OLD CARS: Caribbean was Packard’s private luxurious automotive

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The 1954 Packard Caribbean owned by Marg and Terry Metcalf is a rarity. Solely 400 items of the costly convertibles have been produced for the 1954 mannequin yr. Solely into its second yr of manufacturing, the 1954 Caribbean was among the many most costly 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 automotive present in Might is wonderful. Caribbean was a private luxurious automotive produced by Packard from 1953 to 1956. For the primary three years, it was supplied as a convertible solely; for its fourth and remaining yr, Caribbean may be ordered as a two-door hardtop.

Caribbean was Packard’s response to Detroit’s impulse to construct a private luxurious automotive for an rising group of drivers who had a great deal of cash to spend and who needed one thing completely different. GM had produced three such particular vehicles for 1953, as convertibles solely – Cadillac Eldorado, Buick Skylark and Oldsmobile Fiesta. They have 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 automotive was a private luxurious automotive 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 similar time, Ford was establishing a brand new division, Continental; its solely mannequin, the Mark II, could be constructed for less than 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 section. Its aim was to assist restore the shine to Packard model and assist the general public bear in mind what Packard had as soon as stood for.

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

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

Feldmann’s pitch aligned with a few of the pondering already taking place inside Packard’s govt boardroom. Packard’s management contemplated the potential for utilizing Italy’s Abarth studio for a brand new sporty mannequin, however finally 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 finally grew to become the Caribbean.

There have been some adjustments to the Arbib design. The Caribbean would, for instance, develop into 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 develop into higher often known as American Motors’ chief stylist, liable 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 have 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 gear 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 possibility.

The Packard Caribbean was a really clean-looking new automotive that bought comparatively properly towards its rarified competitors – and regardless of the actual fact it was among the many most costly 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 have been a part of the usual gear 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 have been obtainable.

Packard’s Ultramatic transmission grew to become commonplace gear. New was an elective 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 have been bought for the 1954 mannequin yr. It’s troublesome to clarify why, however there are two rapid ideas. The price of buy was outlandishly costly at $6,100. In that period, a modest home may very well be bought for nearly the identical, at the very least in Ontario. As properly, the dearth of a V8 for 1954 was hurting Packard’s total gross sales. A V8 had develop into 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 stated to provide 275 horsepower. Packard was late in its V8 introduction however was hopeful it wasn’t too late.

On the similar time, Packard re-engineered its automated 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 realize 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 highway surfaces, due to a novel suspension system. Certainly, Packard’s new torsion-bar suspension system offered what some individuals have known as the best-riding car of that period.

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

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

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

Packard and Studebaker have been each having a particularly troublesome time catching the attention of the brand new automotive purchaser for 1955. The Huge Three had all rolled out new and lavishly designed and well-powered vehicles for that mannequin yr, and have been taking virtually all the highlight.

Teague’s beautifully-designed 1955 Caribbean continued with few adjustments to 1956, however with a giant exception – the automotive 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 considered 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 troublesome.

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