This weird old car had a retractable fifth wheel to help with parallel parking

A friend of mine recently shared an Instagram post about old cars that had a fifth wheel which descended from the trunk to assist with parallel parking. As a Bostonian, I take my parallel parking pretty seriously, and this seemed like a pretty cool concept that might help people be less bad at it! So why hadn't I ever heard anything about it?

I did some digging, and learned a little bit about the history from Old Cars Weekly:

In 1953, Brooks Walker modified a new Packard Cavalier sedan from his California business, Walker Research, and made it into one of the most famous postwar Packards. Using a series of hydraulic pumps and lines, gears, and the Packard's left rear tire and continental spare tire, Walker came up with his own unique system for easing the parking procedure for car owners. Apparently nobody bit on the idea, leaving Walker's prototype, his personal 1953 Packard Cavalier, the only known example featuring the patented system.

As late as the 1970s, Walker was still developing a parallel-parking system for cars, and his last known effort was on a Saab sedan. At that time, he still owned several 1950s cars sporting variations of his self-parking device, including an early-1950s Ford station wagon, a 1957 Oldsmobile station wagon, and a 1951 Cadillac Series Sixty Special. All of these cars were modified from beneath to allow a tire to be hidden under the car until it was lowered in the process of parking the car. 

The article has a lot more detail about the functionality of these fun parallel parking mechanisms, as well as a little info on some of Walker's competitors (whose inventions also never quite caught on). Even more fascinating is that they were able to locate the current whereabouts of a few of those prototypes!

Car of the Week: 'Self-Parking' 1953 Packard Cavalier [Angelo Van Bogart / Old Cars Weekly]