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Interview

1947 Packard Custom Super Clipper Eight

By Jeremy Wilson

In the April 1946 issue of Mechanix Illustrated, legendary automotive journalist and critic Tom McCahill praised the postwar Packard Clipper’s roadability.

“The Packard roll-control bar...makes this car one of the finest for the road ever built in this country.”

“The arm-building Packards of the past have faded into history; the 1946 model handles with the ease of a bicycle”

About the suspension and brakes: “The low-frequency coil springs smooth the ride” and “The self-energizing hydraulic brakes result in positive brake action and assure a longer life for the brakes.”

Interestingly, the 1946 and 1947 Packard Super Clipper Eights and the Custom Super Clipper Eights are also “Full Classics” as defined by the Classic Car Club of America (CCCA). In general “Full Classics” are “fine or unusual” cars dating from 1925 to 1941. But a handful of postwar cars are included, presumably because the body styles are similar to the prewar equivalents. These include some ’46-’48 models of Cadillac, Chrysler, Jaguar, Talbot and the aforementioned ’46 and ‘47 Packards.

So, if one wants to drive a “Full Classic” Packard with good roadability, a postwar Clipper may be the best choice. Matt and Karla Hackney had this in mind, which led to the purchase of their 1947 Limousine.

“We had wanted a ’47 for several years,” said Matt. “We like them because it’s the last year for Packards being accepted as (CCCA) “Classic Cars” and they’re very drivable. I had purchased Oregon 1947 plates about 3 years earlier in Washington at an antique store, and was happy to finally have a car to put between the two plates. I knew I’d own one someday, I just didn’t know when or how.”

Although the Hackneys knew they wanted a 1947 Super Clipper Eight, they weren’t looking for a limousine.

“My preference, I think, would be a sedan because you can adjust the front seat; in the limousine the travel is limited. But it’s kind of fun to have a Limousine, it’s a little novel. Ours has the roll up window, which is kind of a joke, because my brother-in-law with 2 children says, ‘How come I have the kids and you have the car with the roll up window?’”

The limousine was offered on eBay and its condition was a little overstated.

“According to the eBay ad, it was in fabulous condition,” said Matt. “When we got it home, we realized the seller’s definition of ‘fabulous’ might have been a little bit tainted. But unfortunately, once the cash is transferred, it’s hard to get it back. He had a good rating and we didn’t berate him but it wasn’t as nice a car as it was presented to be. That’s water under the bridge; it doesn’t matter at this point.

“But we love the car! I love driving it. The first time I drove it I went to engage the overdrive and took my foot off the accelerator and there was this really soft clunk. It was in overdrive and it was so smooth that I thought to myself, ‘Wow! This is how they worked when they were new.’ Our ’49 has overdrive but it’s not nearly as smooth as the ’47.”

Although the ad said the car was original, the “original” paint wasn’t always easy to find.

“It was dubbed as a very original car and it is very original. It supposedly has a lot of the original paint--it was just underneath the few layers of other paint. There was a little bit of Krylon thrown on it and a few other things, so we had to address the paint. There were also a lot of dents in the long, lower panels that run the length of the body to make the car look lower. It looked like they had gone over a few stumps on one of the panels and it took us several hours to straighten it out.”

The Hackneys have been able to piece together some of the car’s history through conversations with a fellow club member.

“We don’t know who originally bought it; we assume it may have been a funeral parlor or something like that. The seller had it in Seattle for about 10 years. The man who owned it before that had it in Sacramento for 20 or 30 years before that. We actually knew him through the Packards International club and didn’t know he had owned the car until after we purchased it.

“It’s been on a lot of car tours as a collector car but it only had 75,000 miles on it. It’s pretty tight, runs well, and as I said, the overdrive works like a dream.

The Hackneys plans for their limousine include more tours and some additional restoration.

“We’re going to use it as a fun driver and one of these days, we’d like to take it on a multi-state tour--just pile it full of people and take off.

