Our Cars: 1953 Packard Clipper

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

We all have cars that we’ve previously owned and miss for reasons that we can’t always remember the reasons why we sold them. Today is the latest in a new series of posts about cars that I’ve loved and cars that I’ve owned. If you would like to write a post about one of your favorite cars, please drop me note using the Contact tab above.

In 1941, the Packard Motor Car Company introduced the Clipper model as part of their nineteenth Series of automobiles. Later in 1948 as Packard issued its twenty-second series automobiles, the Clipper nameplate was dropped. When James J. Nance became the company’s president in 1952 he decided to separate Clipper as it’s own marque to target the mid-range market and keep it apart from Packard’s high-end cars. But dealers hated the idea of losing their best selling car and it became a Packard after all, that is until 1956 when it become a separate marque again only by then it was too late for Packard, the end was, as they say, in sight with the Studebaker merger.

It was hoped that Packard would benefit from Studebaker’s large dealer network and  Studebaker hoped to gain through the additional strength that Packard’s cash position could provide, what alas they did not really have. The original plan devised by Packard president James J. Nance and Nash-Kelvinator Corporation president George W. Mason was that the combined Studebaker-Packard would join a combined Nash-Kelvinator Corporation and Hudson Motor Car Company in an all-new four-marque American Motors Corporation.

Had these combinations actually gone through, the new company would have immediately surpassed the Chrysler to become the third of America’s “Big Three” automobile manufacturers. However, the sudden death of Mason in 1954 succeeded by George W. Romney, yup the Senator’s father, and disputes over parts-sharing arrangements between the companies doomed any chance of completing the proposed merger. The failure to combine the companies effectively sealed the fates of all four.

The above car is the 1953 Packard Clipper Club Sedan that Mary and I originally purchased to participate in The Great Race. We never made it into the event because our initial sponsors evaporated when it came time to put up the money. We kept the car only a short while after that and after participating in several car shows and Packard Club events sold it to a private museum in Phoenix.

What was surprising to me about our Clipper was how modern it felt to drive, especially when compared to its contemporaries from Ford and Chevrolet. The manual steering and brakes did not require excessive effort and after replacing the worn out shocks it drove and road like a modern car. The straight flathead eight cylinder engine would cruise at highway speeds and we easily kept up with traffic flow, never dawdling behind like an “old car.”

When driving it I always got big smiles from everyone from young people to grey-haired grannies. It was a great car to own, much cheaper to maintain than some modern German cars that Mary and I’ve have owned and unlike some other cars that appear in this series, it miss it to this day. (Mary does not.)

How I made this shot: The above image was shot near Brighton, Colorado at the outdoor Adams County Historical Society and Museum with a Leica R9 with Digital-Modul-R back. EXIF data does not record the lens that was used (and I don’t remember) but it was made with an exposure of 1/350 sec at f/13 and ISO 200.