OLD CARS: Caribbean was Packard’s private luxurious automobile

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The 1954 Packard Caribbean owned by Marg and Terry Metcalf is a rarity. Solely 400 models of the costly convertibles had been produced for the 1954 mannequin yr. Solely into its second yr of manufacturing, the 1954 Caribbean was among the many costliest of Packard vehicles for that yr, itemizing for $6,100 (US).

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{That a} Caribbean of any yr could be noticed on the Chatham RetroFest automobile present in Could is superb. Caribbean was a private luxurious automobile produced by Packard from 1953 to 1956. For the primary three years, it was provided as a convertible solely; for its fourth and last yr, Caribbean may be ordered as a two-door hardtop.

Caribbean was Packard’s response to Detroit’s impulse to construct a private luxurious automobile for an rising group of drivers who had a great deal of cash to spend and who wished one thing completely different. GM had produced three such particular vehicles for 1953, as convertibles solely – Cadillac Eldorado, Buick Skylark and Oldsmobile Fiesta. They had been costly and unique. However solely Skylark was constructed for a couple of yr, and that was for 1954 solely.

A ‘Continental’ spare tire was part of the original package for the 1954 Packard Caribbean. The car was a personal luxury car and was available only as a convertible. Peter Epp
A ‘Continental’ spare tire was a part of the unique bundle for the 1954 Packard Caribbean. The automobile was a private luxurious automobile and was obtainable solely as a convertible. Peter Epp

Over at Ford, its two-seater Thunderbird was unveiled within the fall of 1954. On the identical time, Ford was establishing a brand new division, Continental; its solely mannequin, the Mark II, could be constructed for under 1956 and 1957.

Chrysler Company was busy planning for its breakout 1955 mannequin yr, and amongst its new choices was the Chrysler 300, a two-door hardtop “banker’s scorching rod” that had a Hemi engine producing 300 horsepower.

And so, Packard’s Caribbean was in good firm.

However Caribbean’s mission was greater than to only fill a distinct segment inside a brand new automotive phase. Its objective was to assist restore the shine to Packard model and assist the general public keep in mind what Packard had as soon as stood for.

The Caribbean’s origins will be traced again to 1951 when the president of the Henney Firm of Freeport, Illinois wished to broaden his enterprise relationship with Packard.

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Russell Feldmann’s firm had been a long-time provider of automobile our bodies for Packard and thought {that a} low-volume “sports activities” mannequin would possibly enchantment to the corporate. He had designer Richard Arbib submit a proposal in late 1951. The consequence was a automobile referred to as the Pan American. It was based mostly on a inventory 1951 Packard Collection 250 convertible.

Feldmann’s pitch aligned with among the pondering already taking place inside Packard’s government boardroom. Packard’s management contemplated the potential for utilizing Italy’s Abarth studio for a brand new sporty mannequin, however in the end selected the Pan American. Feldmann’s firm was given solely six weeks to ship a mannequin, in time for the New York Worldwide Motor Sports activities Present in late March 1952.

The interior of the 1954 Packard Caribbean was well-equipped and included leather seats. Peter Epp
The inside of the 1954 Packard Caribbean was well-equipped and included leather-based seats. Peter Epp jpeg, CA

The response to the Pan American idea was such that Packard determined to supply a restricted manufacturing of what ultimately grew to become the Caribbean.

There have been some adjustments to the Arbib design. The Caribbean would, for instance, grow to be a full-size, two-door convertible massive sufficient to seat six adults.

Tasked with offering a styling facelift for Caribbean was a younger man by the identify of Richard Teague. He would later grow to be higher referred to as American Motors’ chief stylist, chargeable for such vehicles because the Javelin, Hornet, Gremlin and Pacer.

Teague made some minor adjustments that helped set the Caribbean aside. He opened the 4 wheel openings, molded within the taillamps that had been getting used on the senior Packard fashions, positioned shiny chrome on the beltline and wheel openings, inserted a “continental” or exterior spare tire, and used wire-spoke wheels. Teague additionally selected to maintain the Pan-American’s air-scoop hood.