“Mechanically, it’s pretty sound. The engine really runs pretty good. I think if we do a valve grind on it we can just drive it. And we’ll replace the wiring loom prior to the upholstery going in because some of the wiring runs through the headlining.

“A lot of the upholstery in the back looks pretty good, but it’s fairly fragile. It lived most of its life in Northern California, in the Sacramento area. It was originally purchased in San Jose where there is a lot of sunshine. It was stored outside for many years and the sun got to it.”

And here’s a valuable tip that may help you on your next restoration:

“We also have a little bit of glass work to do on this one and we plan on replacing some of the rubber door and window seals. Although I’ve heard of a way to restore the rubber it it’s not broken up. The former national president of the Nash Car Club, Terry Davies, said to just douse it with a little bit of glycerin and that will soften it up. There’s a school in Washington that’s doing an experiment to see just how long it lasts.”

One of the Hackneys favorite times with the limousine was at the Annual Historic Irvington Home Tour in Portland, Oregon.

“We were with several of our friends and had put our ’38 Packard Coupe on display for the Irvington Home Tour. We piled in the limousine and went touring (they had given us free tickets for entering the coupe). We had a lot of fun driving around the neighborhood and going from house to house. It was raining hard that day and the car was just a mess when I brought home. But we did have a lot of fun and turned a lot of heads!”

Comments
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Click on any item below for more details at Amazon.com

Beverly Kimes
Packard: A History of the Motor Car and the Company
Automobile Quarterly, Hardcover, 2005-01-01

”The magnificence and coverage of the work is just unimaginable. This book is of major importance.”

-- Keith Marvin, The Society of Automotive Historians Inc.


R.M. Clarke
Packard 1946-1958 Gold Portfolio
Brooklands Books, Paperback, 1988-12-12
This is a book of contemporary road tests, specification and technical data, new model introductions, long term tests, development.

Dennis Adler
Packard
Motorbooks International, Hardcover, 1998-10
This is the complete story of Packard, from its earliest days in 1899 through its final demise in 1958. Archival b/w photos, as well as beautiful new colour photos, accompany a thoroughly researched text.

The Hemmings Motor News Book of Packards
Hemmings Motor News, Paperback, 2001-03
From pre-war models like the 526s, 734 Speedsters, and Sport Phaetons, to the Custom Super Eights, 300s and Caribbeans of the baby-boom era, this book of Packard’s finest thoroughly examines nearly a dozen of the independent manufacturer’s significant models from 1928-1958.

Packard Motor Cars 1946-1958 Photo Archive: Photographs from the Detroit Public Library's National Automotive History Collection
Iconografix, Inc., Paperback, 1996-04-11
This book covers Packard’s Final Years. It includes the twentieth through twenty-sixth series, 5400 through 5600 series, and the final S7L and S8L series cars with factory & custom bodies.

Evan P. Ide
Packard Motor Car Company
Arcadia Publishing, Paperback, 2003-06-03
The images featured in this book represent the early years at the Warren, Ohio and Detroit, Michigan factories. Packard Motor Car Company contains rare images from the Larz Anderson Auto Museum that were saved from the Packard factory and the personal collection of James Ward Packard when the company closed.

National Automotive History Collection (U. S.)
Packard Motor Cars 1935 Through 1942: Photo Archive : Photographs from the Detroit Public Library's National Automotive History Collection (Photo Archive Series)
Iconografix, Paperback, 1996-02
1935 marked Packard’s move from a purely luxury car builder to a builder of luxury & medium price cars, in a effort to broaden its market. Shown are the twelfth to nineteenth series Packards, including the 115, Packard’s first 6-cylinder car in nearly a decade, the 120, 160, 180 and the last of the fabled 12-cylinder Packards.
History and Production Notes

After World War II, the biggest challenge facing American automobile manufacturers was reviving production capability to meet pent-up consumer demand. For Packard, the task was particularly grueling. In late 1945 and early 1946, labor union work stoppages and strikes at supplier companies stopped production for nearly three months. Although the manufacturing equipment had been weatherproofed, four years of exposure to the elements had severely damaged much of it. Redeployment of the more than 3000 machines would hinder production for several years.

