The Milestone Car / 1955 Packard 400

The Packard 400 is a rare automobile and a beautifully restored one like the car 1955 Packard 400 featured here is even more rare.

1955 packard 400 hardtop

1955 Packard 400 Series

The Milestone Year of 1955

The year 1955 signaled a design change for Packard. It was a milestone year. The car was considered a technological marvel.

Ushered in was an elegant design which included a new more modern styled grille. Included were hooded headlight housings and cathedral styled taillights. The new trim allowed for both two and three tone paint schemes and also made it appear that the car had a new roof line.

A new wrap around windshield also gave the car a more modern appearance and looked more like what the competition was producing. All in all the 1955 Packard 400 had a very impressive presence and was also considered a very well engineered automobile. Packard's 1955 models gained a new sharp look.

Available accessories included power seats, power locks, power windows, air conditioning and wire wheels. Packard's were considered one of the American automobiles representing the ultimate in luxury and comfort.

1955 packard hartop

55 Packard new grille and headlight hoods

The 1955 Packard Models

The Packard Patrician was available as a four door sedan. The Packard Clipper came a  Deluxe and Standard trims. The Packard Caribbean was a convertible offering and the Packard 400 Series was it's hardtop model.

Packard-Studebaker

The Packard Motor Car Company was one of America’s luxury automobile manufacturers known for quality engineering. Packard, as an independent automaker, stayed in business much longer than many of it’s peers. The company which actually built it’s first car in Warren Ohio in 1899 as the Ohio Automobile Company had outlasted several of their competitors during the 1930′s.

Packard bought the Studebaker company of South Bend Indiana in 1954. Studebaker was actually larger than Packard at the time but it's financial position was not as strong as Packards. In fact, at the time of the merger it was reported that Packard was unaware of just how bad Studebaker's financial position was.

packard wire wheels

Custom Packard wire wheels

This merger created the fourth largest U.S. automaker. It made a lot of sense for Packard by reducing it’s production costs. This was necessary for any automaker trying to compete against Detroit's Big Three. Regardless, overall sales were disappointing and Studebaker lost a good portion of their dealer network and production ended at the Detroit plant in 1956. The last car rolled off the South Bend Indiana factory in 1958. The Packard nameplate was pulled from the market by 1959. Interestingly enough, because of their precarious financial condition, Packards of 1957 and 1958 were basically Studebaker President models.

1955 Packard 400 Specifications

The 1955 Packard 400 came with a 352 cubic inch Overhead Valve V-8 delivering 260 horsepower with a four barrel carburetor. This was a switch from the straight eight engine of 1954.

The 1955 Packard offered the Twin Ultramatic automatic transmission. Ultramatic was a trademark name for Packard's transmission. This hydraulic torque converter transmission was produced from 1949 through 1956. In 1956 a touchbutton Ultramatic was unveiled. Probably the biggest problem with this transmission was having it serviced when the Packard dealer network started to disappear.

1955 packard 400 series hardtop

Another view of 1955 Packard headlight and grille design

The 1955 Packard was built with torsion level suspension which many feel offered superior handling and an excellent ride. Torsion level suspension has the vehicle floating on four points of two long torsion bars. Essentially bumps or potholes the car encounters on a road are transmitted from that wheel to the opposite wheel and not the frame.

The Packard 400 Series was built on a 127.0 inch wheelbase. Total outside length was 214.8 inches, width was 78.0 inches and height 62.0 inches. The automobile's weight was 4,250 lbs.

Brakes were four wheel hydraulic drum.

The new car price for the 1955 Packard 400 series Hardtop was about $4,500. As a comparison, a 1955 Cadillac Eldorado sold new for about $6,900 and a 1955 Buick Roadmaster had a price tag of about $3,500.

See the AutoMuseumOnline articles on the links below...

1952 Packard Patrician

1955 Studebaker President Speedster

The 1955 Cadillac Coupe

1964 Rambler Ambassador Cross Country Wagon

1955 packard dashboard

1955 Packard dashboard

1955 Packard Production

For the 1955 model year production for the Packard 400 Series totaled 7,206 vehicles. Packard Caribbean models totaled 500 units, Packard Patrician's totaled 9,127 units and the Clipper model accounted for 6,670 vehicles.

1955 Packard Collector Cars

As mentioned above, 1955 was a milestone year for Packard. The 1955 Packards received both a styling and engineering change. The new high output V-8's were just one of the changes for 1955.

Because of the low production figure of 500 units for the 1955 Packard Caribbean it is the rarest of the 1955 models. This was also the top of the line model in 1955. The new car price for the 1955 Packard Caribbean was about $6,000. Today, you may run across a fully restored, mint condition 1955 Packard Caribbean with an asking price tag approaching $90,000 and more.

Packard 400 original models might be found in the $30,000 range, plus or minus, depending on condition and degree of restoration.

