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Imperfect Californian: 1947 Packard Custom Super Clipper


By no means perfect, this 1947 Packard Custom Super Clipper is a nice solid example of a lifetime California car awaiting some restoration. I say restoration because it’s pretty obvious that some of the body panels are either from other vehicles or have been repainted/reworked, and the interior needs a lot of help. It’s currently located in Nevada City, California and is up for sale here on eBay.


The seller does note that there are some parts missing. These include the rear bumper brackets and fuel filler flap, as we can see. I’m not sure if the cream yellow parts are from a different car or not, but it certainly wouldn’t surprise me if they were. It’s pretty obvious the trunk lid began its life on another car. By now I’m wondering about previous rear damage–are you?


The front of the car looks fairly straight although I think there’s some misalignment at the driver’s side front bumper tip. The seller tells us that the car was originally sold in Sacramento and that apart from the small list of parts that are missing, the car is complete. It looks as though most of the bright trim would be ok if polished as long as you were just looking for a driver, but I’d argue that a beautiful car like this deserves more.


As the seller says, the interior is complete but very much the worse for wear. I think you’ll be replacing pretty much everything soft in here. The dash reminds me of an art deco radio design with its symmetrical layout, which I like. I’m wondering what’s the brown box on the center tunnel? I’ll bet a reader knows.


Under the hood we have an inline 8 cylinder engine; Packard had not developed a V8 yet. The seller tells us that it spins freely but they have not tried to start it because someone has altered the wiring. They also point out that the electromagnetic clutch has problems with it’s linkage, so that’s another issue that will have to be dealt with. After looking at the value guide for this car, it’s possible that you could not go completely underwater as long as it’s not too bad mechanically. What do you think? Is it worth it?


  1. Avatar photo packrat

    Thing on the transmission tunnel? That’s the radio. Matches the hole in the dash.

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    • Avatar photo Jamie Staff

      Thanks, Packrat, should have seen that.

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      • Avatar photo Thibeault

        Packrat: Don’t really see a hole in the dash. Just sayin….

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    • Avatar photo Thibeault

      Apologies Packrat, I neglected to look at all of the photos on ebay and you are absolutely right about the radio. My bad!

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  2. Avatar photo Ed P

    This Packard has the classic lines of fine cars from years before. The car appears to be a good candidate for a total restoration. Maybe I should say a “restoration completion”. The price does not seem to be out of line for the condition of the car.

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  3. Avatar photo RON

    Very nce find. I love these old cars like this. Yes that is the correct factory radio on the hump You can see it better on the Ebay interior shot and it is near the same radio and dash as in my 41 Studebaker President Straight 8. you are correct these old cars with the straight 8’s will lay in there on the open road at present day speeds for tours. They are heavy and ride well. My President 8 has the large knee action for the lack of the proper name , type shocks and rides like a drea,m. This probably a fair price fr this car, there s an exact match to it on ebay at presnt at Duffys Old Cars in very nice survivor quality it has not reached the reserve at this point and I know is probably a long way from it but you can see what a complete nice useable car looks like and what it will sell for. I love how in those days so much class and practicality was packed into a moderate upscale car. Nice upholstery but practical things like rubber floor mats

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  4. Avatar photo joeinthousandoaks

    I have always liked these. They are a nice mixture of the pre war packards and the bath tub design that came in ’48. I hope someone brings this back to life.

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  5. Avatar photo Howard A Member

    I love Packards ( I had a ’50 Std 8) but this one looks a little rough. For some reason, these weren’t as popular as the ’48-’50, which in itself, wasn’t that popular either, and I’m not sure the CCCA recognizes this as a “full classic”, but it’s still a Packard, dag nabit. I get such a kick out of the car model names, “Packard Custom Super Duper Clipper”. Last year for the “Clipper”, btw, until the mid 50’s when they resurrected the name. I had that radio in my Packard ( it does go in the dash) and it was large tube radio, and was a fairly expensive option for it’s time. The electromatic clutch was kind of a complicated deal, it used engine vacuum to suck the clutch pedal down when the gas pedal was lifted, as the “Ultramatic”, was a few years away, which my Packard had. Lot of work here, and not the most desirable Packard. Probably become a resto-mod, and I guess that would be ok.

