The Curbside motto is: “Every car has a story.” I only know parts of this car’s story, so you can use your imagination to fill in the rest. This ’54 Packard Clipper was recently pulled out of a garage in Whippany, NJ after sitting in there for decades.
It was last on the road in 1976, and . . .
. . . it has the oldest County College of Morris stickers I’ve ever seen!
I currently teach at CCM, and I was a student there in the mid-1980s.
It’s kind of odd to visualize this old Packard driving around campus and parking in our familiar parking spaces, but apparently it was.
Think about that–by the 1970s, this 1954 Packard Clipper had zero resale value as a used car. As “cheap wheels” it falls heavily between two stools: cheap to acquire, and potentially expensive to run and maintain. Were parts–and mechanics qualified to work on a Packard–hard to find in those days before collector interest and the internet? Also, this car burned premium gasoline and lots of it–a real handicap during the 1970s “Energy Crisis” period.
I’m trying to picture the mid-’70s community college student who drove to campus in this old fossil. I mean, what’s it feel like to drive back and forth to class in this tank, piloting that supremely smooth and silent Packard 327 straight eight, teamed with the unique characteristics of the Ultramatic transmission–holding that big steering wheel with chromium horn ring, and the Art Deco streamlined hood ornament leading the way–while everyone else is driving crappy, plasticy ’70s cars, like the Pinto and the Gremlin? Did he [I assume it’s a he, although there was a girl student at CCM who drove a dark red ’53 Chevy to campus, so who knows?] receive compliments or scorn for his peculiar automotive choice?
And who bought this car new? Nineteen fifty-four was a poor sales year for Packard. Offering a four-year-old body and a straight eight in the age of V-8s and jazzy New! New! NEW! was not going to appeal to most buyers. However, to me this 2-door sedan has a lot of appeal: The strong and whisper-quiet straight eight (free of bugs); the classical good looks of the body; the high quality of interior trim; the cushioned solidity of the Packard ride. Perhaps it was purchased new by a Packard loyalist who had a good relationship with the local dealer; someone who knew the name “Packard” still meant something.
According to the Standard Catalog of American Cars, this particular model, the Clipper Super 2-door Club Sedan is quite rare, with only 887 units produced. The unique Sportster (also a 2-door sedan, with “Hardtop Styling”) is only slightly less rare–1,336 of those were made. It seems strange that Sportsters would use the sedan rather than the hardtop body. (There was a 2-door hardtop in the Super series, romantically named the “Panama”.) Total 1954 production was 30,965 cars, down from nearly 90,000 the year before. Things ain’t lookin’ good for Packard!
The Clipper was towed to Kanter Restoration in Boonton and parked on the side with the parts cars. It has survived so long, but now it’s been removed from its home garage and is now out in the elements. It is now the futuristic year of 2021 A.D., and what happens from here is anyone’s guess.