(Article and photos copyright 2014 AutoMuseumOnline)

1952 Packard Patrician Convertible

The Packard Patrician carried a complete new design as opposed to the 1940's. In fact, the 1952 Packard Patrician was advertised as a car with no comparison.

1952 Packard Patrician

1952 Packard Patrician

The Packard Motor Car Company of Detroit Michigan urged buyers to test drive the 1952 Packard Patrician 400 to fully realize just how advanced and luxurious the car is. Packard called their 1952 models the most exclusive cars in America. If you were familiar with Packard then you were most likely familiar with their popular slogan..."Ask the Man Who Owns One".

Early on the Packard Motor Car Company earned a reputation as the country's premiere luxury automaker and a respected innovator. In 1916 the company launched a "Twin Six" engine with it's new sixty degree V-12 configuration. The engine was built with two cast iron blocks of six cylinders each.

The early 1950's was a volatile time for the American auto industry. Packard had been struggling for years ever since the end of World War Two against Cadillac that had the marketing muscle of GM behind the nameplate. The Korean War also didn't help Packard although the company had some fairly healthy defense contracts and this helped with the cash flow.

1952 Packard Patrician Convertible trim

1952 Packard Patrician Convertible trim

The company's redesigned cars lost some of their momentum because of the war. Packard really tried to make an effort to shed the image of an automaker who produced cars for old people.

That and the media's "bathtub" description of some Packard styling didn't help with it's public image. On top of that, Consumer Reports evaluation of the 1951 Packard as opposed to the Cadillac wasn't bad but it wasn't great either.

The Mergers of the 1950's

The Big Three, GM, Ford and Chrysler were battling for market share and those other independent automakers were caught up in mergers. Mergers were really necessary to rein in costs and compete with the Big Three's sales organizations. As far as Packard was concerned, after rumors that it might become a unit of American Motors, and it was well known for it's quality engines, it merged as Studebaker-Packard.

Packard Patrician square styling

Packard Patrician square styling

This merger created the fourth largest U.S. automaker. It made a lot of sense for Packard by reducing it's production costs. Sales nevertheless were disappointing and production ended at the Detroit plant in 1956 and the last car rolled off the South Bend Indiana factory in 1958. The Packard nameplate was pulled from the market by 1959.

 

A good book regarding Packard and it's last years is The Fall of the Packard Motor Car Company by author James A. Ward. Another book detailing the company's product line over the decades is Packard Automobiles 1920 - 1958 : A Brooklands Portfolio by R.M. Clarke.

1952 Packard Styling

The Packard Motor Car Company was known as a producer of prestigious automobiles. One flaw the company had was that it appeared that many Packard buyers had previously owned a Packard. That meant that not enough new car buyers were drawn from the competition. The name of the game in the automotive industry was to increase market share and this was a problem with Packard, particularly in the 1950's.

New styling came forth on 1951 from designer John Reinhart and beginning that year Packard would offer four series of vehicles on two different wheelbases. Reinhart is best known for his designs of the Lincoln Mark II and the Packard Patrician but also had a hand in designing several others. The fairly squared shape and more formal design given to the 1951 and 1952 Packards was named "high pockets" by Reinhart himself.

1952 Packard Patrician convertible dashboard

1952 Packard Patrician dashboard

The 1952 Packard Patrician 400 offered the car buyer new interiors and fresh exterior color combinations. The highest trim level offered by Packard was on the Patrician 400 models and you could easily tell the difference from other Packard models by the trim.

New Interiors for 1952

The Packard Motor Car Company employed Dorothy Draper to redesign their car interiors beginning in 1952. Packard finally came to the realization that women of the household had a lot of influence in what automobile would be bought. Drapers interior color combinations and fabrics were an effort to appeal to the 1950's woman. In a way, automobile mechanics were not all too different from car to car and the designers touch to the interior was one way to create a big difference, at least on an advertising standpoint.

The company advertised Draper's creations as real "show stoppers". They invited car buyers to come see the stunning new touches and decorative magic created by Draper, an internationally known stylist and decorator.

1952 Packard Patrician Specifications

The five passenger 1952 Packard Patrician came with a 315 cubic inch displacement eight cylinder engine delivering 155 horsepower. Packard advertised this engine as the highest compression eight cylinder available. The only engine it was said with a nine main bearing crankshaft.

Transmissions available were an automatic and three speed manual.

The car's suspension system was called broad beam and self controlling.

If you owned one of these Packard Patricians you would have enjoyed Easamatic Power Brakes. This was a vacuum assisted brake system

The Packard Patrician had a lengthy 126.5 inch wheelbase. Overall length was 218.6 inches. Width was 77.9 inches and height 61.9 inches.

Total Packard production for 1952 was 62,900 vehicles. As a comparison, both Pontiac and Oldsmobile had production of over 220,000 vehicles.

