A trip through some of the Sierra foothills in which we discover an abandoned ’55 Packard Patrician.
Recently I was in Lincoln, California, northwest of Sacramento, and needed to go to Auburn after I finished by business in Lincoln. I had several options for getting to Auburn, but, being in my “Mazda-rati,” I decided to take the back roads through the low foothills of the Sierras, hoping to flex the “Mazda-rati’s” muscles a bit.
Fruitvale Road in the Sierra foothills
Leaving Lincoln, I was on eastbound CA 193 for a few miles, but then turned north at Fowler Road. Fowler Road takes you past the huge Fowler Nurseries, one of the largest flower and garden nurseries in California.
The scenic Fowler Road ends at Fruitvale Road, where we turned right. It is a narrow, two lane road lined with farms on each side. A few miles along Fruitvale, I spotted a ’55 Packard Patrician sitting beside a house. I slammed on the brakes and backed the “Mazda-rati” up. I wanted to get out and look at the car, but a farm dog seemed rather intent on keeping me in the car … and no one seemed to be at home. So, I stayed in the car and resumed my trip to Auburn.
When I spotted this ’55 Packard Patrician, I slammed on the brakes of my “Mazda-rati” and backed up to look at it!
However, the next Thursday, I was once again in Lincoln and needed to go again to Auburn, so I chose the same road. This time when I passed the farm where I had seen the Packard, someone was outside. So I stopped and introduced myself and asked about the Packard.
The man I spoke with was trying to sell it for the owner. The body of the car appears to be in weathered but otherwise good condition. I saw surprisingly little surface rust. Unfortunately, the man who owns the car had removed the Packard V-8 and replaced it with a small block Chevrolet V-8. The car was sitting on rims rather than the correct Packard wheels. The front seat had been removed and replaced with leather bucket seats. The dashboard padding was missing.
For those of you keeping tabs on the surviving ’55 Packards (calling Stuart Blond!), here is 5582-9839.
The car was painted black. I was in hopes that it was a rare paint code “V” – indicating that it had left Detroit painted solid black, “Onyx” in Packard’s 1955 “Jewel Tone Paint” parlance. However, the VIN plate revealed that the car was originally paint code ED, Zircon (light) blue and Ultramarine (dark) blue. The VIN is 5582-9839, and the trim code is 60, which tells us that this Patrician rolled off the assembly line at Conner Avenue with dark blue fabric seat inserts trimmed with light blue genuine leather. I would have been pleasantly surprised had the car been a paint code “V”. It was built at the height of the two-tone (and even three tone) paint scheme craze and few of the Packards of ’55 and ’56 were painted solid colors. They looked great in the various two-tone paint schemes, but the Patricians are particularly elegant in the darker solid colors.
The car appears to be very restorable – but it would be a labor of love rather than a restoration for profit because the cost of the restoration would far exceed the value of the car restored. That said, it would be nice to see someone rescue this car …
The man I spoke with owns a nifty little 1939 Ford tractor. He turned the key and the rugged little tractor started right up!
After leaving the farm with the forlorn Packard on the lawn, I resumed my trip to Auburn, turning left at Gold Hill Road, right onto Wise Road, left onto Baxter Grade Road, right onto Mount Vernon Road and then right onto Atwood Road which took me directly to my destination in Auburn. Auburn is a pleasant and colorful town of some 13,000 people, founded during the California Gold Rush. Many of the buildings in the town date from that time.
It was a beautiful drive through the low Sierra foothills, but I had to tame my lead foot as the roads were generally narrow and there were many bicyclists out enjoying a ride. The bicyclists had chosen a splendid day for a ride!
And now, in closing, “B-Squared” sends us this ad for the ’55 Packard Caribbean: