Though I called it a Packard Clipper in the headline, it should really just be “Clipper”, since Packard wanted to distinguish between the two lines, Packards and Clippers. So much so, in fact, that the early 1955 Clippers didn’t say “Packard” anywhere on the car. Dealers complained so a couple of Packard logos were added so dealers could prove to customers that they were real Packards.
For 1955, Packard finally introduced a true pillarless two door hardtop to complement the four door Patrician. They named it the Four Hundred, a model designation that Packard had used before but this time they spelled it out.
The primary visual difference between the 1955 and 1956 Packards is that the ’56 model year cars have longer “eyelids”, the hoods over the headlights were extended a bit.
In 1955, Packard chief James Nance tried to reestablish Packard as a premium luxury brand. Since the 1930s, company managers focused on the high volume “junior” Packards and let Cadillac dominate the luxury market. For 1955, there were be two lines, Packards and Clippers, and though they shared most components and styling, Packards and Clippers were fairly easy to tell from one another. When dealers rebelled about the Clippers not carrying the Packard brand anywhere on the car, Nance relented. Packard also introduced the Executive, which was positioned between the Clippers and the Caribbean, Four Hundred and Patrician, and it combined the front end of a Packard with the rear end of Clipper (it has “slipper” taillights, not the “cathedral” style as on the more expensive Packards). Still, Clippers outsold Packards in 1956 by a ratio of three to one.
Why spend six figures on a restored 1957 Chevy convertible when, for the same money, you can drive in real style? This 1956 Packard Caribbean not only looks great, with its twin carb setup, the 374 cubic inch V8 puts out 310 horsepower, the most offered by any manufacturer in the day.
The Caribbeans are the most collectible of the last Packards, at least based on auction prices. A nicely restored convertible Caribbean can fetch $150,000.
To accompany a post of mine over at TTAC about the last Packards, we’re going to put up some posts about the 1955 and 1956 Packards, which looked brand new but actually recycled the basic body shell Packard had been using since 1951. For comparison purposes, here’s a 1953 Packard Balboa.
Lists of ‘best’ or ‘worst’ cars are always subjective, of course, and influenced strongly, if not entirely, by the biases of the writer. Look at every list of ‘worst’ cars you can lay your hands on, though, and one car appears on every single one: The Yugo GV. This one was spotted this weekend at a car show in Kenosha, Wis.
Automotive supplier Eaton Corporation hasn’t been in the airbag business in almost 40 years. They abandoned that market in 1975 after slow acceptance by the auto industry and by consumers convinced them that it wasn’t worth the approximately $135 million that they and their customers had invested in the Auto-Ceptor restraint system, the first practical airbags. The crash test site where they developed those airbags still exists, though, just across the street from Eaton’s Southfield, Michigan technical center. Much of the site is intact, with both head-on and pole-impact barriers, as well as the remnants of the guide track used to run test sleds into the barrier.