Faded Glamour: 1946 Packard Clipper

By the time this Packard rolled out of Detroit in 1946, the company was the last of the “three P’s” of American luxury cars still standing—Pierce-Arrow and Peerless being the fallen two—and alas, the less patrician Clipper models that constituted the postwar lineup eroded that luxury image somewhat. This Clipper’s appeal may be eroded or enhanced, depending on how you feel about it, by the presence of another “P”: patina. A true, unrestored 71-year-old survivor, this De Luxe Clipper is on offer on eBay out of Ida Grove, Iowa, with an asking price of $9,500 or the option to submit an offer.

It’s a neat bit of kismet for me that this particular car is a ’46 and that it’s in Iowa; my grandfather picked up the 1946 Packard Clipper sales brochure pictured above (that’s his name penciled on the cover in his uneven, eleven-year-old’s hand) most likely from the Packard dealer in Waterloo, Iowa, or possibly in Cedar Rapids. Collecting these brochures was a hobby of his in his youth—facilitated by the fact that his grandfather was a Hudson dealer, so many of the other dealers knew the family—and when it became a hobby of mine, this is the first of these treasured keepsakes that he passed along to me. Like pretty much all other immediate postwar cars, the Clipper was a carryover design from 1941 and ’42, but it was distinguished somewhat by its faired-in fenders and voguish hidden running boards, and the lovely gouache illustrations had me convinced of the claim that it was indeed “The No. 1 Glamour Car of America.”

Maybe, then, I’m predisposed to be kind to this somewhat crusty old Packard, but I do see a bit of faded glamour in it, mismatched rear quarter panel and all. That’s the least of its problems; from a distance, the overall appearance is pretty straight and solid, but I suspect if the seller had provided more close-up photos of certain areas, we’d see more than just surface rust.

Inside, although things are similarly a bit ramshackle, the original wool broadcloth upholstery seems to have worn remarkably well on the front bench seat. The rear seatback, however, appears to be under an ugly cover, so no guarantees there, and the carpeting is AWOL and the door panels and headliner look pretty tatty. Still, the Bakelite knobs and script nameplates and Deco details are still here, shining through the grime and wear of age, giving the sympathetic new owner plenty of glamour to work with.

The 360-cubic inch, 125 horsepower, inline eight heart of this Clipper is still beating, and while the seller suggests driving the car “as is” as an alternative to restoration, we are also advised that the car “should be completely gone through before hitting the road for a long trip.” Sound advice. While Packard touted the experiences of several Clipper owners who matched or exceeded this car’s 65,000-mile odometer reading over the duration of the Second World War, they had access to knowledgeable Packard service departments that this car has not had for the last sixty-plus years!

This page highlights the poignancy of this car for me. It may not have been the glamorous luxury car that prewar Packards had been, but in 1946 this Clipper was a fine, new car that someone was very lucky and very happy to get. In the years since, like the person who bought it new had done during the war years, it’s had to make do, enduring hardships and emerging perhaps a bit worse for the wear, but it emerges nonetheless, its dignity and attendant glamour intact.

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Comments

  1. Josh

    That’s interesting that your great grandfather was a Hudson dealer. I own a 41 Hudson and was wondering if you might have any Hudson signage or anything else from the dealership for sale.

  2. jdjonesdr

    If this isn’t the perfect car to get into the classic car hobby, I don’t know what is. Jeez, would I love to have this.

  3. MGTOMMM

    The immediate post war American cars weren’t much to look at (IMHO) but this era Packard seemed to avoid the over-done awkward clunkiness that the other land yachts had. To my eyes these were somehow lighter and more graceful looking.

    I agree jdjonesdr, what a terrific entry level classic. Drive and enjoy while gently restoring…..

  4. Trickie Dickie Member

    Wonderful cars, smooth as silk straight eight engine, quality throughout, Just ask the man who owned one! Good restoration support and parts availability from Packard clubs in the USA.

  5. Kenneth A Smith

    I love these old Packards. This one would be fun to play around with.