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  6. Avatar photo Chris A.

    This is a slight do-over of the 1941-early 1942 Packard Clipper. The net shows a restored Clipper in maroon very similar that is just stunning. Finding the pieces (and $$$) to complete a total restoration will be a challenge but worth it. This design is much better looking than the bath tubs that followed. This one is good enough for a full restoration but the price although in the ball park, is a bit high.

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  7. Avatar photo Ross W. Lovell

    Greetings All,

    Could be wrong but they made this car with a lot less chrome on the grille area as a base model. Wondering if this started off this way and the chrome details added later?

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  8. Avatar photo Bill McCoskey Member

    Howard — The ’41 – ’47 radio and the ’48-’50 radio are 100% different. Yours had a vertical dial, the Clipper here has a horizontal dial. Yours was made by Delco, the Clipper was by Philco.

    As far as desirability, this is the most sought-after 1947 Packard Sedan, it’s the top-of-the-line Custom Super with the wool broadcloth interior [the headliner ribs go front to back, not side to side, makes the interior look several feet longer!]

    And yes, this is a “full CCCA classic”.

    Chris A. — Unlike a lot of cars from this time period, ALL the parts needed for restoring this car are available, most are available NOS too!

    Ross — The Clipper for 1941 had a grill with more horizontal grill bars cast into it, and the curving side grill strips were made available starting in 1942. The base Clipper sedan didn’t have these side grill strips, and the body side trim didn’t extend onto the trunk lid. This car has the additional bumper ends, standard on this car, but optional on the “lesser” Packards.

    What I find interesting is the lack of the “Cormorant” hood ornament, standard on the Custom Super. It’s obvious that this car didn’t have it from new, as the base of the emblem is different. But because Packard would build a car to your own requirements, perhaps the original owner didn’t want the bird up front.

    Another difference between the Custom Super and the other Packards was quite interesting – there were NO external emblems that said “Packard”, “Clipper”, “Custom”, or “Super”. Everyone back then knew it was a Packard.

    The car is well priced, and worth restoring .

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    • Avatar photo Dave Wright

      Great…….an expert. I love Packards from this vintage back……the 50’s are not as interesting to me……but tell me about the similar body style to this with the huge long (looking) hood. It makes the car look a little lower too. I think they had what they call a 9 ( main) bearing engine. My current Packard is a 1920 3 ton truck…..

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      • Avatar photo Bill McCoskey Member

        Dave: This car is one of the longer [127″] wheelbase sedans, and it is equipped with that beautiful 356 9-main bearing engine. Back in the 1980s I had a Packard Custom Eight with only a few thousand actual miles, and the only way one could hear if the car was running was to listen at the tailpipe for a faint whoosh! I am not exaggerating when I say the idling car was totally quiet.

        I had a 1923 Packard truck many years ago, but it was destroyed in my first barn fire in 1973, along with a 1955 Packard Caribbean convertible, 1956 Packard Caribbean sedan [only one built], and an Alfa Romeo 6C2600 with an alloy coupe body, with a European racing pedigree. The Caribbean sedan was specially ordered late in the ’56 model run, by a Mr. Lawson, who ordered a new Packard every year. He said if he couldn’t get a sedan with all the Caribbean trim/engine on it, he would not buy another new Packard ever again. So they built it at the Detroit factory. Ironic though, he never bought another new Packard, as he said the ’57s were not Packards.

        Do you know Dave Lockard of Packard Truck fame? If not, you should!

