The Last of the Detroit-Built Packards

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1956 Packard Patrician Touring Sedan in Dover White and Mojave Tan

On this day in 1956, 25 June, the last of the Detroit-built Packards were built. The production that day was twenty-four Clippers and eighteen Packards. Altogether, there had been 28,835 cars built for the 1956 model year – 18,482 Clippers and 10,353 Packards. The very last car was a Senior Series Packard – not a Junior Series Executive nor a separate make Clipper, but a Patrician Touring Sedan, VIN 5682-4775. No one knows the fate of this final Packard.

We have covered the Herculean efforts of Packard president James Nance to restore Packard to its former glory as America’s premier maker of luxury automobiles in several previous posts, one being HERE.

I am not aware of any other executive in any industry who was hit with so many issues from so many directions all at once: the loss of the J-47 jet engine contract and other Defense work, the sale of body supplier Briggs to Chrysler and the resulting scramble about where and how to build the cars, the refusal of the banks and insurance companies to fund the tooling for the all-new 1957 models. Yet, Packard  came within a hair of pulling it off.

In viewing a ‘55 and ‘56 Packard sitting next to each other, the casual observer would think that the two model years differed only in trim. But that observation would be wrong. Across the line, the company cataloged 1,000 changes between 1955 and 1956. While some of the changes were quite minor, others were significant:

* Aluminum housing for the Ultramatic Drive for weight reduction and better cooling.
* Anti-theft device built into the Park function of the push button Twin Ultramatic Drive.
* The industry’s first power door locks on the Patrician Touring Sedans.
* The industry’s first limited slip differential.

I was at my maternal grandparents’ house at 412 North Collins Street, Tulia, Texas that summer day when I heard on the news broadcast on radio station KGNC, Amarillo, that Packard was closing. I was nine years old and already a “Gear Head”, not to mention being a Packard “nut”. My grandfather had rescued a 1937 Packard 120 business coupe from a farm outside of town. The Packard was sitting in front of their house. When I heard the news of Packard’s demise, tears streaming down my face, I gathered some of my grandmother’s cleaning rags and found a can of Simonize car wax and went out and started waxing granddad’s Packard, bawling my eyes out the whole time.

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My grandfather’s green 1937 Packard 120 got an extra coat of wax the day I heard on the radio that Packard was closing.

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56 Packard 'The Four Hundred'

1956 Packard Four Hundred hardtop in Dover White and Persian Aqua

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1956 Packard Caribbean convertible with The push button Twin Ultramatic Drive and factory air conditioning. Packard was the first to integrate the air conditioning outlets into the instrument panel. The upholstery on the ‘56 Caribbean’s is reversible: all leather on one side, fabric and leather on the other.

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1956 Packard ad: “The Greatest Packard of Them All!”
was also the last real Packard.

6 Comments

Add yours →

  1. Len Dufresne 26/06/2019 — 03:24

    Paul:
    On the Caribbean convertible, I noticed white handles on both the driver’s and passenger’s sides; the passenger’s side white handle being more prominent in the photo. Was that an adjustment for an outside mirror?

    Like

  2. I had no idea they had air conditioning in cars in the mid-50s. On Sunday, we went to the store and saw an old GNC about the same color as the Parisian Acqua on the hardtop Packard above. I don’t know the year but it was super cool looking. Someone put a lot of money into restoring it. The truck bed had beautiful wood. I told DH that I didn’t realize trucks had wood in them before now. That was a nice surprise to see parked in the shopping plaza parking lot. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Bill Packard 27/06/2019 — 13:54

    Great story! Thanks for sharing. Someday the Packard will be back. Once the world discovers that all electric car batteries cause cancer the door will be opened for Packard to return as the true car of the 21st Century powered by a fuel cell engine created by PLUG.
    Bill Packard
    Tip: invest now in PLUG

    Liked by 1 person

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