Rare Barn Find! 1955 Packard Caribbean Convertible

I don’t know how many of these are left in the world, let alone complete and not rotted away beyond help. This ’55 Caribbean convertible is up for sale right now here on eBay  in Franklin Park, Illinois. It’s got a handful of bids and is already over $6.000!

Packard was, at one time, the top American car. By the mid-1950s, however, things were apparently not going well in the Finance department. All that aside, though, they were always pretty decent automobiles, from the first in 1899 to the last in 1956. “Ask The Man Who Owns One” said many advertisements.

In the early ’50s, there was a growing demand for personal luxury cars, and Packard rose to the challenge. Starting in 1953, the Caribbean challenged conventional styling, with nautical-themed elements,  round rear-wheel arches in the earlier ones, and unique front-end treatments in the last few years.

That brings us to this car. We can see that it’s seen better days, but then this is what the quintessential “barn find” cars look like when they’re fresh out of the barn – covered in dirt, flat tires, not running – but looks like it’s all there. The seller tells us that it’s been in some kind of storage for the last 40 years, and that the previous owner coated the chrome in Cosmolene to try and keep the rust away. It still wears its tri-color paint scheme, it has apparently only seen 53,000 miles and has power seats, power windows, air conditioning, dual-quad carburetors, and automatic transmission.

I’m not a Packard person myself, but I know “A man who owns one” and let me tell you, he really takes pride in his pristine Caribbean. This one isn’t nearly as nice right now, but if you like these cars, you know what this is and you know its potential. What say YOU, our esteemed readers?

 

 

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Comments

  1. Steve R

    It looks like a seller who actually wants the car to go to a new owner. He has another Packard Caribbean listed, along with a 48 Buick convertible. None with a reserve.

    I have no issue with flippers, just the tactics used by some. This seller seems to understand it’s best to move the product, not sit on an item waiting for “top dollar”.

    Steve R

    Like 22
    • Jim

      What is wrong with that?

      Like 1
  2. JGeezer Member

    My father’s dream car. He never did get one…

    Like 11
  3. Fred W

    While this technically needs a full restoration, something tells me it is going to clean up better than you might think.

    Like 32
    • grant

      Right? Where the coating has been wiped off the front bumper it looks outstanding. If the dark spots are just dirt, it may clean up really nicely.

      Like 17
    • Marshall

      They are only original once!

      Like 1
    • Vermonter53

      I’d love to see what it looks like just washed and the interior cleaned up.

      Like 1
  4. Dan

    First, a correction. Packard managed to last until 1958, though for the marque’s last two years, they were merely Studebakers with a front end that could be kindly described as odd-looking.

    The featured example looks like an excellent candidate for restoration. At least four other people agree with me. I really like the three-tone paint…to think even two-tone paint hasn’t been available on many vehicles for a while!

    Like 19
    • bruce baker

      Not really!
      Studebaker bought Packard, & produce the 57, 58. But the Quality/performance wasn’t as high/good. The 55, & 56 Packard Caribbean dual Quad 374 V-8 cars was the fastest/top end production car those two years in the USA. Only the Corvette was quicker in the Quarter mile. My Dad was a member of the Packard Car Club of Southern Cal. & that’s where i got the info from. A 1957 or 58 Packard/Studebaker wagon showed up to a Club meet at Griffic Park around 1972, and got no respect at all (booed).

      Like 1
      • Bill Wilkman

        Sad. That’s the kind of attitude that is contributing to the demise of the vintage car hobby.

        Like 10
      • bruce baker

        Attitude ?
        Well at least i don’t through away my old Packard parts thanks to those die hard Packard Club People. .

        Like 1
      • BR

        I thought the Chrysler 300’s were the fastest top end cars those years. No?

        Like 3
      • bruce baker

        I believe the Chrysler didn’t get that honor in 1955 or 56, & it didn’t happen until 1957. Yeah 330 HP 374 V-8 seems like a lot of HP for 1955, but look it up.
        Check out that 1956 beautifully Restored Packard Caribbean for sale for $84,498 with wire wheels. It looks exactly like my late Grandfathers car except for the chrome wire wheels, & lack of A/C. All 3 of our families Packard’s had working A/C under the dashboard. The 4th Packard, my late Uncle Don’s 53. Well he talked about putting A/C in it if i remember correctly.