  6. hank

    Packards are my fave—This would be one easy to get, and put some cash into it for a real classy ride.

  7. LAB3

    Really like those colors on this, kind of a raw metal feel along with a military theme.

    • Brad C

      Exactly. This goes above patina.. it’s a whole persona. I’d redo the interior to the “nines”, get the mechanicals in perfect condition… and shoot the exterior with a satin clear coat. It’s fantastic.

  8. Greg Standing Bear

    From an era when cars were often built to be cheap and meant to be replaced in a few years, here is one that was instead built to last.

    I, too, would love to own it. Imagine what it would be like to gracefully cruise the highways in this–in style and comfort.

    There’s an incredible wealth of maintenance and restoration information available online for Packards, and Packard enthusiasts have come up with a lot of workarounds and improvements to enhance their reliability. If I were to get into a standard-sized car of this vintage, a Packard would certainly be a very tempting option.

  9. ccrvtt

    The sun visor alone is worth the price of admission.

  10. On and On On and On Member

    Class act. Period. Will always command respect. I agree with you LAB3 about the colors. Timeless. I love the way these cars changed and evolved s-l-o-w-l-y. Only when something could be done better. As it seems, time eventually did pass them up. Too bad for all of us. Could you imagine what a new Packard would be like today? Yikes.

  11. Wrong Way

    What memories! I am old enough that I can remember the good times in the back seat, me and my brothers had! There were 4 of us little bur headed rotten kids to deal with! No seat belts either! Lots of space! Two uf us had the floor, then the other two had that big backseat, it was very plush and some would say elegant? This was on long trips up through the smokies to Indiana! Three or four times a year! Looking back on all of these things, how in the heck did my parents survive? God bless their soles! Once again, guy’s and gals, thanks for the precious memories!

  12. Howard A Member

    The engine, being a “Deluxe” Clipper, would be the 356. “Standard” Clippers had the 282. While it may have been somewhat new in ’46, they would use this design ( underneath) well into the 50’s, until the all new ’55’s came out. Packard was indeed riding high after the war. Their contributions helped us win the war, it did. I’m convinced, my grandfather bought a new ’48 Packard, because he missed being able to actually go to war, and wanted to promote the American spirit with a Packard. Too bad, 10 years later, we’d forget all about that “war spirit”, and Packard was history. My ’50 Packard looked very similar to this when we got it. It was big job, but eventually, I found out EXACTLY what the saying meant ( sorry ladies) “Ask the man that owns one”.
    ( there’s a 5 mph front bumper for ya’)

  13. Robert Ruggiero

    I own a 1949 Packard. I love it and use it every day. A classy car and a prestigious marque.

  14. Jay E.

    Ten Thumbs up for the write up!

  15. CaptMark

    Redo interior, thinking limo, light tint redo mechanicals, warm up the eight, and vinyl wrap, to protect the paint.

  16. Will Owen

    I’d have to refinish in these colors – just perfect for this car. Sportier than the Senior Series when they reappeared, and with that knifepoint upright grille a hell of a lot prettier too. There are some things I remember reading about restoring these, such traps for the unwary as impossible-to-fit headliners, which made me decide that I shouldn’t even think of doing one. Besides, the 1941 separate-fender cars are to my eyes the prettiest Packards ever, and there’s the fact that I’m a ’41 model too … so that’s what I’d go for. But someone needs to adopt this one, for sure.

  17. CaptMark

    Did someone say new Packard, I’ll just leave this here

    • Brad C

      Gross. The only rule for buying this is you must be a resident of Dubai.

  18. Chris A.

    When Meguiar’s Wax sponsored the book “The Greatest 100 Cars” the 1941 Packard Clipper joined the rest of the Packards. Imagine this restored in burgundy with a gray interior. This model may also be one of the few cars that really looked good with rear wheel spats (wheel opening covers). Of course Leno has one of these. No power steering. The 48 and later Packard “Bath Tubs” lost the distinctive Packard elegance.

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