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1954 Packard Patrician

By Jeremy Wilson

A while back Tom Taylor owned two Packards: a 1953 300 convertible and a 1954 Pacific two-door hardtop. A four-door sedan would complete his early ‘50s collection--all body styles represented. But how to find a sedan in the same league as a convertible and a hardtop, both concours-level winners? Tom pulled it off, acquiring this super-rare, 1954 Packard Patrician.

“I found it through an ad in one of the Packard Club magazines,” said Tom. “I wouldn’t say it’s been totally restored, but it’s been repainted and had a lot of things done to it, so it’s in good shape. What really caught my eye, though, was the serial number. It’s the number one car. It’s the first car built in ’54. It’s 001. And it has every option they offered.

“We know it came off the assembly line with a Pacific and a Caribbean and the three cars were shipped to New York for a photo shoot in Times Square for the brochure.”

When Tom bought the car it was still on the East Coast and, coincidentally, had been owned for a time by Dwight Heinmuller of Heinmuller Packard Parts in Maryland, who provided some of the car’s history.

“Heinmuller read an ad by someone offering a ’53 Packard Executive, a seven passenger, which was fairly rare. He went to look and actually bought it. The seller then said, ‘I’ve got this Patrician too; do you want to look at it?’ What attracted him to this car was that it had factory air, which he had never seen before. They negotiated, Heinmuller took it home, and then discovered it was the number one car.”

The early air conditioning units were mounted in the trunk, with clear plastic vent tubes projecting up to the car’s roof; air inlets were mounted on the top of the rear fenders.

And the driver’s controls mounted just above the steering column, an apparent afterthought.

This Patrician has been restored to the point that it is very much like a new car. The interior has been reupholstered using the correct material, but Tom noticed the color doesn’t exactly match the brochure photo.

“It’s just like the original, except it is now gray instead of blue,” said Tom. “Most of the ‘54 Patricians had interiors with a different type of cloth, but this is the material they used in ’53. The parts book lists this material for ’54 also, but I don’t think very many of them were made that way, maybe just the early ‘54s.”

The Patrician’s copper-colored 359 cubic inch engine is a descendant of 1948’s 327 which was installed in Packard’s 22nd Series Super Eight. Its aluminum alloy cylinder head supplied a compression ration of 8.7:1 the highest in the industry. At 212 horsepower, the L-head motor was reasonably competitive, just behind the Chrysler Newport Deluxe (235 hp) and Cadillac (230 hp) but ahead of Lincoln (205 hp).

Tom’s favorite times with the Patrician have been taking it to car shows with his other Packards. Although the 300 convertible draws its share of attention, people really stop and take notice when they see all three “Chrome Era” Packards shown together.

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
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

In 1954 Packard’s sales brochure promoted its Patrician as a car for individuals who think for themselves.

The ad copy asserted...

This is a car designed for men and women who don’t like to follow the crowd. It is no longer necessary to leave your imagination behind when shopping for the best. For the new Packard gives you not only luxury--but individuality. A fine car with the greatest name in the fine-car field.

The subtext of the message is fairly obvious. The 1954 “crowd” was more interested in Cadillacs and Chryslers (both produced around 100,000 cars), and to a lesser extent Lincolns, which produced almost 37,000. Packard production totals were a dismal 31,291. In 1953 Packard produced nearly three times that number, close behind Cadillac and outproducing Lincoln by more than two to one.

What Packard really needed was a brand new V-8-powered lineup, but the company was in a period of chaos. Their new engine plant was under construction when Chrysler purchased Briggs Manufacturing Company, the body builder Packard had been using since 1940. Chrysler gave Packard notice that they would no longer be building Packard bodies after the 1954 model year. In the fall of 1954, Packard recovered by converting their Connor Avenue plant to a modern body assembly facility in just 62 days. That same year, Packard and Studebaker agreed upon a merger and on October 1, 1954 the Studebaker-Packard Corporation came into existence. Remarkably, Packard staged a comeback in 1955 with a new look, V-8 motors, and an improved Ultramatic transmission. 1955 production totals were 55,247 but this was its last hurrah, with sales dropping precipitously until its demise in 1958, a sad end to a great era in automobile history.

PRODUCTIONNOTES Production Notes...

According to the Standard Catalog of American Cars 1946-1975, 30,965 1954 Packards were sold and 2760 were Packard Patricians. Shipping weight was 4190 pounds.

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