Gear Head Tuesday – “Pac Doc’s” ’56 Caribbean Convertible

Gear Head

Readers' car series

Donald's Caribbean rr
“Pac Doc” owns several ’56 Packards including this Caribbean, #126 of only 276 built. This is the Dover White/Shannon Green/Corsican Black paint combination.

“Pac Doc” loves him some ’56 Packards! He has several of them in his “fleet” including this 1956 Caribbean convertible, originally purchased by his grandfather, a physician.

His grandfather traded in a ’54 Caribbean on the ’56. The ’56 originally did not have wire wheels, but the ’54 did. “Pac Doc’s” grandfather wanted the wire wheels transferred to the ’56 as part of the deal. While he was waiting for the wheel swap to take place, he spotted an Eire Green/Dover White ’56 Executive on the showroom floor. He told the salesman “If you take care of me, I’ll take that one, too”, pointing to the Executive. The Executive became the Packard “Pac Doc’s” grandmother drove. “Pac Doc” owns both of his grandparents’ Packards! How unique is that?!

56-executive_sedan_dts_grandmother

The Eire Green/Dover White ’56 Executive shown above belonged to “Pac Doc’s” grandmother. Only 2,815 Executives were built, half of those being the 2 door hardtop version. 

Packard’s Caribbean line has its genesis in the Pan American show cars built in 1952 from a design by Richard Arbib. It was Arbib who had designed the original Packard Monte Carlo proposals. Packard’s new dynamo president wanted to shake off Packard’s stodgy image. The Pan American was a step in that direction. Auto industry espionage being what it is, no doubt Packard knew of General Motors’ plans to introduce three “halo” cars for 1953 – the Cadillac Eldorado, the Buick Skylark and the Oldsmobile Fiesta.

52_Packard_PanAmerican

1952 Packard Pan American show car.

Not to be outdone, Packard went to work on the Caribbean, designed by Richard Teague. Teague also designed a Caribbean spin-off, the Balboa show car, of which two were built.

53-Packard-Balboa-X_

The 1953 Packard Balboa was a show car spin-off of the Caribbean. The Balboa did not go into production. Two were built for the show circuit.

Packard introduced the Caribbean in ’53 just as GM was bringing its three “halo” cars to market. These cars were largely hand built and consequently built in limited numbers. For 1953, Packard built 750 Caribbeans. In 1954, the number dropped to 400, but increased to 500 for the 1955 model year, all convertibles. For 1956 Packard introduced a Caribbean hardtop to accompany the convertible. Apparently, the original plan was to build 250 of each, but somehow the numbers increased even as the roof was falling in on Packard:: 276 convertibles and 268 hardtops were produced. 

53 Caribbean

A 1953 Caribbean once owned by the late Dixon, CA resident, Mike Doyle who also owned a ’55 Caribbean.

53 Caribbean

54 packard_caribbean

Above: 1954 Packard Caribbean  Below: 1955 Caribbean

'55 Packard Caribbean-MUH

At first glance, there seems to be few differences between the ’55 and ’56 Packard Caribbeans. A closer look, however, reveals many subtle changes. The ’56s got the 374 cubic inch V-8, up 22 cubic inches from 1955. The hood scoops on the ’55s were added by hand work, an expensive process, while the ’56s got hoods with the scoops stamped into the hood at the stamping plant.

The interiors of the ’56s had reversible seat cushions – all leather on one side, a leather/fabric combination on the other. Altogether across the Packard line, there were some 1,000 changes made from the 1955 model year.

'56 Caribbean ad

1956 Packard ad – note the reversible upholstery in the upper left. The pushbutton controls for the Twin-Ultramatic were standard on the Caribbeans.

The Packard hobby is lucky to have someone like “Pac Doc” who has such a wonderful collection of Packards, including the ’50 23rd Series Custom Super Eight (seen at the left in the last photo) and both of the ’56 Packards once owned by his grandparents! His collection of Packards includes a ’52 Mayfair hardtop, two ’56 Executive hardtops, two ’56 Patricians and a ’56 Four Hundred.

Donald's Caribbean fr

Two more views of “Pac Doc’s” ’56 Caribbean. In the photo above, note the running light on the side. The running light also illuminates when the door is open – a nice touch when getting into the car at night.

Donald's Caribbean - r

gear
Another old gas station from the post at Curbside Classics:

Keystone gas, 1960s

 

5 Comments

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  1. rulesoflogic 04/09/2018 — 07:01

    Amazing cars! In his book “Ask The Man Who Owns One” Arthur Einstein offers the view that Packard’s unwillingness to diversify into trucks played a role in its ultimate demise and that the company “slumming” in wake of the Great Depression actually kept the company in business, contrary to the view of many.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Packard had built trucks early on, but discontinued them in 1923 as a result of the glut of used trucks on the market repatriated from Europe after World War I ended. In 1918, Packard built more trucks than cars. “Packard Truck Dave” has become the historian of note of Packard trucks. We did a series on his involvement with Packard trucks that begins here: https://56packardman.com/2018/03/06/gear-head-tuesday-guest-author-how-i-got-into-packard-trucks/

      There’s no question that Packard needed a lower price, volume line to get through the Depression but also to cover the company overhead after the Depression. The problem was, thanks largely to George Christopher’s hatred of Packard’s luxury cars, the company cheapened the brand and handed Cadillac the luxury car crown on a silver platter. Packard didn’t manage what Mercedes-Benz has so skillfully done: offer lesser-priced cars without diluting the brand equity of its most premium cars. This is what Nance was trying to address in the mid-’50s by breaking the Clipper off as a separate make.

      Like

  2. Absolutely beautiful cars. This was ART, too bad that is no longer a trait in automobiles.

    Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. John McCall 07/09/2018 — 05:48

    Readers might be interested in knowing that Donald’s 1956 was lost for several decades. Unknowingly, I traded a 1955 Four-Hundred for this Executive while living in Valdosta. The owner was a professor at Valdosta State University. When I first met Donald Taccone at a meet in Anniston, Alabama, we talked about the other Packards we owned (I had come to the show in my 1955 Clipper Constellation). When I mentioned the Executive and we got down to body style and color, he asked, “You can’t get into your trunk,can you?” I replied “no,” whereupon Donald produced a key which indeed opened the Executive’s trunk when I returned to Georgia. Since Donald regaled me about stories of him riding in the car with his Grandmother and putting model airplanes together in the back seat, I tearfully acquiesced and the car received an expert restoration.

    Liked by 1 person

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