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1953 Packard

Caribbean Convertible

Offered At


Engine Size
327ci Flat Straight 8cyl
Transmission Type
2 Speed Automatic

1953 Packard Caribbean Convertible

1953 Packard Caribbean Convertible

Packard was on the ropes in the 1950s and knew it. They bought Studebaker (not vice-versa, as many believe) but their fortunes didn't change much. Conservative styling was probably the primary culprit, although a lot of buyers were seeing short-stroke OHV V8s in competitors' cars, and while Packard's straight-8s were impossibly smooth and torquey, there was an image of old tech. To solve the problem, Packard did what Packard did best: create a gorgeous high-end luxury car that combined the best they had to offer and put it in front of a clientele who appreciated such things. That car was the Packard Caribbean.

For consignment a bespoke luxury convertible with styling tweaked by the legendary Dick Teague and based on the Packard Cavalier convertible. A continental kit, extra chrome and stainless, a sumptuous leather interior, and a high-output 180 horsepower version of their 327 cubic inch straight-8 all combined to draw customers into Packard showrooms one last time. They were hand-built by the Mitchell-Bentley Corporation in Ionia, Michigan and only 750 were built. With a price tag of $5,210, they were among the most expensive cars you could buy, weighing in at a staggering $1400 more than a comparable Cadillac. So a rare bird with a classic look in the old style.

The Caribbean was built for four years, and each enthusiast has their own favorite style, but a great many believe that the 1953 Caribbean was the purest, most elegant design and the last of the truly great straight-8 Packards. The radius rear wheel openings are the primary difference, and it is significant—the '53 looks sporting and little, while later cars with skirts tended towards heavy and ponderous. Then there's the color on this car, which is Packard Maroon. With a soft shine that's entirely appropriate for a product of the 1950s, gaps are very good, and yes, that hood scoop—which was hand-fashioned out of lead on the assembly line—looks better than ever. Most of the chrome was refinished and shows beautifully today, particularly the distinctive trim around the wheel arches and along the sills. The Caribbean also wears unique chrome details along the beltline and on the rear quarters, forming miniature tail fins before such things were truly fashionable. The result is a car that looks fantastic from any angle. On all 4 corners are beautifully preserved wire wheels and Packard badged center hubs, all wrapped in sophisticated wide whites. And lest we forget the continental rear bumper, complete with metal encased spare tire mounted in the center. Total class amongst the early days of the “fin era”.

The two tone maroon and white leather interior is exactly the right choice with the exterior maroon bodywork, creating a flashy yet sophisticated contrast that feels sporting and not dated. The hides are in great condition with only minimal signs of use and no tears, splits, or scuffs on the seating surfaces. Matching slightly faded maroon carpets are deep and plush, helping to keep the interior quiet and comfortable and the simple door panels are an exercise in good taste and restraint with their power window toggles, and tuck and roll highlights. The standard Packard dashboard puts a three-gauge pod ahead of the driver, and this car carries original gauges that are looking to have been recently freshened. All the gauges work, and things like the innovative warning lights, heater/defroster, and even the nicely chrome trimmed radio and power antenna are fully operational. The big ivory bakelite steering wheel shows quite well with no cracking and the horn ring looks good, showing only very, very minor pitting that suggests it's original. Aftermarket A/C hangs from the bottom of the dash in the center and blows ice cold.

There are a lot of folks who believe that a Packard isn't a Packard without a straight-8 engine under the hood, and the ultra-smooth and surprisingly powerful 327 cubic inch straight-8 used in 1953 is a great runner. With a 4-barrel Carter carburetor and a rather stout 8.0:1 compression ratio, it makes 180 of the most creamy-smooth horsepower you've ever experienced. Perhaps even more significantly, there's 300 pounds of torque on tap at just 2000 RPM. Packard's “UltraMatic” 2-speed automatic transmission isn't sophisticated but it's durable and smooth, and the smooth straight-8 makes so much torque that it rarely needs a downshift. 3.54 gears in the rear axle make this car feel quick and lively around town despite its rather hefty 4100-pound curb weight and it's a smooth, comfortable cruiser at 65 MPH. Corporate gray engine enamel is a little industrial for the high-end Caribbean, but that's how it was in 1953. There are new ignition components, fresh belts and hoses, and of course the heavy-duty oil bath air cleaner looks right and you'll note power steering is part of the deal, making this Packard extremely easy to handle.

We don't believe the body has ever been off the frame, but on a clean car it's not really necessary. The chassis is coated in a layer of black undercoating, presumably to seal and protect rather than hide, and we can't find any evidence of rot or previous damage. There are minor signs of use, but it's quite clean overall and someone has obviously been sweating the details in the mechanics department—there are new components on the power steering system, fresh shocks at all four corners, the brakes show newer hoses.

Slipping inside this classy car, we fired it right up and it can best be described as not enough o's in smoooooooth as for the driving experience. Acceleration is snappy for this big piece of iron, brakes worked well.

Beautiful to look at and delightful to drive, the Caribbean embodies all the traditional Packard values that make the marque so special. Look carefully and see if you don't agree that this is one of Packard's great works and it certainly doesn't look like a car built by a company that knew the end was coming. With beautiful color combination and great road manners, this will quickly become one of your favorite cars to drive.

PAINT CODE KO-Galahad Green, Orchard Green
TRIM 82-Dark & Light Green Nylon

Classic Auto Mall is a 336,000-square foot classic and special interest automobile showroom, featuring over 600 vehicles for sale with showroom space for up to 1,000 vehicles. Also, a 400 vehicle barn find collection is on display.
This vehicle is located in our showroom in Morgantown, Pennsylvania, conveniently located just 1-hour west of Philadelphia on the I-76 Pennsylvania Turnpike. The website is www.classicautomall.com and our phone number is (888) 227-0914. Please contact us anytime for more information or to come see the vehicle in person.