        Like 1
      • Ed P

        The 374 was a 56 yr only engine. For 55, the 352 was the biggest.

  5. Jonny the Boy

    The first time I saw one of these was about 25 years ago at the Petersen Auto museum in Los Angeles, and I’ll never forget it. Such a beautiful beast! If I recall correctly, the museum’s car had a more desirable (IMHO) paint scheme of aqua, coral, and black, which seemed liked such a perfect combination for the name: “Caribbean”. The obvious extra labor in doing three different colors on a car expresses that the Caribbean features extra luxury.
    It’s so rare to find one of these in original condition. I hope the next owner just cleans it, preserves it, and does a mechanical restoration only!

    Like 19
  6. DRV

    This is a testament to metal treatment that the top auto makers used. The interior isn’t bad either!

    Like 8
    • Bill Wilkman

      This car looks good enough to just give it a good cleaning and mechanical repair and preserve it as an original survivor.

      Like 10
  7. DRV

    This is a testament to metal treatment that the top auto makers used. The interior isn’t bad either!

    Like 3
    • Dan

      Packard probably did use the best anti-corrosion processes available the time, but this car almost certainly came from a dry area and/or wasn’t driven during the winter. Salt is horribly destructive to steel. Here in Michigan, I’ve seen Dumpsters with rust holes!

      Like 12
      • DRV

        It looks like green mold in some spots..not dry maybe.

        Like 1
  8. FordGuy1972 FordGuy1972 Member

    Nice car that looks like it could be brought back with out breaking the bank. It seems to be mostly complete and if the motor isn’t stuck you could at least get it road-worthy. Some of the pictures posted by the seller shows it’s been cleaned up a little and the car looks better. Hard to tell if the cosmoline did it’s job, though. The top looks surprisingly good and the steering wheel seems to be in great condition.

    This appears to be a really nice car that may not take a lot to be a decent driver with a little work. Not sure about all that stuff in the trunk; never saw a weather vane offered as an accessory but it is, after all, a Packard!

    Like 16
    • moosie moosie

      Weather Vane ?

      Like 3
      • FordGuy1972 FordGuy1972 Member

        “a revolving pointer to show the direction of the wind, typically mounted on top of a building.”

        Like 4
      • moosie moosie

        Yeah I know what a weather vane is but where on this beauty is there one ? oh, O.K. I saw the one in the trunk.

        Like 1
  9. IkeyHeyman

    They made only 500 of these in ’55, can’t imagine there are many left. These Caribbean convertibles are the most desirable Packards of the final years, it’s too bad they couldn’t have just gone out in a blaze of glory instead of limping to the finish line as rebadged Studebakers – and I’m saying that as a Studebaker owner.

    Like 14
    • Rube Goldberg Member

      Rare indeed, and for good reason. I read, this car was the flagship of the line. It cost a whopping $5932 new, or almost $57g’s today.( when a new Ford or Chevy was 1/3 that) Packard threw everything they had into this car. Nothing is mentioned about the electric torsion bar ride, probably long stuck with this car, but heard it was a good unit. I also read, there were tons of production problems, and a strike(?) people waiting 6 months for the new ’55’s, and many cancelled their orders. I never saw that paint scheme before, in the 50’s, red, white and blue were for American flags, not car colors. As nice as these ’55-’56 cars were, they were just too expensive, and took down the marque. The Studebaker Packards were insult to injury. This the last great Packard made.

      Like 8
      • Sunshine

        Check your monitor. This one is red, white, and black. I remember this combination; maybe I am older.

        Like 1
      • Bill McCoskey

        Rube and Sunshine,

        Actually, the original color scheme would have been White Jade for the main upper color, Fire Opal for the stripe, and Gray Pearl for the lower section. Many people who don’t look closely, believe the lower color is black, but it’s a dark gray metallic.
        [Color names from the 1955 PPG paint chart]

        Like 6
  10. Rex Kahrs Member

    OK, what the hell is Cosmolene, what does it do, and where can I buy some?

    Like 2
    • Bob5150

      Cosmoline was a heavy grease most typically used by military to coat small arms. Was applied liberally prior to them being packed in crates & shipped. Would be removed by the end user.

      Like 10
      • Jonny the Boy
      • Dan

        I spent part of my enlistment in the U.S. Navy working in aviation. A related product, Corrosion Preventive Compound Grade 4, was something I worked with frequently.

