Oddball Project: 1953 Packard Henney Hearse

1953 Packard Henney Hearse

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Hearse project cars are always interesting and a bit unusual. The ties to the funeral industry can freak some people out, but cars like this Packard-Henney Junior Hearse played an important role in history. While many served as your typical coffin carrying wagon, many also worked as ambulances and helped save countless lives! The seller doesn’t offer any information as to whether this example served as a hearse or an ambulance, but given the bright yellow paint, I’m inclined to think this one was an ambulance. It is rough, but what a neat vehicle to have parked in the drive way! You can find it here on eBay in Archbold, Ohio with a BIN of $1,250 or the option to make an offer!

1953 Packard Henney Hearse Trim

Obviously rust is a major issue for this Packard. I’ll admit, I don’t know much about parts supply for Packards, especially ones with coachbuilt hearse bodies. A body shop or anyone good with a welder should be able to repair the rust, it will just involve lots of fabrication. Now the chrome trim on the other hand is a completely different issue. Finding replacement pieces could be tricky, but thankfully it looks like most, if not all, of the trim is currently piled up inside the car.

1953 Packard Henney Junior Hearse

The seller provided quite a few photos in their ad, but they don’t present any images of the engine bay. They state that it has its original straight eight and Hydromatic transmission, but we don’t know what state they are in. A few photos of the engine would be nice, but as long as everything is there and not seized, I’m sure you could get it running again. They also forgot to take any photos of the floors or frame, which is another area of concern. If the outside is this rusty, what does the underside look like? With so much rust to repair as is, I doubt rust in the floors will come as a surprise, but I would want to know how the frame looks before bidding. You could really do some awesome things with this wagon! How cool would it look with a slightly lowered ride height, redone chrome and new paint? Of course, it would look great all original too! So what would you do with this Packard?

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  1. Mike D

    I dunno, she looks pretty beat to me, looked for a clue as to where it is located to no avail, the chrome is so so at best.. I think there is a place that has a couple of Packard hearses, that are beat as well ( I think it is in SC) maybe could make one good one I would say the yellow paint is fairly recent nothing says ” ambulance” about this one to me would have to be a labor of love

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  2. Lee H.

    Interesting that they felt the need to shorten it. It would be nearly impossible to restore at this point. I almost bought one nearly identical to this one back in the ’70s, but my wife at the time would have no part of it!

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    • Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskeyMember

      In the 1950s hearse & ambulances were all hand built on extended chassis with custom bodies, hence they were very expensive. Henney designed the “Junior” to offer a less expensive version of their quality products. The intended markets were small town funeral homes, local hospitals, fire departments, plus the US Military. The Army, Navy & Air Force all bought Henney vehicles.

      To save on costs, these were constructed on a standard 127″ Packard Wheelbase as used on the Senior Packard Patrician sedan, but with the smaller 5-main bearing 288 engine used on the clipper series cars. They used the same rear fenders as on the larger Henney cars, then created a filler panel between the side doors and rear fenders. the roof was a shortened version of the regular Henney roof. Problem was, Henney was not able to keep costs down, and as a result they were not as inexpensive as expected. The Henney Junior cars were the only Packards to have a Clipper front grill & trim, and the Senior Packard taillights, because the rear fenders were used on the Senior Packard-Henney cars.

      This car appears to have been a US military [possibly Navy] version, with the required top roof vent seen on all the military hearse/ambulance vehicles of the time. It also has a visible seam between the center filler panel & the rear fenders. To meet the $ bid on these, Henney didn’t fill these 2 seams like they did for civilian buyers.

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    • Larry Pittsley

      This was not shortened. That model is the Henney Junior. The only one on a chassis that was not lengthened. The were onlyin production for 2 years and only produced 500 units.

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    • Lawrence

      It was built originally at that length. The only Henney Packard that was not stretched.

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      • Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskeyMember

        The Henney-Packard Senior hearses and ambulances were not “stretched Packards, they were built on a longer chassis frame built by Packard. Henney then built their own body from the roof pillars back. Henney didn’t lengthen a regular Packard.

        Even the 53-54 7-passenger cars were custom bodies on an extended chassis, using Packard 2-door Clipper quarter panels, side windows and rear window.

        Check out a typical Henney-Packard senior hearse to see the difference: https://hearses-for-sale.com/top-level-conversion-1953-packard-nu-3-way-henney-hearse/

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  3. Jason Houston

    What a fascinating – AND RUSTY – car! It sure looks like a chop-job to me. Isn’t that a non-factory seam running vertically between the door and rear wheel opening? I doubt the front clip is orig. to that car.

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  4. HoA Howard AMember

    This was an ambulance and not a hearse. Apparently, Henney made a bunch of these “3 door” ambulances.( that thing on the roof is a vent, consistent with ambulances) Quite a project, but really cool. ( BTW, it’s got an “Ultramatic”, and not a “Hydromatic”) http://www.coachbuilt.com/bui/h/henney/oo1953-PH-Jnr-amb-bw-400.jpg

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  5. MountainMan

    Man it is crusty! Being a 2 door wagon though I see potential as I’m sure other readers do as well. As Lee mentioned, it appears to have been shortened, Interesting indeed. I am not familiar with Packards at all so my concern would be sourcing parts for this beast. I think it is a prime candidate for a mild custom. Restomod i suppose as much as that term is used I hate to say it but thats what I would want to do. A more modern drivetrain if the straight 8 isn’t operable. It is different, thats for sure so it appeals to me

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  6. brakeservo

    Just ‘cuz it’s yellow doesn’t mean it can’t be a hearse! Case in point – my old 1948 Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith Hearse and it is, uh . . . yellow I think.

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  7. Andy Frobig

    I went to school in Fairbanks, AK, in ’85-86, and one day I was walking around in town when I saw an early ’50s Packard hearse for sale. It was painted red, the landau irons on the roof had been replaced with thunderbolts, and the interior looked like a custom van with carpet everywhere and four captain’s chairs! And I’ve always been a huge Packard fan. They were asking $2500, but I was making $4.75 an hour at the college cafeteria, so it wasn’t to be. That might be my all-time One That Got Away.

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  8. Lee

    `I would weld a Packard front clip on the rear and put a vent window in the rear glass /Lee

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  9. Mark S

    The roof line is all wrong, makes the front clip look to low and flat.the back looks like a sea elephant. The tail lights look good though should be salvaged before its crushed. Probably should pull out the under carriage as well as I’m sure it has some usable parts for someone with a Packard.

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  10. AMCFAN

    The car is a factory built Henney. The Jr. which is what this car is was sold mainly to the military. Simply the shorter wheelbase was cheaper and was easier to navigate then the longer wheelbase chassis.The car could have been used for any number of things however was designed to be a combination ambulance and hearse. I would assume this was purchased by the seller as a parts car since he has background pics with a LWB Henney in the background in several of his other listings.

    Like 1

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