Tuesday, April 29, 2014
1953 Packard Caribbean
Sold for $74,250 at 2012 RM Auctions.
From its earliest beginnings right around the turn of the 20th century, Packard-built vehicles would be perceived as luxurious and plush, meant for the upper-class of society. And while the company would feature some fantastic roadsters and runabouts, it would still be considered one of the three 'P's' of American Motordom royalty along with Peerless and Pierce-Arrow. However, after World War II, the world would change and Packard would find itself in some rather unusual company needing to change, or die.
After decades of being considered one of the most lavish and opulent of America's automotive industry, Packard would find itself in trouble, holding on for dear life in a nation that had almost changed overnight.
World War II had changed the landscape of the United States and most of the world. Living life would be mantra heading into the 1950's. The world had just come out of a long, dark depression of destruction and death and it wanted to start enjoying life all over again. This meant excitement, adventure and generally having fun. Packard did not represent fun. It represented stuffed-shirts and a luxury that screamed 'don't touch!'
Roles would change after World War II. While before the war the millionaire may have been pleased to be chauffeured around. After the war, the mood would change. Millionaires were more likely to want to drive the car than let the chauffeur have all the fun. In reality, what was happening is that the common man was abandoning companies it could afford and went looking for more expensive models. However, their style of driving, and intentions, would be anything upper-class.
In reality, Packard needed to change. It needed to let loose and mingle amongst the common folk. But it had had so many decades of mingling amongst the apparent elites of society that it really didn't know how to change, but it was quickly going to become expendable if the company didn't do anything. Admittedly, the company needed a 'halo' car.
The halo effect is an assumption, or bias, based upon perception of certain traits. Very simply, the halo effect could be best described using the example of something physically attractive being perceived as being better, more desirous, but is based on nothing more than a perceived notion. And Packard's halo effect on the public would be its Caribbean Convertible.
In 1953, Packard would introduce its Caribbean. In 1952, Packard would produce its Pan-American concept car and it would be on display at the 1952 New York International Motor Sports Show. Though not entirely, this concept car would serve as some foundation for the Caribbean. The Caribbean would be part of the Cavalier line from Packard which had a price tag that would be considered mid-range. However, with Mitchell-Bentley providing the convertible bodies, the Caribbean would be notably different than the Cavalier.
The focus of the Caribbean was on producing a more sporty car. Therefore, the car would lack a good amount of trim and other brightwork, especially on the side of the car. The car would show a little emotion with its full-wheel cut-outs and rocker panels trimmed in chrome. This would help give the car a more modern feel with a little edge and sportiness. The car would certainly be a stunner and it seemed the halo effect would work.
It seemed Packard had gotten it right. It had the luxurious amenities of beautifully trimmed chrome, wire wheels, plush leather interior and a continental kit that made it truly one of the company's best. It even looked sporty with a faux hood scoop. But old habits die hard and the old side of Packard would come back and would ruin the party.
Packard enjoyed sales that exceeded Cadillac and Oldsmobile. But in 1954, the safe and stuffy tradition of Packard would come creeping back into the car's design. The wheel cut-outs would be flattened on the following year's design and chrome would come back in abundance taking away the sporty edge the car initially had. This would be further demonstrated by the fact a hardtop model of the car would also be made available, but the vast majority that would be sold would actually be the convertible. This 'numbing' of the design would lead to sales dropping significantly and further causing the hemorrhaging to continue.
The final act would come with a merger with Studebaker in 1956. Packard had released an updated model of the Caribbean in 1955. The updates would be extensive and promising, but the company was out of time. This would lead to a merger with Studebaker in 1955 and 1956. The merger, and Studebaker itself, would cause the process of developing a new model of the Caribbean to slow almost to a halt. The company would decide rather late to produce an evolution of the Caribbean, but it would come out swinging with a 374 cu. in. V-8 that produced over 300 horsepower. As it was, Packard didn't necessarily come out swinging. It was going down swinging. While perhaps the best of the Caribbean model, the 1956 edition would come too late to help save the company. And in the end, the public would see through the expected halo effect and would see Packard for what it was.
In January of 2012, at the RM Auction in Arizona, a 1953 Packard Caribbean Convertible would be made available for sale. Chassis number 2678 would have a mysterious early life. However, it would be one of the rare examples of the Caribbean Convertible in that it came with special-order black paint that elegantly finished the car and gave a striking contrast to the chrome. To match, the interior would include black and white leather upholstery. Powered by a 327 cu. in. 180 hp inline eight-cylinder, this particular model of the Caribbean Convertible beautifully demonstrates the halo effect Packard was going for with its sporty convertible.
Chassis 2678 had, at one time, been owned by the Packard specialist Tom Crook. Since 2003, the car has been part of Karl Blade's collection. An older previous restoration to the car had been completed some time in its past, but in 2006, Al Prueitt and Sons would give the car a thorough touch up. During that time the car would be disassembled and entirely stripped of its finish. The car would then be completely refinished. In addition to the finish, new window glass would be installed. The chrome would be re-plated and new radial tires would be fitted.
These restored elements would go well with the power options already on the car which included hydraulic windows, hydraulic seat and top and power steering and brakes. Once the transmission and the engine would be entirely rebuilt the restoration work would be done, and at a cost of more than $102,000.
The car would be shown at the Packards International National Meet in 2007 and would earn a perfect score and an award for Best Paint and Best in Class in Postwar—Open. The car would also receive the Packards International Circle of Excellence certificate, what many consider to be a coveted achievement to earn.
Expected to earn between $100,000 and $125,000, this certainly would be one of the 'halo' Packard Caribbean Convertibles that wouldn't just cause one to perceive why the 1953 model of the Packard Caribbean Convertible was so popular. The car would provide the evidence needed to support the assumption.
Sold for $93,500 at 2014 RM Auctions.
This Packard Caribbean is finished in its original shade of Gulf Green Metallic (a color unique to this model), and was the 61st example to roll off the production line in Iona, Michigan. The car was delivered to Seattle, Washington on May 8th of 1953 and purchased by James 'Jim' F. Hodges. The car has remained near Seattle its entire life.
In 1955 the Packard was purchased by Mary Christina Nuckols. After she could no longer drive the car, it was put on blocks in her garage. Discovered by the current owner in the mid-1980's, it was not until 2004 that he was finally able to convince her to part with the Packard.
Upon purchase, the car was given a sympathetic refurbishing to 'driver' standard. Eventually, the car was completely restored to show-level condition. The cost of the restoration was $97,000. After the work was completed, the car received awards at the Steamworks Concours d'Elegance in Vancouver, BC in 2006 and the Hillsborough Concours d'Elegance in Hillsborough, CA in 2008.
In 2012, the car was offered for sale at the Quail Lodge Sale in Carmel, CA presented by Bonhams Auction. The car was estimated to sell for $95,000 - $110,000 but was unable to find a buyer willing to satisfy its reserve. It would leave the auction unsold.