– Posted on December 16, 2013
Our friends at Bring a Trailer posted a link to this 1954 Packard Henney Junior ambulance. ‘Junior’ is obvious a moniker as it was based off the smaller Clipper body – it wasn’t lengthened or stretched. It’s a baby! This one is for sale in Victoria, BC, and looks like a great candidate for a ratrod. The seller might be a CC reader, judging from his style of photo-taking.
The early 50’s saw Packard trying to catch up to Cadillac, following their incredible loss of market share with their overwrought, bathtub bodies of ’48, which resembled Nashes.
A handsome (if Plymouth-esque) redesign in ’51 just wasn’t enough. This is a ’48.
The ’54 was the third year of the redesigned ’51 Packard bodies, which would last til ’56, with a revised front end coming in ’55. This model had a bit of an identity crisis. In ’53, the model formerly known as the 200 became the ‘Clipper by Packard’, in an attempt to move the Senior Packards back upmarket, with the plan of spinning the Clipper off into its own value-priced marque. More info in this in this CC post on the 200.) ’54, though, was the last year of Packard’s independence…’55 brought the ill-fated Studebaker-Packard merger.
The 200 and Clipper base engine was Packard’s long-stroke 288-ci flathead straight-8- a proven, smooth design that was a winner (nine main bearings!) but terribly long in the tooth compared to the OHV offered in the contemporary Cadillac, like our flagship car, or the ’53 Studebaker. That said, the Packard was clocked at 0-60 in 17.6 seconds, which wasn’t too bad for the times, and Popular Mechanics affirmed that owners loved everything but the gas mileage.
This motor looks intact, if missing a few parts, but it does look preserved well. It’d be a good candidate for some sort of modern fuel delivery system…why the hell not? One would assume that Henney used the bigger, 327-ci flathead that was optional. The added weight of the ambulance body probably negated any gain in horsepower and torque. Still a speedy chariot.
Henney wanted to fill a lower-priced niche in the professional cars segment, and Googling shows that the Junior was used for hearses, ambulances, and flower cars. It sure is a lovely looking ride with great lines. However, the company apparently lost money on every single one and sold most at bargain-bin prices to the US Government, like this one, which was originally commissioned to the USAF. 1954 was the last year of Henney production, and what was once the largest professional coachbuilder was liquidated.
Three-on the tree (Borg-Warner?), a badass flathead…I can imagine a uniformed ambulance driver rushing an airman to the hospital in 1955, upshifting while puffing on an unfiltered Lucky Strike. I want to ratrod this thing so bad. While not up to the standards of the bigger Packards, it’s still a classy interior, indeed.
Anybody got $3500 in Victoria? You should drive this thing every day. Plenty of luggage room…