        Like 6
  11. stillrunners stillrunners Member

    What – no one noticed that bat wing air cleaner ? Rare car there……..

    Like 7
    • BR

      GM and Mopar used that air cleaner too, and I think AMC also.

      Like 1
      • Bill McCoskey

        The Packard used dual Rochester 4-barrel carbs, the GM vehicles used Carter Carbs, and the round openings are different diameters. A good metal worker can modify the unit to fit.

        Mopar cars like the Chrysler 300b have a similar looking air cleaner, but it’s much wider and cannot be modified.

        Like 1
  12. Pete Phillips

    It’s going to go a lot higher than $6,000 or $7,000 (where it is now), mark my words! Very rare and very desirable car that looks like a fairly easy restoration. My guess is that the engine is stuck–that’s usually the case when they have been sitting this long and have surface rust on the valve covers. Looks like it has every possible option that you could get in 1955. These have the automatic leveling suspension in the rear; should be a 352 V8, I believe, and beware of worn oil pump cover plates on these Packard V8s. This should be a $60,000 to $75,000 car when restored.

    Like 5
    • Bill McCoskey

      Pete,
      The Caribbean came standard with most of the common accessories of the time, however A/C was an option [first year you could get factory A/C on a Packard convertible]. While the listing says it’s got A/C, based on the lack of the A/C vents on top of the dash, and the aftermarket bracket for the compressor, if there is A/C, it’s an under dash aftermarket unit. And yes, you are correct about replacing the oil pump with an improved version, removing the vacuum pump unit.

      Concerning the automatic leveling system, it’s on all 4 wheels, with interconnected torsion bars running from each front lower A-arm to the rear axle, with 2 additional shorter torsion bars attached to a motor & gearbox, that would level the car automatically.

      When a large load was placed in the trunk, or with people seated in the back seat, the system will level the load, but not just by raising the back of the car, the front would also lower until the car was level.

      I’ve owned & worked on many of the Torsion Level Packards for 1955 & 1956, and NO other car of the era rode as nicely as these do. Not even a Citroen DS [but it comes close, I’ve owned a few of them too!]

      Here’s a great 1956 Clipper video on how it works:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7C1nOudznGk

      Like 16
  13. Tom Crum

    I was 16 and living just north of Detroit. One Sunday morning a friend and I went to Metrolopolitan Beach to go swimming in Lake St. Clair. There was the advertising company with some 10 new 1955 Packards there taking pictures for the 1955 brochure. I also remember my dad driving me downtown Detroit and seeing the Nash assembly plant and several hundred new Hudsons in the yard at the plant. Starting in 1955 the colors became so much brighter and the Hudsons so colorful. I went on to the Univ. of Detroit and became a high level accountant at Kelsey Hayes. Loved my days in the auto industry

    Like 2
  14. Mountainwoodie

    This is what a flagship looks like!

    Its going to take a lot more work than anybody thinks. Imagine the electro servers or hydraulics for the top. Surface corrosion leads to more corrosion. That said i’d like to know more about who owned it, where it was stored, the back story.

    The fact that the seller filled it with half a gallon of antifreeze seems to be going in the wrong direction. I’d be draining everything and looking at what I have and then soaking the pistons in Marvel, hand crank etc.

    I guess the seller figured it would attract buyers no matter what. Still it’s going to be awesome when brought back to life.

    Like 6
  15. Kurt

    This car must be restored to concours condition, it’s well worth it. I have seen the hardtop model restored and they are show stoppers. Being an orphan marque and a rare model to boot all helps justify a frame off restoration.

    Like 8
  16. BR

    Did these really have vacuum wipers? Appears so.

    Like 3
    • Bill McCoskey

      Yes they did. But remember, when these cars were new, a Trico vacuum wiper motor was very powerful and almost silent in operation, unlike electric wipers. That said, as the vacuum motor wears from high mileage and years of use, we all know how they stall or slow down under heavy acceleration.

      There is an easy fix for this; in 1957 Chevrolet offered an optional electric wiper motor that is a bolt-on replacement. That said, these Chevy electric wiper motors are becoming very hard to find today.

      The David Ficken Co bought the Trico factory parts inventory many years ago, and still rebuilds Vacuum wiper motors.