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      • Avatar photo Dave Wright

        Yes, I know Dave Lockhard. He has been a great help, I am going east to visit him (and his trucks) this summer before we turn many wrenches on my truck. That sounds like a really ugly fire. Priceless stuff but they will build those old Alfas from a wheel nut. It is probably running again by now. My truck has an interesting history, it is as close to a one owner as you can get. It was purchased new by the founder of the Bank of America in San Francisco. He used it in the city for a few years, then it was sent to his Central Valley ranch where it was discovered a few years ago. The biggest challenge that I have is the frame. They must have been weak or maby work hardened badly. Mine has several cracks through and through. It has been welded several,other places. The frame is simple straight channel with rivited cross members. I am considering manufacturing new frame rails with modern steel using the original dimensions and fittings. I could weld and grind the orignal frame but I am afraid it would just crack again. It will be a simpler job now before the body is on and everything is finished. Some of the things I want to talk to Dave about. I wish mine had pneumatic tires and steel wheels but I didn’t order it new, so I got wood and hard rubber. The history of Goodyear and there Pneumatic tires on these trucks is great. Yours was the last year they were built? I have always wanted to do a WW1 truck as my grandfather served in France during those years. We were not sure what year mine was when we bought it but the serial number is in between 2 of Dave’s trucks making it a 1920. Well, I am going to watch for a deal on one of these 356 engine long wheelbase cars. I fell in love with them when I saw a finished convertable in Marron and a glove tan leather interior at a consignment store in the Central Valley of California over a decade ago. Is there a transmission to prefer or avoid in the cars?

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  9. Avatar photo Chris A.

    Thanks Bill for the parts information. Now I have this big itch that I can’t scratch…. in my wallet.

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  10. Avatar photo Ed Williams

    Looking back all these years to when I was entering my teens I recall that my mom had a Packard like this. It was a ’47 Clipper painted black. I especially remember the Philco AM radio. At night the dial lights lit up with blue lights when you turned it on. I thought that was really neat and still do!

    That car did have a nice ride and was very quiet inside. By the way…. Mom bought it from the Packard dealer’s used cars in Santa Monica. She later traded in there on a newer but used ’52 or ’53 Patrician.

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  11. Avatar photo Bill McCoskey Member

    Dave; If you saw a 1941-1947 Packard Clipper 2-door convertible, you found a very rare car indeed, as there was only one made [but a couple cars re-created in the 1990s]. It was created by the famous Howard “Dutch” Darrin in 1941 for the equally famous actor Errol Flynn! [See photo]

    It was originally painted a peach color, then green for a while, and then the maroon you mention. The whereabouts of the car are unknown at this time, it’s rumored to have been shipped overseas.

    Of interest is this car does not have the big 356 engine, as the first year Packard Clippers were built on the Packard 8 [120] chassis, and used the 5 main bearing 282 straight 8. PMCC, on realizing just how popular the Clipper was in just a single year of production, quickly expanded the Clipper line to include the 6-cylinder cars as well as the more expensive super 8 cars; the Packard 160 and 180 models. These Super 8 cars DID have the 356 9 main bearing engines.

    As far as transmissions, there were 2 possibilities thru 1949, Standard 3-speed and the Borg-Warner series 9 or 11 overdrive units added to the standard trans. Many of the more expensive Packards also had an automatic clutch, known as “Electromatic”. It sensed both the gas pedal position and the engine manifold vacuum, and engaged the clutch using a large vacuum cylinder connected by a cable to the clutch pedal linkage. When it is working and adjusted properly, the Electromatic clutch is great, and engages the clutch flawlessly, as the driver simply shifts gears.

    Packards got a bum rap over the years and became known for trouble prone automatic transmissions [The “Ultramatic”]. The first Ultramatics were designed & manufactured 100% in house by Packard. Basically a 2-speed planetary set with a lock-up fluid coupling [an industry first]. These “first generation” Ultramatics were just as reliable as the other automatic transmissions of the time, including Hydra-matic, Dynaflow, and Borg-Warner. But unlike the others, with the lock-up coupling, it was an almost perfect shift from low to high, and so smooth it was hard to tell when it shifted, unless you had a tachometer.
    The problems with Packard’s transmissions began when they introduced the “Twin Ultramatic” in late 1954. It was rushed into production for the new 1955 V-8 engine, and never had enough testing before being put into production. Because these transmissions were only made for 2 years, they company never had enough of a chance to work the bugs out.

