Pink & Push Buttons! 1956 Packard 400

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By 1956, Packard was struggling for survival. The Four Hundred model, introduced for 1955, received some upgrades that were designed to move it upmarket from the Clipper models but still leave it below the Caribbean. This particular Packard is up for sale here on eBay where bidding is only $1,450 as I write and there’s no reserve! It’s located in Dade City, Florida, which seems an appropriate place for a dusky pink classic.

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But wait! Holy cow, it’s not dusky pink after all–this is bright, in your face PINK! I’m guessing there is a lot of sun fading involved? Anyway, you can see rust popping out in a lot of places, but nothing truly horrible. Remember, though, spares for this unusual car aren’t going to be as easy to find as, say, a 1956 Chevrolet. You are probably stuck with repairing what you have in most cases, especially with trim and sheet metal.

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Although there are some spots in the floor boards that look pretty thin, the frame in general looks pretty decent. That exhaust system can’t have been on there long either.

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While the chrome and trim appear intact, if you want a show car, you’re going to be facing quite a chroming bill. However, I kind of like the fading, and I might leave it as is, at least for a while.

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On the inside, things aren’t so nice, as it’s wearing all of it’s 96,245 miles on every surface. However, again, it’s all there, which goes a long way to sourcing replacement stuff if needed. I think I would have the seat reupholstered and put some new carpet down, but the rest might just be vinyl dye and a lot of cleaning!

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Assuming this is the original engine, it displaces 374 inches, having been enlarged from the previous year’s 352.  That should have been plenty of power, and with the single four barrel carburetor it produced 285 horsepower. However, the Four Hundred weighed 4,290 pounds and since that rating was SAE gross horsepower, that was still a lot of car to move around. That being said, it runs (a video of it running is included in the auction listing) and despite not having any brakes, seems to be a car worth doing a little work to so that it can be on the road again. Do you agree with me?

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Comments

  1. DrinkinGasoline

    OMG…..speechless !

  2. Zaphod

    Might be my old car… i bought it the day my youngest son was born and sold it to a gent from Florida. The color is “Sardonix” not pink,and the beast ran very well, even the self leveling suspension worked. I sold it 23 years ago for a grand, so it’s not appreciated much.

    • Brad C

      You don’t seem NEARLY as excited as I would be, to be staring at something I sold 23 years ago! I’m guessing you aren’t hankering to buy it back, then. ; )

  3. RoughDiamond RoughDiamond Member

    I’m beginning to believe that every man at some point in his life needs to own at least one Packard automobile. The seller short changed themselves by not picturing the entire dash.

    • Howard A Member

      Hi RD, got that right. And this would be the one to have ( unless you go the “full classic” route, but who’s sportin’ that kind of cash) The ’56 was, I feel, the nicest “modern” Packard there was.

    • Shawn

      There are many pictures of the interior in the slideshows in the auction.

      • Angel_Cadillac_Diva Angel Cadillac Diva Member

        @ Jesse

        Thank you for that link of self parking cars! I never knew that and the video was awesome!!!
        Learn something everyday on Barn Finds

  4. socaljoe

    There is a gentleman on the East Coast who does Packard conversions into pick ups. This looks like the perfect candidate.

    • Vince Habel

      It would be a crime to convert this to a pick up.

      Ask the man that owns one.

      Like 3
    • Howard A Member

      blasphemy!!!

    • Bill McCoskey

      Socaljoe —

      I know the guy who builds the pickups, I doubt he would do that to this one, as it’s too nice.

      Zaphod —

      The colors on this car are Scottish Heather [code K], and Dover White [code M]. Sardonyx [code R] was used on 1955 Packards, and is a brown.

      Over the last 50+ years I’ve seen quite a few Packards with Scottish Heather, but only on the 2-door hardtops, both the “400” and the Executive, a late year addition to the line-up, sort of a Clipper Custom with Packard front sheet metal & dash.

      I’m sure someone could have ordered it on a Patrician sedan, but I’ve never seen or heard of one. Scottish Heather could also be paired with Maltese Gray [code N], and Corsican Black [code V]. [Based on info from the Packard salesman’s book.]

      Like 1
  5. Howard A Member

    This car, by all rights, is the car that should have saved Packard. Aside from the suspension, which I think was ok for warmer climates, but proved troublesome in winter, this was just an outstanding automobile. From the lackluster late ’40’s and early ’50’s cars, this showed that Packard was indeed a luxury car, on par with any other make. It’s as if they threw everything they had into this car. Sadly, it wasn’t enough, and the handwriting was on the wall for the once great marque. I heard, dealers knew Packard was failing, and didn’t stock many ’56 Packards, and concentrated on Studebaker.( which was a sinking ship itself) Having a Packard myself, and I know I’d have a tough time convincing loyal Cadillac or Lincoln owners this, but I’d wager this was the nicest car offered in ’56.

    Like 2
  6. MathieuB Member

    More and more I see theses Packards more I want one.
    Can’t explain but theses apealing me a lot!

  7. another Bob

    In the late 1970s my family had a 55 Custom Clipper, just like the one recently featured. Two-tone green. A blast to drive and nobody else on your block had one.

  8. Marty Member

    Love the “Packard” valve covers. This car would really be beautiful when restored. I probably wouldn’t end up changing the pink to coral, but I’d sure consider it.

    • Ron

      Beautiful old girl.

  9. Rickyrover

    My Grandpa bought a ’56 Lincoln Premier, also pink with a white top, for my Grandmother after she saw an ad in Vogue magazine. Amazing how similar the Packard is, although the Lincoln was sleek and beautiful, while the Packard looks cumbersome. Who copied who?

