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The Last Packard
This profile first appeared in the
August 2005 issue of Collector Car Market Review. (C) Copyright 2005- VMR International, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Packard, once one of the world’s premiere automakers, struggled in the postwar world and saw it’s preeminence among American automakers rapidly fade. The last gasp for REAL Packards (not the later fancy Studebakers) was the 1955-56 models. At the top of the line was the Caribbean.
Styling certainly had recovered from the rather dowdy previous design and it weighed in with all the fifties requirements: lots of colors and chrome, technical advancements, and powerful engines. Caribbeans even had reversible upholstery: fabric on one side, leather the other.
A convertible-only model in 1955, for ‘56 it was joined by a 2-door hardtop. Caribbeans had Packard’s biggest, most powerful engine: the all-new 352ci V8 with twin 4bbl carbs rated at 275hp in ‘55 and enlarged to 374ci with 310hp in ‘56. Both were backed by an unreliable Twin Ultramatic automatic transmission. Many have been replaced by owners with Chrysler’s excellent Torquefilte. Using a new and novel torsion bar (“Torsion Level”) suspension, handling wasn’t too bad for such a behemoth, and it managed a soft and smooth ride, too.
Due to limited production (about 500 in ‘55, 276 convertibles and 263 hardtops in ‘56), these are very expensive to restore as parts are difficult to find. Unless you’re a true Packard enthusiast, a glutton for frustration, or like a challenge, only consider restored examples--or at least ones that are all there, right down to all the trim.
Update 2015: Values were left largely unaffected by the market crash of several years ago and have risen about 40% since this article was first published. Recent activity is sparse, but indicates a leveling off of prices.
Current Values: 1955 1956 or Main Packard Menu
The editors at Collector Car Market Review