Reversible Seats: 1956 Packard Caribbean

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The Caribbean was Packard’s top-of-the-line automobile from 1953 to 1956. It was both styling and elegant and would represent the last of the “true” Packards. Beginning in 1957, Packards would become rebadged Studebakers for two years before the marque disappeared forever. This ’56 Caribbean looks like a well-kept original car that you could drive as-is before considering the huge expense of a full restoration. Located in Sonoma, California, this stately beauty is available here on Facebook Marketplace for $45,000. Our thanks for a grand tip to Barn Finder T.J.

Based on the Pan American show car that Packard exhibited in 1952, the Caribbean debuted as a convertible in 1953 and was joined by a hardtop (like the seller’s car) in its final year, 1956). The car was intended to help Packard hold its own against Cadillac and Lincoln, but the effort would be short-lived. The company merged with Studebaker in 1954 and the last Packard-built automobiles were assembled two years later. Production facilities in Detroit would be closed, and the Packard engine plant would be sold off (because the merger wasn’t going well). The so-called “Packardbakers” of 1957-58 didn’t resonate well with buyers and Packard dealers, so the marque died before there could be any 1959 models. Notice the dual antennas out back. When extended, they remind me of fishing poles!

Essentially unchanged going into 1956 (except for the additional body style), the Caribbean received a 374 cubic inch V8 with 310 hp, an upgrade from the 352 V8 of 1955. Production numbers were scant, with just 276 convertibles and 263 hardtops to carry the Packard torch into infinity. The seller’s car appears to wear Dover White paint with Naples Orange accents which are carried over into the lavish interior. The coolest feature of the Carribean could be the reversible seat cushions. One side featured leather, and the other side cloth so you could switch it up depending on the weather!

It appears this Packard has spent its entire life in California, which has helped it survive nicely. The seller says the car has recently been serviced, though we don’t know what that means. While there are ample photos provided in the Facebook listing, you’ll have to go to the dealer-provided video to get a glimpse of the engine compartment. We’re told this machine has only had two owners, so we assume it’s largely original and mechanically sound at 65,000 miles. It’s a shame that the storied Packard brand wasn’t able to get out of the 1950s – can you imagine what the 1960s would have brought forth?

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  1. Mike

    My favorite 50’s car.

    Like 18
  2. Herbert

    Man, what a car! Must buy some lotto tickets!

    Like 16
    • Terrry

      There’s a Pontiac Solstice with a V8 elsewhere on BF that’s listed for $65k, but given a choice I’d rather pay $65k (even though it’s “only” $45k) for this Packard.

      Like 17
    • Ron sward

      Wow. I thank you for keeping this beautiful in great shape. Packard was my favorite car. I love seeing them at car shows. I seen them at the wine country last time. Hope to see more again.

      Like 7
  3. Terrry

    Wow, say what you want but at least Packard went out in style. The sad part is, the company was bought and then pillaged for its assets by Studebaker. Until then, Packard was still financially solid. Anyway, these last of its kind were truly beautiful cars and they will only increase in value.

    Like 14
    • GitterDunn

      It was actually Packard that bought the financially-troubled Studebaker, not the other way around. They were working on a merger with American Motors Corp. in hopes of forming a competitor to the “Big Three” GM, Ford and Chrysler, who were dominating the marketplace. The plan was that Studebaker would be one of the divisions of the proposed corporation, along with AMC’s Hudson, Jeep, Rambler, Nash, etc. But sadly, the whole plan failed and Packard was soon history.

      Like 10
    • John Lauter

      Actually, Packard bought Studebaker, who spent all of Packard’s money.

      Like 4
  4. Todd J. Todd J.Member

    Wow, to think they went from this beautiful car to the “Packardbaker” in one year! Has any other marque fallen so far so fast?

    Like 14
  5. T-Birdman

    Beautiful car.
    One of the men who worked on the merger was George Mason. He died on October 8th, 1954. I was born October 8th, 1954.

    Like 10
    • Lowell Peterson

      Mason was the brains of the whole deal! When he died ! No visionary leadership!

      Like 3
  6. Ed

    Awesome ride. Enjoy.

    Like 8
    • RICK W

      Born in 1947, and first family car I remember was a 50 Nash AMBASSADOR, I recall George Mason’s plan to combine Nash, Hudson, Packard, and Studebaker. Mason’s untimely death and resistance from Packards board, as well as other issues, caused a failure. IF it had been a success, it would have been a force to be reckoned with. But ultimately so many storied Marques have been lost, as the industry shifted to SUVS, crossovers, and melted jelly beans. What ever happened to CLASS?

      Like 10
  7. Gavin Elster

    Sad, but the people that can actually appreciate, AND afford this vehicle are almost counted on one hand. $45gs is a lotta lettuce, for a real niche car! Probably better to invest in a really good Corvette, or an early Mustang convertible. You can drive those almost for free as they increase in value.

    Like 3
    • Craig MacDonald

      The problem here, IMO, is your word “invest.” That’s what’s ruined the car hobby for most of us who can’t afford to play in this pool anymore. It’s now all about ROI and those of us who have bought, restored, and driven (!) cars are boxed out by those looking to make a profit on everything. This drives prices up. “I know what I’ve got” has sellers looking to take advantage of old cars as an investment opportunity for buyers so they jack up their prices.

      Like 20
  8. Craig MacDonald

    This car is new to me. I’ve never seen one online or in the flesh. But I’m in love. The pod off the steering wheel for the push button tranny, the detail on both headlights and taillights, the turned dash panel, the paint colors….
    And the video is from a guy who knows how to sell a car.