    • Paul Bellefeuille

      Richard Teague the lead stylist at Packard re-vamped their 1951 body shells. ..so yeah.. who copied who?

      • Bill McCoskey

        Some of the most sought-after tail lights are the 1955/6 Packard & the 1956 Clipper units, designed over a weekend by Teague. I’ve lost track of how many rods & customs I saw over the years with these “Cathedral” [senior Packard tail lights], or the “Swooping” [Clipper tail lights]. The 56 Clipper light assemblies are so hard to find, in used condition, that they often bring $500. Mint, never used N.O.S. versions are so rare they will go for $1,000 or more, each.

        For those of you who don’t know what the Clipper tail light looks like, I’ve included a photo of a Clipper 2-door hardtop. Photo from Factory archives.

        These were also used in the 57/58 Studebaker based Packards, but are slightly different in having external screw mounting holes in the chrome body, because the Studebaker body didn’t have the inner fender access to install them.

  10. brakeservo

    Sure looks similar to my old Russian Chaika – and that can ignite a debate!

  11. Joe

    Can’t win on this one—unless you want to park it in front of a tourist trap or diner. The pink will become very annoying in a short amount of time. Your girl may like the color, but will hate the ratty interior, carpets and “older than dirt” mousy odors.

  12. stillrunners stillrunners Member

    Howard – tend to agree….but Studebaker had bought Packard already and that was helping sink them….they should have spent some money on stylists instead – the Lark did bring them up for awhile – but the old C/K body was getting old already….the Avanti was a last hurrah…..didn’t help much….but funny it endured for years after….

  13. M B

    The 1956 LIncolns and Cadillacs had their own market of loyal customers, although each with unique demographics, I suspect. Packard’s demographic was probably not that young anymore, I also suspect. The styling was “contemporary” and “formal” in a time where “flash and dash” (other than acceleration) was the order of the era. The “Forward Look” Chryslers didn’t help the Packards look “youthful”, either.

    The 4-torsion bar suspension was unique and got rave reviews in the car magazines. It, in itself, was something of an engineering “tour de force”! But, as with the later Buick Triple-Turbine DynaFlow, not many customers would pay for things they couldn’t see (OR be seen by others!!!) back then. Seems there were also some issues with the UltraMatic transmission and the push buttons sticking from time to time! I ran across an interesting post in the automotive forums of the Dallas (TX) Historical Society’s website on “sticky pushbuttons” (or a slow servo motor).

    This would be a neat car to restore, but it won’t be nearly as easy as even a ’56 Chrysler. It WILL be an iconic car, no matter what.

    As for “copies”, check out the Russian ZIL limousines! A more direct copy than the smaller Russian car mentioned above.

    You think “self-parking cars” are something new? Packard had that option for the ’55-’56 cars! Not as “electronic” as on modern cars, but novel nonetheless. The “parking wheel” was hidden in the continental kit!.

    • Jesse Staff

      That info about the self parking option was interesting. We will have to keep an eye out for one with that. Thanks MB!

    • Jesse Staff

      Are you sure they ever actually offered it as an option? Here’s some info on a one off that was built: http://www.oldcarsweekly.com/car-of-the-week/car-of-the-week-self-parking-1953-packard-cavalier

    • Bill McCoskey

      Packard never offered a self parking option. I know these cars and the Packard factory very well, they were not even working on the subject, but they were working on an automatic emergency stopping system for the brakes. Legend has it that on the running prototype, when the driver turned a corner and the car saw a brick wall a block away, it slammed on the brakes!

    • Bill McCoskey

      M B —
      I’ve had several 55/56 Chrysler Imperials, sedans hardtops & even a limo. Also have had a dozen or more 55/56 Packards & Clippers. When it came to mechanical parts, I had the same ease of finding parts as almost any other American car of the 1950s. However when it came to trim parts; Chrome, interior, lenses, & accessories, A Packard was a lot easier to find the needed parts.

      I think part of the reasons was that after S-P stopped selling cars, they maintained a huge inventory of parts in South Bend until about 10 years ago. Plus, local family owned Packard dealership parts inventories often would be put into storage, until Packard parts dealers like myself ferreted them out in the 1970s & 80s.*

      Chrysler dealers, like GM and Ford, were often offered rebates for returning or destroying non-essential parts, especially trim. The companies knew this was [and still is] a great way to make a car obsolete!

      *In 1973 I drove my 1955 Packard 400 hardtop into Mount Holly, NJ & stopped into a local Esso station for fuel. The man who came out said his father had once owned the local Packard dealership. When I asked if they still had anything left, he said the entire parts inventory from when they closed in1956 was in his basement!

      He was about to take lunch, and that meant walking a block to his house, a grand Victorian mansion. I drove him over to the house, and as we descended the stairs into the basement, I found all the original parts department racks, complete with parts number tags, and piled full of Packard parts, still in the boxes. As he went around pulling the chains on the lights, he said “I want $125.00 for the entire inventory, no less.” I bought it all! But I ended up leaving a brand new 327 5-main bearing engine short block, in the wooden case, as I couldn’t get it up the stairs!

      On the way home to MD, I stopped off to see some friends who own Packards, And out of the trunk of the car I sold at least $500 worth of parts for cash, enough to cover the $125 check I wrote for the parts!

      Like 1
      • Brad C

        I’m not a big Packard guy, but WHAT A STORY!!! Boy, did fate ever put you in the right spot that day.

  14. Bruce Fischer

    I would re do the seats and carpet and just drive her!Bruce.

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