1956 Packard Caribbean
Chassis no. 5699-1107
Motor no. 5699-1107
Series 5688. 310 hp, 374 cu. in. overhead valve V-8 engine, twin four-barrel carburetors, Ultramatic automatic transmission, front and rear torsion bar self-leveling suspension, and power-assisted four-wheel drum brakes. Wheelbase: 127 in.
Many consider the 1956 Caribbean to be the last true great Packard – a limited-production automobile, beautifully fashioned to the highest levels of engineering excellence and sumptuous luxury. Packard had refined the previous year’s design, improving the transmission for greater reliability, and fitting a special “reversible” interior, with loose cushions faced on one side in cloth and the other in leather, as well as a metallic grille insert. Caribbeans also came standard with almost every available factory accessory, including dual four-barrel carburetors.
The Caribbean offered here is accompanied by copies of its Studebaker-Packard build information, noting it to have been originally finished in this sparkling color scheme of Dover White, Danube Blue, and Roman Copper, a trio that proved quite a popular selection for many of the 276 1956 Caribbean convertibles built. Other features included Solex glass and the optional Twin Traction Safety Differential, which was optioned on this car.
Interestingly the records on file note that the car was delivered directly to a customer at the Packard factory’s Service Garage, on February 9, 1956; however,1955-56 Caribbean Roster Keeper Stuart Blond’s records indicated it as assigned as a Public Relations car to Ellis Craig of the Universal Advertising Agency in Hollywood, California, and so may have led a rather interesting early life in Tinseltown!
The Caribbean made its way to California collector Bill Huffman (sometimes spelled Hoffman), who accumulated Packards for thirty years. He ultimately amassed a large collection that including around eighteen Caribbeans in the dry climate of the Mojave Desert east of Los Angeles. In the mid-1970s, Huffman sold his entire collection to another collector who hauled them to his tow yard in Santa Ana and began selling them off. In 1977 when circumstances pressured him to downsize, the remaining hundred or so cars were auctioned at a poorly-advertised sale, with any unsold cars immediately being fed to the crusher. Sadly it was too late before many club members learned of the auction; this infamous event became known as the Packard Crushathon.
Fortunately, this Caribbean was saved from the crusher by Joe Clayton’s stepfather, Wesley Norris, of South Gate and some work performed on the car over a number of years, including gathering many parts required for the restoration. The current owner acquired the car around 2007 from an owner in Montana, and began a body-off restoration. An avid and knowledgeable Caribbean enthusiast and serial collector of Caribbeans and other postwar Packards he has also been a member of both Packards International Motor Car Club and Packard Automobile Classics for the last five decades.
Much of the work, including a thorough mechanical restoration and paintwork, was completed by Mike Dotson of Montana, while a beautiful, correct interior was also fitted. The owner proudly notes that it retains its original engine, numbered to match the chassis, equipped with a correct factory dual four-barrel carburetor setup, and the restoration particularly with respect to accuracy and authenticity, benefitted from his years of experience with this model.
Since completion of the restoration in 2009, the car has been driven several thousand road miles, which tested the mettle of this car and has resulted in an extremely reliable car. Many of these trips were taken to various national meets, and it was a class award-winner at the Packard Automobile Classics National Meet at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, in 2010. Accompanying the car is a meticulous list of work and restoration costs kept by the owner over the years, as well as many of the corresponding invoices.
An unusually well-sorted example of the last great Packard, this Caribbean is offered from a loving, knowledgeable home, and is sure to be a favorite cruiser for the next owner’s collection.