      Like 5
  17. Bill McCoskey

    Here is a great 1954 Packard film introducing the Torsion Level Ride, courtesy of the Detroit Historical Collection. It’s worth watching to the end, to see ride comparisons to other makes. And don’t miss the Japanese tin toy 1954 Cadillac they use as a prop to show the way other cars ride!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Sz0RZUySk0

    Like 5
    • Mike Wick

      Thanks for sharing that great historic video! I love to watch those classic clips! One day I hope to own a Packard myself!

      Like 2
    • On and On On and On Member

      Bill, I am impressed with this engineering, the videos are awesome, but why didn’t this idea really catch on? I’m guessing production costs and possibly alignment issues in real time use. What do you think? ……..as a side note I drove through Franklin Park, Illinois the last 2 weekends!

      Like 2
      • Bill McCoskey

        Production & engineering costs were very high, but I think the real reason the interconnected torsion bar idea was abandoned, was that Chrysler introduced front torsion bars in 1957, and both GM & Ford went with air bags and/or air shocks as they were a lot cheaper.

        Another cost consideration for the interconnected bars was the need for a pair of bars for each wheelbase, and the “big 3” had multiple wheelbases to contend with. This was also the reason Packard didn’t offer a limo after 1954.

        If you are impressed with what you saw in the videos, wait until you get the opportunity to ride in a V8 Packard with Torsion Ride. Even ones with high mileage have an incredible ride 60+ years later!

        Most V8 Packard owners will be honored to “let the ride decide” if you ask them nicely!

        Like 4
    • leiniedude leiniedude Member

      Thanks Bill, always enjoy your posts! Take care, Mike, and thanks again.

      Like 1
  18. Andrew Franks

    I don’t have the time to restore this car but someone should jump on it and bring it back to its former glory. Yes, it has a strong market upside which is not the point. It should be restored, driven on weekends or even as a driver if you can stand the gas mileage and general bulk of the vehicle plus all the illiterates on the road driving their stupid computers on wheels, and certainly join the Packard Owners Club for help, advice, and parts. I had a 55 Patrician for a few years, a 4 door sedan, drove it every day and enjoyed it a great deal, finally sold it to a neighbor who had to have it. It also participated as the star car in a few family weddings. Good memories.

    Like 3
    • TimM

      Everyone pretty much said all there is to say about this iconic automobile!!! The only thing I can say is take a good long look at that dashboard!! It’s truely like none I’ve ever seen!! This car was built when cars had class and it meant something to have the best!! I would like to see someone buy and preserve this car for future generations!!! There is never anything good about someone going out of business for any reason!! Financial is probably the worst though but who paid the ultimate price??? I for sure could say the American consumers!!

      Like 2
      • moosie moosie

        I was 8 years old when these cars hit the streets but I do remember them, they were the nicest looking cars on the street, looking at one you could see that they were something special, The later ones, when they were merged with Studebaker were odd looking and a sin to see what had happened to a once great automobile. I remember the Hudsons as well as the Studebakers,,, all very nice looking cars, Edsels too, we did pay the price when production stopped on them all. Fast forward to recently and add Plymouth , Oldmobile & Pontiac to that list along with Mercury. Who’s next ? Progress ?

        Like 1
      • bruce baker

        @ TimM, & moosie, i totally agree with you two. 1965 was Packard Motor Company’s last year to give Cadillac a challenge. .

  19. Tnauctioneer

    There is a Packard Motor Car Museum in Dayton , Ohio . it is in an old Packard Dealership .Several fine old Packards and Studebakers there. Packard Marine and aircraft engines. Also a Packard Truck

    Like 1
    • bruce baker

      Yup, PT boats had 3 each. Plus didn’t Packard co-produce the P-51 Mustang Merlin during WWll with R/R?

      • Bill McCoskey

        Bruce, as someone who has had about 300 Packards and around 30 Rolls-Royces over the last 50+ years , I believe I’m qualified to comment on the Merlin situation during WW2.

        Rolls-Royce designed & built the Merlin in the typical high quality, cost-no-object style of their automobiles. Problem was, once the company needed to ramp up production, they believed it was not possible to produce the motors in the required numbers, without sacrificing quality and safety. Rolls-Royce simply didn’t have the ability to ramp up production without a loss of quality, something they were not prepared to do.