In spite of the hurdles, Packard somehow produced over 42,000 cars in 1946, nearly two-thirds the volume of 1941. This, however, did not come close to meeting the expectations of its dealer network, who had been promised 100,000 cars. Making matters worse was the President George Christopher authorization of over 250 new outlets in anticipation of meeting his 1944 promise of a 200,000 cars per year postwar production rate.

With a huge ready demand, and plans for a new Clipper design in 1948, there was little reason to waste valuable time and resources on the 1947 lineup. In an effort to convince the car-buying public that changes were unnecessary, Packard ran the above-pictured advertisement in July of 1946.

The announcement text said,

We don’t know, for certain, what other car manufacturers intend to do. But, here at Packard, we have already made an important decision: There will be no new “next year’s” models introduced this fall. Nor will there be any major changes in the superb Packard we are now building--at least until well into 1947.

The ad goes on to list the reasons:

  • Not stopping production for “tool up” changes
  • Protecting the motorist who buys a 1946 from looking dated in 1947
  • The backlog of orders on hand show the 1946 Packard is the car America wants
  • The 1946 Packard is the best-looking car on the road and is actually ahead of its time
  • No car ever built in Packard’s 46-year history has ever won such spontaneous, enthusiastic, nation-wide acclaim as the 1946 Clipper

1947 Packards were introduced on November 11, 1946 and, as announced, featured no major changes. In fact, the only noticeable difference was the two-tone paint scheme on the four-door sedan. In 1946, the top color was applied to the window frames and the trunk. In 1947, as with the 1941-42 models, the top color was applied only to the roof.

More on the 1946-47 Packard styling can be found on this page: 1946 Packard Custom Super Clipper Eight.

In the April, 1946 issue of Mechanix Illustrated, Tom McCahill says,

Rated as a medium-priced automobile, the 1946 Clipper is definitely on the high side of that bracket, but there is no disputing the fact that the buyer receives his money’s worth in comfort and performance. I was immediately impressed with the abundant power and ease of control. On pick-up tests, the Packard gets away like a bee-stung rabbit, which is only natural when you consider that the Clipper “8” engine has a horsepower rating of 33.8 and develops 125--a powerful automobile engine in any league.

Note: The subject of this page is a Custom Super Clipper Eight. It has a 356 cubic inch engine and develops 165 horsepower.

PRODUCTIONNOTES Production Notes...

Packard produced the first generation Clipper body style for two years before the second world war (39,051 total units) and for two years after the war (81,880 total units). The main difference between the pre and post war styling was the spacing of the horizontal bars in the center grill.

Over 300,000 units of second generation Clipper were sold between 1948-1950.

The body of the Custom Super Clipper Extended Wheelbase Line was built by Briggs Manufacturing Company (as were the other lines), then extended and modified by Henney* and delivered back to Packard as finished “custom” cars.

According to the Standard Catalog of American Cars 1946-1975, 55,477 Twenty-First Series 1947 Packards were sold and of those 1,790 were 2126 series automobiles.

Series
Number
Body/Style
Number
Body Type
& Seating
Factory
Price
Shipping
Weight
2126 2151 Sed-7P 4357 4870
2126 2150 Limo-7P 4521 4900

For years Packard bodies used a different number sequence than the chassis. The 1946 Packard was a 21st Series car while the bodies were numbered in the 1600s. In 1947 the series numbers remained the same while body numbers were moved up to the 21st series and thus had numbers that started with 21.

* The Henney Packard Motor Company was a large factory located in Freeport, Illinois, employing over 300 workers in 1939. In the early days it was a buggy factory, but it became a hearse and ambulance factory associated with Packard. The company closed in 1954.

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