    Plus, in 1956 the company introduced a new 100% mechanical-electrical shifter, with a pod containing 6 push buttons located where the normal shift lever would be. The system used a series of tiny electrical contacts to sense where the gear selector shaft was positioned, but the contacts were not able to handle the amps needed by the electric shift motor, and especially if they were a bit corroded, the contacts would heat up and warp, making it impossible to shift.

    Today, all the various mechanical & electrical problems associated with the Twin Ultramatic have been sorted out and these automatics are just as reliable as the other makes, once the transmission has been rebuilt by a reputable rebuilder who knows what to do.

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    • Avatar photo Dave Wright

      Off course the Darrin cars are incredible, the car I saw was a maroon car that was at Amelia’s (?) classic car consignment in Turlock California, it was a work of art but didn’t have the Darrin flair. His cars were very distinctive. The information is great. I love learning from an expert. I have always avoided the 110-120 series cars preferring the cars made in the orignal Packard factory with less automation. As I understand, they were designed as less expensive cars meant to compete with more common mid range GM products. There was even a new factory designed just to build them. So……what is a good reference book on these old Packards? I watch for them every day.

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      • Avatar photo Bill McCoskey Member

        THE reliable reference book on Packard is this one: http://www.amazon.com/Packard-History-Automobile-Quarterly-Magnificent/dp/0971146810
        Edited by Beverley Kimes, it was authored by no less than 10 Packard experts.

        While it’s true that the 110 & 120 series cars were not manufactured to the higher standards as the Super 8 & 12 cars, when compared to the other makes being offered in America, they were still a superior product. I currently have a 1937 120 deluxe touring sedan [120CD] and I’ve had many 30’s car owners [non Packards] think it’s a Super 8 car, as it’s equal to the upper class of Buicks, LaSalles, etc. I’ve had numerous Super 8 cars, but for sheer driving pleasure, I’ll take a 120 any day, with a wonderful front suspension that was copied by Rolls-Royce after WW2. While it’s not a 9 main bearing engine, they are still so smooth that I’ve been able to balance a nickle on edge on the top of the cylinder head, at idle.

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  12. Avatar photo starsailing

    Somewhere about 1956, all the kids in the neighborhood saw the Jackie Cooper “Our Gang show” where the kids get ice cream and cake from the schoolteacher on her very first day of teaching…..So we kids decided to work on all the moms and dads…to take us to Dairy Queen for Ice cream….thinking once we got one to do it…the rest would fall in line….It worked like a charm.. We sat on Mr’s Willey’s front steps….and ho hummed about ice cream on this hot day….They had two green Packards…a 54 Convert…and late 40’s. Both green. Dawn’s mom piled in about 5 of us in the late 40’s Packard…got us Ice cream and I had to sit between girls while she road around lake roads in MPLS. She put a blanket on our laps so ice cream wouldn’t get on seats…..The two boys sitting up front got view of everything ….sitting in back between the two girls I could only see tree tops the whole time while getting …GIRL germs! I do remember how smooth the car drove….and thinking how this would be a good car to drive up to our cabin. A few yrs later the woman’s son fell asleep in the car in the garage while smoking a cigarette….and the car and garage went up in flames…That whole summer was spent going to Dairy Queen in all the neighbor cars….green 40 Ford coupe was next, 55 Buick, 55 Pontiac, 54 Chrysler, 55 Chev, Dad’s 51 Ford, then finally in the 54 Packard convert…..TOP DOWN….with towels on our laps….but geez….sitting next to Dawn….driving around the lakes….in the BANKER’S Packard! Life was good as it gets that summer!

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