equivalent of the Coupe de Ville on Cadillac’s side. Finished in two-tone red and white with a black/red/white interior (with seat covers, no less), this Four Hundred features the 352 V8 with Twin-Ultramatic transmission, power windows, AM radio, and clock. Odometer reads 76K miles, though the seller hasn’t made known whether these are original miles.
So, what’ll it be? The original two-door hardtop or the stylish upstart? Either way, it’s clear that Roger Carnahan Hatton had taste on several levels.