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1954 Packard Pacific

By Jeremy Wilson

Knowing the tricks of the trade can make the difference between a well-kept car and a genuine concours winner. With less than 1000 miles of use per year, this Pacific is definitely well preserved. But over the years, the paint had lost its luster, needing more than polish and wax. Owner Tom Taylor was happy to find a restorative solution.

“These cars were originally painted in lacquer,” said Tom. “[Restoration specialist] Dave McCready wanted to see the car, so I took it out to him and he thought the paint did not look quite right. Dave said, ‘This paint will buff up’ and I said, ‘Can you do that?’ What we ended up doing was wet sanding it back to another layer of paint. It had some chips so we touched them up and now it’s just like new.”

With a bit more cleanup and some minor mechanical work, the Pacific then won a trophy for “Best Original” at the Forest Grove Concours d’Elegance in 2005.

When Tom found this car he was actually looking for a 1953 Packard Mayfair.

“I had finished restoring my 1953 Packard 300 convertible and wasn’t really looking for a car. But I was thinking a ’53 Mayfair two-door hardtop, a kind of matching car to the convertible, would really be neat! Then along came one of the National Packard magazines with an ad for this ’54 Pacific. It was in Michigan and the seller said it was in really nice condition.

“It was originally sold in Ohio and the first owner was very well off; he only used it to go to the country club a few times in the summer. He had it 30 years and put 32,000 miles on it. The second owner had it for 20 years and put just over 7,000 miles on it, so it had 39,425 miles when I bought it as its the third owner!”

Although it’s not the car he planned to buy, Tom is happy he ended up with a 1954 Pacific.

“It is the equivalent of a Mayfair; they just changed the name to Pacific,” said Tom. “This is the only year that Packard made a car called the Pacific and it is even rarer than my 300 convertible. They made 1518 of the convertibles in ’53 and only 1189 Pacifics.”

So far, the Pacific has required very little mechanical work.

“All three of my Packards have hydraulic windows. This one developed a leak in the hose on the driver’s door and I had to replace the hose. I was talking with the folks at Hydro-E-Lectric, in Punta Gorda, Florida, who rebuild the hydraulic cylinders; they recommended I switch from brake fluid to automatic transmission fluid. They said it’s okay to just remove and replace the fluid on ‘53 and newer cars. ’52 and older need to have the hoses replaced because they’re made of something different.

“The only other work that I’ve done is to repair the speedometer. It was getting old and dry and no matter how fast you went, it wouldn’t register more than 30 miles per hour. I took it to the instrument repair shop and they fixed it. While I had the dash out, I decided to also do the clock but I haven’t gotten it back yet. The radio works and so does the electric antenna. It’s an AM radio, so it works but there’s nothing to listen to!”

It’s always tempting to upgrade a show car, even one as original as this Pacific.

“I would have installed Packard wire wheels on this car, as I have on my convertible, but these are the original wire accessory hubcaps. I’ve only seen one other set of these so I just left them.

Too often collectors are at least somewhat disappointed with the cars they buy, but not in this case.

“I’m very happy with it. I think this is my favorite of the three Packards, just because of its originality and its color is really interesting because it’s so representative of the ‘50’s.”

Recommendations
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.
History and Production Notes

Shortly before his death in an airplane crash in 1954, three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Wilbur Shaw penned a Popular Science Monthly magazine article titled King of the L-Heads: Packard Hikes Passing Power. The article’s subject was the 1954 Packard’s 359-cubic-inch engine. With an 8.7:1 compression ratio, it delivered 212 horsepower and 330 pound-feet of torque. But in retrospect, Shaw’s side comments are more interesting.

With its 1954 cars Packard is now going full throttle on its drive to recapture the luxury market’s first place in sales. Packard lost this position in 1936 to Cadillac. Probably the clearest sign of this race can be seen in the 1954 Packard body. It’s about the same as the 1953 body.

In other words, Packard once again will operate on the luxury-car formula: when a man invests in a big car he doesn’t want one that will scream “last year” within a few months after his last bank draft has been cleared.

This was Packard’s strategy in decades past, but General Motors had successfully changed the game. In his book Good Citizenship in America, David M. Ricci writes,

General Motors became the archetype of a modern company designed not just to make a product but also to market it successfully, not just to make things but also to move them out of the salesroom by provoking desire to the point where shoppers would discard what they owned even though it was still usable. The point, after all, was not to market object value but to create subjective impulses in the minds of consumers through advertising images and trendy styling. Or, in an odd sort of way, the point was to make profits rather than cars.

GM’s vice president Charles Kettering described how it all worked when he explained in 1928 that his company intended to persuade people to want things they did not need, to the point where what had once been wants would feel like needs that must be fulfilled. Kettering summed up the new strategy in a story about a man who complained to him that every time General Motors changed its models, the company in effect depreciated the car he owned. Not true, said Kettering. General Motors did not depreciate the older car. “What we did do was to appreciate your mind. We...elevated your mental idea of what an automobile should be.”

Exacerbating Packard’s 1954 sales problems was the fact that Ford and GM had began a price war, started by Henry Ford II in an effort to make Ford number one again. This, combined with Packard’s staid image and retro power plant, drove sales down to 30,965 units, the lowest since 1946 when the company was recovering from the war effort.

PRODUCTIONNOTES Production Notes...

According to the Standard Catalog of American Cars 1946-1975, Packard in 1954 sold 30,965 cars; 1189 were Pacifics. Shipping weight was 4040 pounds.

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