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The inside of the brand new Caribbean was trimmed in luxurious leather-based.

There have been only a few choices on the Caribbean. Commonplace tools included a heater and windshield defroster, energy home windows, energy adjustable entrance seat, energy steering, and “Easamatic” energy brakes. Optionally available was a signal-seeking radio with antenna and the Solex tinted glass.

Energy got here from Packard’s well-known 327-cubic-inch straight-eight engine, as used within the 250 mannequin.

Packard’s comparatively new Ultramatic self-shift transmission was an choice.

The Packard Caribbean was a really clean-looking new automobile that bought comparatively properly towards its rarified competitors – and regardless of the actual fact it was among the many costliest at $5,200 US. Packard bought 750 Caribbean vehicles for 1953. By comparability, Cadillac bought 532 of its particular Eldorados, whereas Oldsmobile bought solely 458 Fiesta vehicles. Buick bought the a lot of the 4, at 1,690 Skylarks.

Wire wheels were part of the standard equipment package for the 1954 Packard Caribbean. Peter Epp
Wire wheels had been a part of the usual tools bundle for the 1954 Packard Caribbean. Peter Epp jpg, CA

There have been few adjustments to the 1954 mannequin. Maybe essentially the most noticeable was a return to a standard wheel housing for the rear wheels, however there was extra chrome, and two-tone paint mixtures had been obtainable.

Packard’s Ultramatic transmission grew to become customary tools. New was an non-compulsory four-way energy seat.

Packard continued with its straight eight engine; it could be the final yr, as 1955 would see the introduction of an all-new V8.

Solely 400 Caribbean vehicles had been bought for the 1954 mannequin yr. It’s tough to elucidate why, however there are two rapid ideas. The price of buy was outlandishly costly at $6,100. In that period, a modest home might be bought for nearly the identical, a minimum of in Ontario. As properly, the shortage of a V8 for 1954 was hurting Packard’s general gross sales. A V8 had grow to be the mark of progress for the Detroit-based automakers, and Packard wouldn’t have one till 1955.

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Its new V8, nevertheless, was a 352-cubic-inch overhead-valve engine mentioned to supply 275 horsepower. Packard was late in its V8 introduction however was hopeful it wasn’t too late.

On the identical time, Packard re-engineered its computerized transmission to accommodate the brand new powerplant.

The extra energy launched a component of efficiency to the Caribbean. The earlier mannequin took 15 seconds to attain 60 miles per hour, however the 1955 mannequin would attain that mark in 11.5 seconds, and it achieved it whereas virtually “floating” over even essentially the most obscene street surfaces, because of a novel suspension system. Certainly, Packard’s new torsion-bar suspension system supplied what some individuals have referred to as the best-riding car of that period.

Teague was referred to as upon to offer an replace to the Caribbean’s styling. The automobile’s look was dramatically modified. New was a wrapped windshield, an eggcrate grill, twin radio antennas, stunning “cathedral” taillights, and varied scoops and scallops.

The automobile was a number of inches longer than its 1953 and 1954 predecessors, and like them, was obtainable solely as a convertible.

Gross sales had been higher than that they had been, at over 9,100 models, however solely 55,000 vehicles from your entire Packard fleet had been bought, lower than half of what had been constructed and bought solely two years beforehand.

Packard and Studebaker had been each having an especially tough time catching the attention of the brand new automobile purchaser for 1955. The Large Three had all rolled out new and lavishly designed and well-powered vehicles for that mannequin yr, and had been taking virtually the entire highlight.

Teague’s beautifully-designed 1955 Caribbean continued with few adjustments to 1956, however with a giant exception – the automobile was now obtainable as each a convertible and hardtop.

Gross sales dropped like a stone, nevertheless. Packard bought simply 263 hardtop Caribbean vehicles, and barely extra (276) convertibles.

The 1956 Packard fashions are regarded as the final of the true Packards. Thereafter, from 1957 to 1959, the Packard line would share so many Studebaker attributes that any distinction between the 2 manufacturers grew to become tough.

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