    Like 12
  9. Howard

    I thought all Packard Caribbean cars were three colors?

    Like 0
    • Vincent H

      Howard some of them were and a few were one color.

      Like 5
    • Bob Robb

      Howard, Packard was flexible to the amount of money you were willing to spend. I used to think that too in my early Packard days but as long as the paint color code plaque on the car matches the book color codes, I guess it’s authentic.

      Like 0
  10. Gary T

    No one ever mentioned the roof. It was covered in a material called Hypalon. Some type of vinyl I’m guessing.

    Like 5
  11. Gary

    Nothing like it in 1956. Most had a tri-tone paint scheme.

    Like 5
  12. Randy

    A neighbor had one, red, white and black. The rear bumper scraped the ground when she pulled into the driveway.

    Like 4
  13. Canadian Friend

    Beautiful car !

    Like 5
  14. RICK W

    Ask The Man Who Owns One! Famous PACKARD slogan definitely is appropriate for this PACKARD Caribbean. In 53, J.J Nance told Dick Teague to DO something about those damn Bull Ball taillights. The result can be clearly seen on this Caribbean featuring the famous Cathedral taillights. A variation was seen on the PACKARD Clipper. Last Days In The Bunker tells the story of the last attempts to keep PACKARD going. The PACKARD Predictor shows what might have been. And the PACKARD REQUEST was a one off integrating the traditional Packard grille to a Caribbean. Sad end for PACKARD, which at one time was the Epitome of motoring elegance and excellence.

    Like 7
  15. RICK W

    Fortunately, in America 🇺🇸 we can STILL have our own opinions. Not sure how much longer 😕. But IMO, there is NO comparison with this PACKARD and Mustang. But I have always loved the GREAT AMERICAN LAND YACHTS.

    Like 7
  16. JeffMember

    I had forgotten how beautiful the instrument panel and dash were! It makes the state of automobile manufacturing today even more repulsive.🤮

    Like 8
  17. Anthony Gaby

    IMO the ’56 Packard Caribbean gave the same year Mercury a run for their money.. Big, bold and beautiful…

    Like 2
    • scottymac

      Everywhere, but the sales floor. I’d read the Packard V-8 had enough metal to be punched out to 500 c.i.; the Ultramatic transmission had most of its ’55 teething problems addressed; the torsion level suspension was a revelation for ride and handling. The future looked bright, but no one wanted to buy what looked to be an orphan.

      Like 3
  18. RICK W

    There was a PROPOSAL to adopt 56 Lincoln to provide a 57 PACKARD. It was featured in a vintage car magazine. Don’t recall which one. Actually IMO there is a similarly between 56 PACKARD and 56 LINCOLN.

    Like 4
  19. scottymac

    “The coolest feature of the Carribean {or any Packard} could be the…” torsion level suspension. Sorry, Russ, think this beats out the seating. Biggest advance in suspension since coil springs, according to road testers. I’ve heard the same predictions (sorry, couldn’t resist) about the PACKARD Predictor, I’d say it’s an over the top Lincoln Continental Mark III (1957 version) and would have tanked in the marketplace, just as the Lincoln did.

    Like 2
  20. Steve Mehl

    Extraordinary styling. Beautiful. The main problem in buying this car is the low production. Where are you going to get parts when needed? So this car should go to one of those guys who have a massive number of collector cars but does not drive them. They can also afford to drop $45K without effecting their lifestyle.

    Like 0
  21. Bob Robb

    Gorgeous car. However, it does seem to be suffering from Torsion-Level sag where the torsion bars lose some of their tension which makes the car sag, albeit, evenly from front to back. You can detect this by the top of the front wheel well should be in the sidewall black instead of covering part of the white wall and the rear fender skirts should be half way in the center of the red hexagon. This can sometimes be corrected by replacing the torsion bar link pins at the front of the bars unless this has already been done with pins of the maximum length. In that case replacement of the hard-to-find bars is necessary.

    Like 1
  22. Angel_Cadillac_Diva Angel Cadillac DivaMember

    The People who can afford this vehicle can be counted on one hand, I wouldn’t say that they’d appreciate it, as most of those people are investors, flippers and people who only care about “value”, not so much the car.
    Buying a Corvette or Mustang instead of this beauty shows breeding. No class at all. IMO

    It seriously upsets me that the hobby has been reduced to money, money, money.

    Like 2
  23. mr haney

    Looks like Russ forgot the most important facts, they had dual quads and added 35 ponies rated at a lower rpm

    Like 0
  24. Michael Lloyd GregoryMember

    I’ve seen a few of these in my lifetime, but never once noticed what is apparently a side marker light behind the back edge of the door. Or is it a light to help a person enter the car when it’s dark? This car is stunning, and I would drive it in a minute if I had the money.

    Like 1
    • RICK W

      I never recall seeing this light either. Seems to be connected to headlights, which would not make it useful as a light for entry. Perhaps this was another PACKARD innovation which later became 70s Opera Lights 🤔. Like the old PACKARD slogan, Ask the MAN who Owns One!

      Like 4
  25. Angel_Cadillac_Diva Angel Cadillac DivaMember

    That’s the first thing I noticed when I first saw one of these waaaaay back when. I love little details like that. Always thought it was cool. Useless, but cool.
    Now-a-days you could put a LED bulb in there that changes colors as you drive down the road.

    Like 1

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