Beautiful 1955 Packard Clipper Super Panama

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Some classic cars seem to pose as many questions as they answer, which could be the case with this 1955 Packard Clipper Super Panama Hardtop. It is an older restoration that has remained garage-kept for the past sixteen years by its current owner, and it continues presenting well for its age. However, some aspects of this beauty leave me unsure, so it will be interesting to gauge reader feedback on those items. The Packard is listed here on Craigslist in Lakewood, New Jersey. The seller has set their price at $20,000, and I must say a big thank you to Barn Finder John C for spotting this beauty.

Packard offered the Clipper in five distinct models for 1955, with Super Panama as the mid-range Hardtop offering. The seller indicates they have been this Packard’s custodian for sixteen years and that it has been dry-stored during that time. It has never seen the road in winter, making its rust-free status no surprise. They indicate it underwent a prior restoration in 1985 and still presents well. Its paint shines deeply, bringing us to the first question this car raises. My instincts tell me that the paint is a shade called Sapphire Metallic, but my eyes tell me a different story. The color looks too dark, although this might be a trick of the light. The seller doesn’t mention a color change as part of the restoration, so I’m willing to call it Sapphire, followed by a question mark. There are no significant flaws or issues, suggesting the restorer performed their work to a high standard. The sparkling chrome and stainless offer a striking contrast to the dark exterior, and the tinted glass is spotless. The seller recently fitted new rear tires, and whitewalls are the perfect choice for adding that final touch of class to the exterior.

Considering the time since this Packard underwent restoration, its interior survives surprisingly well. The carpet shows some wear and marks, but the two-tone Blue seat upholstery is free from wear and physical damage. The door trims sport some wrinkles and dirty marks, but the overall presentation is above-average for a driver-grade vehicle. The painted surfaces are excellent, and the wheel is free from wear and cracks. It isn’t dripping with luxury appointments, although a power seat, pushbutton AM radio, and a clock are welcome features.

If the Clipper’s interior has a genuine highlight, it is this stunning gauge cluster. It has a nautical feel, and I could stare at it for hours. It supplies all the information requires to ensure all is well under the hood. That seamlessly brings us to the second question this Packard poses. There are no engine photos, but we know it features a V8 engine sending its power to the rear wheels via a three-speed manual transmission, but then the waters become muddy. The seller quotes a power output of 265hp, and that’s the sticking point. Packard’s 320ci V8, a standard feature of the 1955 Super Panama, pumped out 225hp. If a potential buyer stepped up to the plate by upgrading to the Custom or Custom Constellation derivatives, they received the larger 352ci V8, producing 245hp. Therefore, the quoted figure adds an air of intrigue to this classic. The seller states they rewired the car in 2012, and the brakes received substantial maintenance last year. It runs and drives perfectly, allowing the new owner to fly in and develop a relationship with their new toy by driving it home.

This 1955 Packard Clipper Super Panama is a tidy classic. The company was in a pretty sad state by the time this car rolled off the line, with Packard sales for 1955 totaling a painful 55,247 vehicles across all models. Of those, 7,016 were the Clipper Super Panama. The scale of Packard’s problems is revealed by the fact that Chevrolet sales hit a whopping 1.7 million vehicles for the same model year. It is unclear how many of these classics have survived, but they don’t hit the market very often. If a further investigation reveals this Clipper features its correct engine and paint color, the asking price puts it towards the top end of the market. However, its condition should justify the figure, and although it has only been on the market for a couple of days, I won’t be surprised if it finds a new home very quickly.

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    Nice car and at what seems like a reasonable price however as a painter I think it’s begging for a tu or even a tri- tone paint job.

    Like 8
    • Will Fox

      Packard never did do tri-tones in `55-`56 like Chrysler did. Just an FYI. But these Clippers were often two-toned, and this one would look much better if it was. Single-tone cars of this period end up having a horrible ‘base model’ look to them.

      Like 6
      • GitterDunn

        Actually, Packard did have tri-tones available in ’56.

        I do like the conservative, dignified dark blue single color on this car, however those chrome side moldings were expressly designed to provide separation of the paint colors on the two-tone cars, and look out of place on a single color car. On the ’56s, the chrome side moldings were all straight-line horizontal, and looked great in single, two- or tri-tone colors.

        Like 3
    • MikeH

      Actually I was thinking how good this car looks in a single color. Never cared much for some of the garish paint schemes of the period.

      Like 3
  2. Driveinstile DriveinstileMember

    I’ve never seen a Packard from this Era with a stick. I like it. I also think it’s begging to he at least a two tone paint job.

    Like 12
    • SG

      We have a 55 Clipper sedan with 320 4bbl and stickshift, and years ago I tried to buy a 56 400 coupe with 3 speed and factory AC. Manual tranny 55-56 Packards are very rare but they still show up now and then.

      I’ve seen maybe 5 compared to hundreds of Ultramatic cars.

      Like 6
      • Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskeyMember

        Was that stick shift 400 hardtop possibly a blue & white 1955 example with factory A/C, stickshift and OD? I used to own a car like that and would like to know what happened to it Last I heard [early 1980s] it was still in the Baltimore area, owned by a guy with a last name beginning with W.

