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PHOENIX (Reuters Life!) - A Canadian couple is seeking to sell the rights to the defunct luxury auto-maker Packard along with a high-end prototype car, with the hopes of resurrecting the legendary brand.
Former Phoenix residents Roy and Barbara Gullickson are looking for a buyer for the storied company, complete with trademark and tooling, whose classic designs screamed luxury and elegance in the car's heyday beginning in the 1920s.
"There's a certain aura to the name and a good bit of nostalgia," said Roy Gullickson, Packard Motor Car Co. president, who acquired the rights to the name in 1995. "We sure would like to see someone bring the Packard name back into the marketplace."
For $1.5 million, the new owner would get to drive away with a name and trademark that dates back to 1902, plus engineering designs, tools, spare parts and supplier information. The last production Packard was made in 1958.
But the biggest prize may be tucked inside a garage southeast of Phoenix: a new Packard prototype that comes with an all-aluminum V-12 engine and a traditional chrome grille. The sleek sedan was made in 1998.
Three international companies and one from the United States have expressed "serious interest" in buying the company and discussions are on-going, said Neil Lewis, a consultant with International Mergers and Acquisitions in Scottsdale, Arizona. He declined to name the companies involved.
Lewis said the $1.5 million asking price was based on the money pumped into producing the prototype vehicle, called the Packard Twelve, and other equipment, plus the value of its name.
Gullickson formed his company in Phoenix and built a prototype with the idea of manufacturing a made-in-America ultra-luxury car to rival anything Europe had to offer. The new Packard got its share of attention at car shows, but never was able to attract big-money investors to put the car into production.
Gullickson, who now lives in a small town south of Calgary, in Canada, said he believes the idea of producing a new Packard is still a good one despite tough times for Detroit's car manufacturers and rising gas prices.
He said the vehicle could be modified to make it more attractive in an age of soaring gas prices, perhaps using a smaller engine or converting it to run on compressed natural gas.
He estimates that it would take a buyer about two years to finish engineering design and development and ready the vehicle for production. The number of new Packards would not be large: Gullickson envisioned a limited run of 12 cars at the start, with the next batch at 100 the following year.
One auto-industry analyst said the Packard may have a long-shot chance at vying for a slice of the highly competitive luxury vehicle market.
"The question is, can you take advantage of the name and make it a luxury brand that younger buyers are going to respond to," said Chris Cedergren, a consultant at Iceology in Los Angeles.
"It has to be real sexy and cool. That's what this is all about."
But not everyone is pleased with the possible revival of a car.
One long-time Packard collector and enthusiast said that the old vehicles and memories of that bygone era are best left undisturbed, with their legacy intact.
"They should just leave the Packard name alone and let people enjoy how they used to be built," said Carol Mauck, who owns seven vintage Packards and is secretary-treasurer of the Packard International Motor Car Club. "I wouldn't buy a new one."
Editing by Tim Gaynor and Philip Barbara