The links below are to additional AutoMuseumOnline photo articles that you might want to compare to the 1952 Packard Patrician...

1951 Studebaker Commander Convertible

1954 Pontiac Star Chief

Classic Packard hubcap

Classic Packard hubcap

The 1952 Packard Patrician Collector Car

The 1952 Packard models are significant in as much as they represent a new styling. The interior work by Dorothy Draper is also a plus.

A 1952 Packard Patrician Sedan in showroom condition should see prices well north of $25,000. Convertibles should see more. A "Pacifica" 1952 Packard concept car sold for $88,000. This was an exceptional automobile with a lot of history. The "Pacifica" was a concept car that won the competition in 1952 for the magazine "Saga" and featured on the cover.

(Article and photos copyright 2013 AutoMuseumOnline)

 

1942 Packard Limousine

 

1942 Packard Limousine

1942 Packard Limousine

The 1942 Packard Clipper models, including the limousine shown here, were produced over a matter of just a few months. As it turned out, this was the last year in which Packard would offer a rolling chassis for limousines and it's custom coachwork on such extended chassis. After that, limousines were built by simply stretching a sedan's chassis.

The Packard Clippers had a very short production lifespan during the Pre World War Two years. The 1942 models began production in August of 1941 and stopped in February 1942 due to President Roosevelt's prohibition of civilian car production during the war years.  When America entered World War Two, the Packard Motor Car Company built military vehicles in it's factories.

1942 Packard Clipper Limousine

1942 Packard Clipper Limousine

The Packard Motor Car Company

The Packard Motor Car Company was formed in 1903 by Ward Packard. By the year 1909 Packard was considered among America's major automakers. Packard had built a reputation as a luxury auto builder and was one of the premiere luxury automakers prior to 1937. In fact, by 1925 Packard was the American leader in luxury automobiles. The company which actually built it's first car in Warren Ohio in 1899 as the Ohio Automobile Company had outlasted several of their competitors during the 1930's. The Great depression nevertheless had a strong impact on Packard. To give you an example, Packard sold about 7,000 vehicles during the 1934 model year compared to more than 50,000 during the 1928 model year. Big vehicles took a big hit during the Depression years.

The Start of the Popular Packard Clipper Models

In 1941 Packard introduced what was called the "Clipper" model with the most powerful production engines of the time. The Packard Clipper was one of those models introduced mid year in April of 1941. There were only a bit over 16,000 1941 Clippers built and then with the start of World War Two and the civilian vehicle prohibition put into effect by President Roosevelt, only a few thousand of the 1942 Packards were produced.

 

1942 Packard Clipper Limousine front grille design

1942 Packard Clipper Limousine front grille design

To give you an idea of the pent up demand unleashed after the war, there were over 30,000 Packards built for the 1946 model year with over 1,200 of these being Packard limousines. The sales of the Clipper series were very successful. Clipper outsold both LaSalle and Cadillac. That was quite an accomplishment.

The 1942 Packard Custom Limousine shown in this article is on display at the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History in Albuquerque New Mexico. This particular car was built between August 25, 1941 and February 7, 1942 at the Packard factory in Detroit Michigan. This car was the sixty-sixth of the Clipper Six Twentieth Series. The automobile was then sent to the Fitzjohn Coach Company in Muskegon Michigan to be made into a limousine. Fitzjohn cut the Clipper in half and added six feet to it's length using ash wood. The coach builder added three bench seats and side doors. Out of the very few 1942 Packard models built prior to the war, the Fitzjohn Coach Company converted one hundred into limousines.

1942 Packard Limousine wood grain dashboard

1942 Packard Limousine wood grain dashboard

The Fitzjohn Coach Company was founded in 1919 for the purpose of building bus and truck bodies. The company offered an eight door limousine as early as 1935. The company had also built the coach works for a twenty-one passenger bus built on a Ford AA truck chassis. The bus had a wheelbase of 157 inches.

1942 Packard Limousine Specs

The 1942 Packard Clipper had sleek modern lines which was a carryover from the new styling that took hold in 1941. The body of the Clipper had been designed by the legendary automobile designer Howard 'Dutch' Darrin. The limousine models had a fixed divider with a retractable privacy window. The front seat had leather upholstery for more durability. The back had a fixed bench seat as well as a jump seat. The interior typically had wood grain paneling. The 1942 Packard Clipper was the most luxurious of Packard's pre-war models.

The Packard Clipper limousines had a 148 inch wheelbase and a length of 236.5 inches. The 1942 Packard Clipper had an eight cylinder inline engine. Vehicle weight came in at about 4,900 lbs.

Links to two additional AutoMuseumOnline photo articles you'll also enjoy are the 1941 Packard Darrin Victoria and the story of the Stutz-Bearcat.

(Photos from author's collection)