        Packard, Already used to producing high quality automotive engines on large scale [70,000+ cars per year in 1937] stepped up to the plate and said they COULD and WOULD produce the Merlin in the numbers required.

        Packard did just that, while still increasing the production of other wartime motors and military equipment, all without a sacrifice in quality or safety. No other motor manufacturer could have satisfied the challenge the way Packard did.

        Like 2
  20. Bob McK Member

    There is one in the Packard museum in Fort Lauderdale. A few years ago there was one parked outside at a condo complex. It killed me to see it sitting out in the elements. Then one day, it was gone.

    Like 1
  21. Del

    Wow. Rare and desireable.

    At 9100 now.

    Hagerty says even in just fair condition this is worth 46 grand.

    I find it a fairly ugly box but I sure appreciate its worth.

    Did these really come with hood scoops ?

    The weather vane doubles the value

    Like 1
  22. bruce baker

    Would you believe i have my late Fathers custom made Packard weather vane on my roof in North end of Glendora Ca..

    Like 1
    • bruce baker

      Yes they did come with hood scoops, & Push Button Drive. And it wasn’t wasted on “all show, and no go”. My Grandpa proved that to me as he took me, & my family for a high speed ride on the Ontario Motor Speedway track with the top down in the early 1970’s. His was a 56 white, blue, & dark brown with twin power antennas. I remember that green leveler torsion bar switch under the left side dashboard. He also took the Brady Bunch kids for a Parade ride in it in 1971.

      Like 2
  23. Jeff D.

    I remember doing a mechanical restoration on a hardtop about 20 years ago and even then, the engine parts for this were rare and expensive. That engine when done though was the quietest engine I ever heard run. It would sit and purr at 500 RPM, and you almost could have perched a full cup of water on the air cleaner and it wouldn’t have spilled a drop. I also remember the 55/56 V8 Packard’s got no respect from the older straight eight guys either. Everybody into Packard’s loved that engine and for some reason took offense when they went V8. I thought it drove fantastic. I also remember Packard was determined to prove their new engine, and ran it, if I remember right at Daytona, with a 100 MPH average for 10,000 miles!!!! Only stops for fluids and change driver’s. Think they had to try twice cause the first one the water pump went out. Anyways, somebody adopt this orphan, you will have the only one wherever you go!!!!

    Like 3
    • bruce baker

      @Jeff D. Yeah you must be talking about the 374 V-8, not the 352 V-8, right? My dad had the brand new 374 dual quad block running a 300 RPM’s as smooth/steady as frozen water. The brand new 352 block (55 Clipper) had to run at 800 rpm to keep from stalling at a stop sign or light. I only weighed 105 lbs. , had to use two feet to stop that car. The Caribbean, & the 4 door 1956 374 mono quad Patrician were easy for me to stop.
      Did your car have a crack in the right front chrome near the headlight, & hood front corner? Both are 56’s did this as i still have the original cracked right side parts.

  24. George. Member

    There was one just like this, but in much better, but still rough, shape, for sale in Fort Lauderdale last year. I would imagine a restoration would be costly and challenging……

    Like 1
  25. canadainmarkseh Member

    Fantastic car although I’d like it better in a hard top. When I was a kid my dad had a friend that had 3 or 4 Packards and he gave me a set of side emblems off I think a 56 Caribbean there about 3”” in diameter with a chrome ring there clear plastic with the coat of arms painted from the back. I’m 59 now and I’ve had them since I was 8. Its as close as I’ll ever get to owning one of these fine cars.

    Like 1
    • Bill McCoskey

      Those emblems could be either the small round emblem between the rear door & the rear window on a 1955 or 56 Patrician sedan or 400 hardtop, or they could be the emblem on the outside edge of the folding seat backs of the 2-door Packard cars. If you can include a photo, I can probably tell you which ones you have.

      Like 1
  26. Bill McCoskey

    Correction to above info: These sound like the 1955 Senior Packard emblems only. If they have 2 holes in the plastic, that’s for the gold “V” emblem as seen on the roof base in the attached photo. If no holes, then it’s probably the round emblem on the side of the set back as shown in the photo.

    Just found I can’t post an image anymore, sorry.

    Like 1
  27. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    Ended: Aug 09, 2019 , 10:11AM
    Winning bid:US $14,455.55
    [ 31 bids ]

    Like 1

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