Packard's demise in the mid-1950s was not due to the product but rather a series of mismanagement issues, the most glaring was the ill-fated acquisition of Studebaker. Packard's new management headed by former Hotpoint appliance executive James Nance had dual goals of cost reduction and reasserting Packard as a luxury car leader. They attempted to build four-door sedans in large numbers for less money while romancing clients at the other end of the spectrum who were seeking the highest performance and comfort the market could offer. It turned out to be a crucial oversight and one of several missteps that ultimately led to Packard's demise.
The Caribbean joined the Packard lineup in 1953 using styling cues from the 1952 Pan American show car designed under Dick Teague's guidance by Richard Arbib, the Caribbean was primarily Teague's work. Its design was tasteful, clean, sharp, and elegantly configurated, with full rear wheel well cutout, low air scoop at the front of the hood, 'fishtail' rear fender termination, exclusive wheel arch and rocker panel chrome moldings, chrome Kelsey-Hayes wire wheels, a rear-mounted enclosed spare wheel and tire, and special window sill chrome trim that dipped down to highlight the curve of the fenders.
The straight eight-cylinder engine displaced 327 cubic-inches, had a four-barrel carburetor, high compression cylinder head, and developed 180 horsepower. The transmission was Packard's Ultramatic.
Production began in March of 1953 and despite its late introduction and shipping delays, a total of 750 examples had been built by the end of 1953. The Packard convertibles were shipped to the Mitchell-Bentley Corporation in Iona, Michigan where the standard convertibles were modified with their Caribbean elements. They received a full leather interior and paint in one of four colors that included Packard's Polaris Blue, Gulf Green, Matador Maroon, or Sahara Sand. The hand-assembled Packard Caribbean convertibles had a list price in 1953 of $5,210 and were the company's top-of-the-line model, exceeded only by the semi-custom Patrician corporate/executive series sedans and limousines.
Up to 1954, Packard used a reliable but outdated inline, eight-cylinder engine based on a 1929 design, while the rest of U.S. automakers were using V-8 engines. Packard's first modern overhead-valve V-8, introduced for the 1955 model year, was conventional and large, reflecting many of the first generation Oldsmobile, Cadillac, and Studebaker Charles Kettering design features. Displacement sizes included 320- and 352 cubic-inches, and the Caribbean version used two four-barrel carburetors developing 275 horsepower.
When Chrysler announced its 300 horsepower engine for 1956, Packard responded with its 374 cubic-inch version used for its senior cars. The unit installed in the Caribbean used a two, four-barrel carburetor arrangement which developed 310 horsepower making it the most powerful engine available in an American production car that year.
Packard's 'UltraMatic' automatic transmission was designed and built in-house and featured a lockup torque converter with two speeds. The early versions of the Ultramatic normally operated only in 'high' with 'low' having to be selected manually. This changed in 1954 when the transmission could be set to operate only in 'high' or to start in 'low' and automatically shift into 'high.'
William Allison created one of the last major developments for Packard prior to its end of production. He created the 'Torsion-Level' suspension which many contemporary American competitors unsuccessfully attempted to imitate with airbag springs. Allison's design used an electronically controlled four-wheel torsion bar setup that balanced the car's height side-to-side and front-to-rear. It used electric motors to compensate each torsion bar independently and react to various road-going conditions.
Packard introduced all-new styling for 1955 that was both alluring and modern. The Caribbean remained as the top-of-the-line model with three-tone paint schemes, an ornate dashboard, and two-tone leather interiors.
A hardtop coupe was added to the lineup for the first time in 1956, although few other changes were made to the Caribbean. Another highlight was the reversible seat cushions which had two-one leather on one side, and cloth and leather on the other. Priced at nearly $6,000, they were higher than any other American car apart from the new Lincoln Continental Mark II. Despite having one of the most innovative and best-designed product line in its history, Packard ended production on June 25th of 1956. Caribbean production for 1956 totaled 276 convertibles and 263 hardtop coupes. by Daniel Vaughan | Apr 2020
Related Reading : Packard Caribbean History
The Packard Caribbean was a limited-production automobile produced from 1953 through 1956. It was inspired by the Pan American concept car that Packard had displayed at the 1952 New York Auto Show. It was available in convertible and hardtop form. Originally, only the convertible was offered but in 1956 the hardtop was introduced. The vehicle was outfitted with as many amenities available at the time.... Continue Reading >>
Related Reading : Packard Caribbean History
One of the signature cars of the 1950s, the Caribbean was built on the Packard 400 chassis. It featured Packards own overhead valve V8 engine with a displacement of 375 cubic inches producing 310 horsepower. An exclusive limited-production automobile, the regal Packard Caribbean was manufactured from 1953 until 1956. Offered in either convertible or hardtop form, the sleek Caribbean came with many.... Continue Reading >>
From its earliest beginnings right around the turn of the 20th century, Packard-built vehicles would be perceived as luxurious and plush, meant for the upper-class of society. And while the company would feature some fantastic roadsters and runabouts....[continue reading]
The Packard Caribbean Convertible of 1953 was inspired by the Pan-American show car. It was put into limited production with only 750 examples being produced. It featured classic Kelsey-Hayes wire wheels, low hood scoop, and full cutout rear wheel ho....[continue reading]
This 1953 Packard Caribbean Model 2678 is number 688 of 750 examples built. It had a base price of $5,209 and was a custom-built, two-door convertible. Power is from an eight-cylinder L-head engine that produces 180 horsepower. It has a single exhaus....[continue reading]
The Packard Pan American show car was shown at the 1952 New York International Motor Sports Show and it was met with much consumer excitement. Packard assigned young designer Dick Teague the task of transforming the Pan American show car into a produ....[continue reading]
Packard introduced the Caribbean model for the 1953 model year, inspired by Packard's Pan American show car from the previous year. The Caribbean was essentially a customized Packard Mayfair, with an air intake on the hood in place of the Packard mas....[continue reading]
Inspired by Richard Arbib's 1952 Packard Pan American show car built by Henney, Packard introduced the convertible Caribbean in 1953. It features circular rear-wheel cutouts, 'Continental kit' outside spare tire and chrome wire wheels, plus most ever....[continue reading]
This Packard Caribbean is finished in its original shade of Gulf Green Metallic (a color unique to this model) and was the 61st example to roll off the production line in Iona, Michigan. The car was delivered to Seattle, Washington on May 8th of 1953....[continue reading]
The Packard Caribbean was an exclusive and limited production vehicle with just 750 examples produced. Introduced in November of 1952 with the rest of the 1953 line, it styling was derived directly from the Packard Pan American show car of 1952. Mitc....[continue reading]
This Packard Caribbean Custom Convertible is powered by an overhead valve 'Thunderbolt' inline 8-cylinder engine displacing 327 cubic-inches and fitted with a single four barrel carburetor. There is a two-speed automatic gearbox, four-wheel drum brak....[continue reading]
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1953 Packard Caribbean Production Figures
Custom Convertible 750
90,252 total vehicles produced by Packard in 1953 The 1953 Packard Caribbean accounted for 0.8% of Packard's 90,252 production.