’54 Packard Caribbean and the Santa Fe Super Chief

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“Unkle Jerry” sent me this link for this poster of a ’54 Packard Caribbean and the Santa Fe Super Chief for sale at eBay.

I immediately had a flashback to my childhood in Lubbock, Texas. I remember Santa Fe bringing the Super Chief to town in 1954 and giving free promotional rides between Lubbock and Plainview, which is just short of 50 miles north of Lubbock. I got to go on one of those rides, a thrilling experience for a seven year-old!

I don’t think the Packard dealer in Lubbock ever sold a Caribbean. Packard didn’t build very many of them in the first place and the likelihood of one being in Lubbock, which at the time was only about 50,000 people, was small.

I didn’t see my first Caribbean until 1959 when our family moved to Denver, Colorado. I was sitting in our car in the parking lot of a King Soopers store on North Federal Boulevard where my mother was shopping when a ’55 Caribbean painted in the in White Jade, Rose Quartz and Grey Pearl Metallic tri-tone color combination parked next to our car. It was just stunning and I couldn’t take my eyes off of it!

The first Caribbean I saw was in Denver in 1959. It was painted in the White Jade, Rose Quartz and Grey Pearl Metallic tri-tone combination.
The first Caribbean I saw was in Denver in 1959. It was painted in the White Jade, Rose Quartz and Grey Pearl Metallic tri-tone combination.

The Caribbean was introduced in 1953. It had evolved from the Pan American show car designed by Richard Arbib. In its inaugural year, Packard built 750 Caribbeans, the most ever produced in one model year.

For 1954, Packard only built 400 Caribbeans; the number increased in 1955 to 500.

The ’54s were powered by a 359 cubic inch straight eight. It was ultra smooth as the crankshaft rode on 9 main bearings. Fitted with an aluminum head and a four barrel carburetor, it made 212 horsepower. Packard introduced its V-8 for 1955. In the Caribbean, the V-8 displaced 352 cubic inches and had two four barrel carburetors, developing 275 horsepower. For 1956, the V-8 was punched out to 374 cubic inches. With the 2×4 carburetor set up, the ’56 Caribbean was rated at 310 horsepower, the most in the industry that year. A hardtop Caribbean joined the convertible in the line up. Only 276 convertibles and 263 hardtops were built in 1956, the last year of production for true Packards.

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Caribbean, Packards

2 Comments

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  1. What a great poster! It seems that I have seen a Caribbean, maybe at a Car show or auction. It certainly is beautiful. I’ve kind of wondered why the industry hasn’t come back to straight eights and such.

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    • I’m glad you liked that, Yogi!
      I suspect that a factor in why straight eights have not come back in vogue is all the things that have to be crammed into an engine compartment now – and a straight eight takes up a LOT of room. Another factor is that the auto industry gets so much power out of engines today. For example, Ford is getting 365 horsepower out of a very compact V-6.

      That said, despite the fact that Packard’s straight eight was getting long in the tooth – L-head vs. OHV, etc., many consider it to be the best straight eight ever built. The nine main bearing Packard engines were so smooth that Packard salesmen demonstrated the smoothness by putting a glass of water on the engine block – the water stayed put.

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