From the Beardslee Collection
1956 Packard Caribbean Convertible
Chassis no. 5699-1229
When veteran industrialist James J. Nance became president of the Packard Motor Car Co. in 1952, he immediately set about rebuilding the storied automaker's prestige and profits, which had eroded in the years following World War II. The 1955 models showed the world Nance's vision for a modern, fully competitive, V8-powered Packarda car that took on archrival Cadillac head-to-head in style, prestige and performance.
By the time the mildly restyled 1956 models appeared, Packard was in trouble. Big trouble. Sales were sputtering, and a two-year-old merger with Studebaker had both companies drowning in red ink. By the end of the '56 model year, Packard's Detroit assembly and engineering operations were shut down. The proud American luxury brand was effectively finished, although lightly disguised Indiana-built Studebakers would carry the Packard marque forward for two more years.
As Packard unwound during 1956, the fabulous Caribbean Convertible remained the untarnished queen of the historic luxury automaker's line. Styling changes from 1955 were minimal, but there were new tri-tone color combinations to go with the ornate and sparkling chrome trim.
The Caribbean for '56 was powered by a massive 374-cubic-inch V8 rated at an impressive 310 horsepower, thanks in part to its dual four-barrel carburetors. Once again, Packard's Torsion-Level rear suspension was a feature not available on even the most expensive Cadillac.
Costing more than $6,000 at delivery, the Caribbean was well equipped. Standard luxury equipment included an Ultramatic automatic transmission with pushbutton controls, gold-tone "Caribbean" scripts, power windows and a Wonderbar radio. Novel 'winter/summer' reversible seat cushion covers, trimmed in leather on their facing and in brocade cloth on the reverse side, were an exclusive Caribbean feature.
The 276 Caribbean Convertibles built for 1956 represented about one percent of Packard's total production of just 28,835 cars for the model year.
The Caribbean offered here is particularly nice due to its high degree of originality. The interior is nearly all original and wonderfully preserved. The paintwork has nice shine and presentation, although close examination shows some very minor flaws. The engine and drive train have been restored by Hibernia Restorations; the car runs well and the engine compartment glistens. This is clearly a sympathetic restoration of what is an excellent original car.