        Like 0
  3. bobhess bobhessMember

    You sure don’t see 2 door hard top Packards very often. Nice car.

    Like 14
  4. Ricardo Ventura

    It’s not every day that one of these appears, especially in a state of conservation. I will store these photos. Beautiful model.

    Like 10
  5. 370zpp 370zppMember

    Love the gauge cluster.

    Like 17
  6. CadmanlsMember

    Beautiful car, have to agree with Jack single color seems odd. Almost every car I can think of from that era is at least two colors. But what a beauty!

    Like 10
  7. geezerglide85

    Someone back in ’55 had really good taste to order a car like this, seems most were various shades of pink, green, yellow or all three. And with that 3 speed stick I’m sure this car was very special to it’s 1st owner. I think after 1952 standard transmissions were special order only for Cadillac and gone by the ’55 model year.

    Like 7
    • Clay Harvey

      Yes and the Lincoln hasn’t had a manual shift since 1949 up until like 1999-2000 with sport edition they came out with.

      Like 1
    • Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskeyMember

      Actually, stickshift was available on Cadillac and Olds until the introduction of the new automatic in 1964[?]. However most of the manual trans cars were limited to the commercial chassis.

      Years ago I found a 1961 Cadillac with manual trans, it was the base model series 61 4-door, with no options. Ordered by a Mennonite family and painted black. All of the chrome trim was painted black except for the door handles and bumpers. They had traded in a 1955 Packard Clipper Deluxe sedan, also without any options and painted black. The Clipper even had a delete clock and heater. A friend of mine in the Packard club ended up with the car.

      Like 1
  8. Big C

    Three pedals in a semi- modern luxury automobile. Very cool.

    Like 7
  9. CharlieMember

    And if you were short, 2nd was a long reach. Friend’s mother, who drove us kids a lot, used 1st and 3rd, even sitting on a cushion. Packard was fine that way.

    Like 4
  10. John Frazier

    Be very, very leery of anything sold from Lakewood.

    Like 0
  11. Johnny

    Give me this car any day over any new car or truck made today. This is a well made automobile. Worth it. Barn find. Its about time you recognize a real well made car–sure beats a charger any day–in looks and safety and it has a solid frame–ignition switch on the dash–not steering column that can cause a wreck.. Its a beautiful car and bet it rides great too. I love it,. Sure wished it was mine.

    Like 12
  12. Wes

    My first car was a 1955 Packard 400, automatic transmission, it was two-tone, bronze and ivory.
    Big engine, dual exhaust, a low gear rear end that was great for stop light drag races. Unfortunately, I tore out the rear gear one day, and the mechanic had to use a Packard sedan rear gearing, it was forever slow. Still a nice-looking car.

    Like 0
  13. chrlsful

    looks like he’s got it in my race trailer. I
    bet the golf cart tow-rig cant fit in there
    like I do w/the lill dragster on board…

    Like 0
  14. 19sixty5Member

    This car and the late 40’s mid-fifties Cadillacs have the best tail lights ever! Awesome car!

    Like 3
  15. Angel_Cadillac_Diva Angel Cadillac DivaMember

    I was going to say the same thing, 19sixty5
    The taillights remind me of ’54, ’55, ’56 Cadillacs

    Like 2
  16. Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskeyMember

    I’ve had [and worked on] several stick shift V8 Packards over the decades. Most people don’t know that the transmission is basically a later Ford manual gearbox, but the Ford unit has a synchronized first gear, and it’s not hard to find.

    This means you can install the Ford 3-speed with overdrive, all you need to do is change the shift lever connections on the trans, and shorten the drive shaft. If this was my car, I would quickly add the overdrive ‘box.

    With the overdrive Ford setup, this is a great tour car, it can keep up with today’s 70mph+ Interstate traffic. I also suggest the installation of a 1956 Packard rear axle with the Twin Traction [posi] diff.

    I used to have a ’55 400 hardtop with the 352 V8 and dual 4 barrel carbs from a Caribbean convertible, and the Ford OD trans. It also had the ’56 Twin Traction rear with a 3.07/1 ratio. I loved to challenge other “stock” 1950s cars to a race, and seeing the other driver’s expression when I would shift out of 2nd gear overdrive down into 3rd at about 70mph!

    Also a note on the paint; These Clipper Super Panama and Clipper Custom Constellation hardtops came standard with 2-tone paint. However Packard had a policy of painting a vehicle to a customer’s order. The only ’55 Clipper with single color paint was the base Clipper Deluxe sedan. This car may well have been sold new with the single color paint. In 55 years of playing with Packards, I can’t recall ever seeing another single color Clipper hardtop.

    Yes, this car is fairly rare, few survive today. When considering the option list and color selection, it’s quite an unusual and rare car today, probably would qualify as a 1 of 1 if Marti offered a Packard report!

    Considering this car had no power steering, Ultramatic or overdrive, I suspect it was special ordered with single color paint to keep costs down.

    Most Clippers were equipped with the basic AM push-button radio as on this car, and didn’t have the power antenna and rear seat speaker. However this car has both options, and is a great candidate to install the optional Delco Wonderbar signal-seeking radio.

    Like 3
  17. Jason Hughes

    My grandfather worked for Packard and got one of these.

    Like 1

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