The Packard Patrician was produced from 1951 through 1956. The first series was the Packard Patrician 400 produced from 1951 through 1952. The '400' was part of Packard's numerical naming structure, with the '400' designating the highest trim level available on a Packard.
The Packard 400 had extensive use of chrome trim. In comparison to the other Packard models of this era, it featured four chrome ports, chrome, and slightly revised grille, and chrome ports on its rear fenders. The body rested on a 127-inch wheelbase and was powered by Packard's inline eight-cylinder engine.
Production for 1951 and 1952 was low; in 1951 there were 9001 Packard 400 units produced and 3975 examples in the following year. The name '400' was dropped in 1953 and 1954. In the following years, there were slight trim changes and improvements.
In 1955 there were 9127 examples of the Patrician produced. The only body style offered was a four-door sedan. Under the direction of Richard Teague, the Packard Patricians were given a modernized grille, rear tail light ensemble, exterior trim, and two- and three-tone paint colors. The windshields were wrap-around.
The following year the headlights were revised which had them extending further, outwards. The areas around the headlights were painted black to further the illusion that they were extruding outwards.
In 1956, a total of 3375 examples of the Patricians were produced. This would be the final year for the Packard/Studebaker Patrician.
By Daniel Vaughan | Jul 2013In the fall of 1950 the John Reinhart-designed 24th Series Packard Patrician was debuted as the top-of-line Custom Eight replacement. From 1951 through 1954 the Patrician was built by the Packard Motor Car Company of Detroit, Michigan and from 1955 through 1956 it was built by the Studebaker-Packard Corporation of South Bend, Indiana. The model was constructed in Packard's Detroit facilities on East Grand Boulevard.
Packard used a naming system to classify the least expensive models from the highest with 200 being at the lower end, and the 400 being at the highest trim level. Much more contemporary and modern in comparison with the previous Packard models; the Patrician featured a 'three-box' shape. It used a nine-main-bearing, straight-eight flathead engine, it now displaced 237 cid rather than 356 and produced 155 hp. The Patrician 400 was easily set apart from its siblings by its chrome trim, and three chrome ports on the rear fenders. The 400 was only offered as a premium, four-door sedan, equipped with high-grade upholstery and plenty of interior chrome trimmings. All Patrician models received Packard's own Ultramatic automatic transmission. The outside of the car featured a cormorant hood ornament, cloisonné hubcap centers and 'teeth' in the horizontal grille.
For 1952 the Patrician remained basically the same from the year before with only two minor visual modifications. It now featured four chrome ports rather than the previous three. The Packard hired the services of Dorothy Draper; well known interior decorator, to freshen up the interior color scheme of the Patrician. Hassock-style rear passenger footrests and Wilton carpeting were now displayed inside the well-appointed automobile. The Patrician was the most expensive regular Packard available with a hefty price-tag of $3,662. While other Packard's only had a wheelbase of 122 inches, the Patrician rode on a 127-inch wheelbase only shared with the 300 sedan.
The following year the Patrician received similar exterior changes that encompassed the grille and side trim. For 1953 the Patrician 400 series was expanded with expensive long-wheelbase custom sedans and limousines. The base Patrician started at $3,735, the Derham-built formal sedan cost $6,531, and the long-wheelbase eight-passenger executive sedan by Henney was priced at $6,900 while the corporate limousine cost $7,100. The Patrician Custom Formal Sedan featured leather-padded roofs, sumptuous interiors, and small backlights on the standard Patrician frame. Unfortunately, sales were low this year with only 25 Derham sedans sold, 50 corporate limousines, and only 100 Henney executive sedans sold. A total of 7,465 Patricians were produced.
The Patrician used the same 327-cubic inch 9-main bearing engine in 1953 that it has used from 1951 through 1952, but it added a four-barrel carburetor for a nice boost in power. The new 359-cubic inch 9-main bearing aluminum head 212 hp engine was standard in 1954 and featured a 4-barrel carburetor. This year would be the first time a start-position was added to the ignition key. Before this, the driver would depress the accelerator pedal to the floor and actuate a switch built into the carburetor.
For 1953 and 1954 the 400 model name was dropped, though the Patrician name continued to inhabit the premium trim level Packard from '53 until '56. For the 1954 the basic 24th Series shape was ended. The Packard marque was divided into Packard and Clipper lines. The Patrician continued to represent Packard's highest trim levels sedans and rode on the 127' chassis for 1953 and 1954. The Patrician sedan became the Patrician Custom while the custom-bodied Henney passenger models, including the 149-inch wheelbase 8 passenger Packard Executive Sedans and Limousines were continued. The difference between the Sedan and the Limousine was the partition window between the front and rear compartments. The final year for the straight eight, a total of 65 Henney executive sedans, 35 limousines, and a total of 2,760 Custom sedans were sold.
Except for during 1954 when it used Cavalier-like trim, the Henney professional cars, which had various uses including as an ambulance or hearse, usually used Patrician-like trim. The professional vehicles were completely coach-built bodies that were built on Packard's separate commercial chassis, so their trim level had very little to do with the Patrician except for their general appearance. The Henney Junior, which was a short-wheelbase ambulance or hearse, was constructed on the standard Cavalier-Patrician chasses, but it used the 5-main bearing Cavalier engine instead of the 9-main bearing engine of the Patrician.
The Patrician was stylishly redesigned in 1955. The whole senior line of Packard's underwent an extensive redesign under designer Richard A. Teague that included a more modern grille design. The elegant bodies featured full-wide grilles, 'Cathedral' -styled rear taillights, side trim that allowed for tri-color paint schemes and sweep-around windshields. The new windshield brought the Patrician in line with other American automobiles of the era. The new trim at the base of the rear pillar made it appear as if the car had a redesigned roofline though Packard couldn't afford a whole new greenhouse for the passenger compartment. On the inside of the car a new dashboard layout was complemented with a machined-look stainless steel facing. The '55 model featured new 320- and 352-CID V8 engines along with self-leveling torsions-bar suspension on the top models. A total of 9,127 four-door sedans were produced for 1955.
For 1956 the Patrician received an updated headlight housing that overstated the front peak further forward. To give it even great depth the area surrounding the headlight was painted black. The grille also received a different texture. A total of 3,375 Patricians were produced during this year.
Unfortunately, negative publicity and poor customer experiences affected the Packard Company for the rest of its existence. After 1956 there would be no more big Packard's, only badge-engineered Studebakers, which also disappeared after the 1958 model year. The final true Packard built was a black Patrician sedan that rolled off the assembly line on June 25, 1956.
Today the Patrician model carries the distinction of being the final of the top-level Packard models built. The models are incredibly beautiful, very exclusive, and fun to drive.
By Jessica Donaldson