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1951 Packard 200 Deluxe Sedan

By Jeremy Wilson

Packard’s Twenty-Fourth Series was introduced on August 24, 1950 for the ‘51 model year. The Society of Motion Picture Directors named this Packard “the most beautiful car of the year,” and press reviews were positive: Auto writers praised Packard’s acceleration, high-speed handling, and its longer, lower body style with the horizontal grill and generous visibility.

Consumer response was also positive. Model year production totals were the third highest in Packard’s history, topping 100,000 cars. The Twenty-Fourth Series turned a tidy profit for the company.

Fifty-two years later Packard owners Herb and Bobby Shaw were considering adding to their already owned 1941 Packard 160 Coupe, a convertible from the same year. A fellow club member called to tell them about a car they should see.

“Roger Eddy knew what I was looking for,” said Herb. “He told me, ‘I think there is a Packard you ought to take a look at,’ and I asked, ‘Great, what year is it?’ He said, ‘1951,’ and I said, ‘I’m really looking for a pre-war car.’ Roger said, ‘Yes, but you really ought to take a look at this car,’ and I asked, ‘What body style is it?’ He said ‘Four-door sedan.’ I said, ‘Roger, I really don’t want a sedan. What color is it?’ He said ‘Green!’

So Herb went to look at the car even though it was not the right make, year, body style, or color. And although you might call it a “barn find” it wasn’t really in a barn.

“The owner was Neil Reiling and the car had belonged to his parents who were farmers. It was sitting in a garage next to Neil’s house and he said, ‘This is what it has looked like for the last 30 years. She drove the car and he drove his trucks but sometimes he used the Packard to pull a livestock trailer so there’s a bumper hitch on it.’”

“I thought, here’s a real survivor, and then Neil said ‘I’m retiring and turning the farm over to my son so I really don’t want to deal with this car anymore. We grew up in this car and when we would sit in it my mother would admonish us if we had our legs up on the seats or if we scuffed the side panels with our shoes. Take a look at it, you won’t see any scuff marks.’”

Herb later returned with his mechanic who was so impressed with the car he couldn’t help but say so.

“Hurley York was a fine mechanic and we looked the car over and drove it. It didn’t drive very well because it needed some work including a carburetor and fuel pump overhaul as well as some valve attention. I was trying to negotiate the deal with the owner and Hurley was saying things like, ‘Look at how straight it is!’ and ‘Boy, it’s hardly used!’ and Neil said, ‘He’s not much help to you is he?’ We both laughed and settled on a very fair price that included an immediate offer to haul the car to my house.”

Herb and Bobby’s Packard has accumulated less than 1000 miles per year since it was new, and it shows.

“When we purchased the Packard, it only had 52,000 miles on it. It’s all original except a couple of fenders that have been repainted. And it had seat covers on it, apparently from when the car was new. When I first saw it, the back cover had been removed, so I removed the front one and the upholstery is like new. So far, I’ve only had to rebuild the leaky Ultramatic transmission and repair a compression problem in the engine.

“The mechanic hadn’t rebuilt an Ultramatic before but he read up on it and got as much information as he could and then tore into it. The transmission worked fine but it leaked badly. Now it still leaks a small amount, but mostly after it has been sitting for a while. Otherwise, it is a very smooth and quiet transmission.

“When they were trying to tune the car up it wouldn’t run just right so my engine mechanic, the late Jim Classen, pulled the head and changed out a valve. He noticed there was a hairline crack going down one of the cylinder walls. What he did was to drill a series of holes and install specially hardened screws right next to each other. As I found out, this is a trick that has been done for years. So now the compression readings are all high and it has good oil pressure.”

Note: One company that sells the special “screws” as well as other cast iron repair solutions is Lock-N-Stitch (www.locknstitch.com).

The Shaws have been using their Packard for seven years now and it’s proved to be very reliable.

“We’ve been using this car for tours and it’s comfortable and of course with this model we can take people with us. There’s no electric fuel pump so you have to pump it a few times if you haven’t driven it in a while. Otherwise, it starts quickly.

“The motor is a 288 cubic inch straight eight with 135 horsepower. Once started it’s fine, but the Ultramatic is really slow on the pullout as every Ultramatic driver knows. It’s a one speed, like the old Dynaflow transmissions. The selector has Drive and Low, but by default it starts out using the torque converter, and then locks into direct drive once you get going. You can put it in Low manually when starting out--that makes all the difference in the world. It really is a road car though--it loves to cruise at 60mph.”

Herb and Bobby have only driven the car about 1000 miles per year so gas mileage and fuel grade are not significant issues.

“It gets about 12 miles per gallon and I use high test because it has an additive that regular does not have. A lot of the old mechanics have said to use high test as it is a little easier on the valves. It doesn’t seem to burn oil.”

Herb was able to bring the paint up to its current luster using a product named System One.

“I had read about the product in one of the car magazines a few years ago and everybody had raved about it. I called the distributor who was in Montana and he ended stopping by on his rounds to give me and a couple of guys a demonstration. The stuff is unreal and it really worked like a charm.

“What I probably will do in about a year is use an auto paint clay bar. There are tiny particles of dirt that don’t come off with washing or waxing. The clay will smooth that out.”

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.

Smartwax 40101 Smart Clayblock Long Lasting Clay Bar Alternative Surface Cleaner

A fast and easy way to safely and easily removes rail dust, water spots, tar, bugs, and paint overspray from automotive paint and glass surfaces. A single bar will do 15-25 full size vehicles.

History and Production Notes

The 1951 Packard had a lot going for it: New “Contour Styling,” the Ultramatic transmission, and a reasonably powerful straight-eight engine. This advertisement read:

It’s more than a car--it’s a PACKARD

Standing alone--not only as the most distinctively beautiful ...but as the finest performing car of the year! Consider, for example...

In today’s field of high-compression power, Packard gives you America’s highest-compression eights. In the field of automatic drives, Packard alone gives you Ultramatic Drive...unequaled in smooth efficiency.

The list of Packard “exclusives” runs long--with a new kind of restful riding comfort and handling ease...new service-free durability...new everything!

Above all, it’s a Packard...with superiority backed by most the illustrious name in motordom! Come see it--drive it--at your nearby Packard showroom...now!

The base prices of the 1951 Packards ranged from $2302 for the Businessman’s Coupe, to $3662 for the Patrician 400 (similar to a Cadillac on the low end and between Cadillac and Buick on the high end). How did Packard evolve from dominating the luxury market in the ‘20s and ‘30s to playing catch-up with Cadillac?

In the early thirties, the Great Depression had pushed Packard sales down to one quarter of what they were in 1929. To address the problem, the company made plans for a medium-priced, “Junior” car and began tooling up for volume production in 1934. The eight-cylinder Packard “120” was introduced in early January, 1935 and became an instant hit with the car-buying public. Nearly 25,000 units were sold that year. In 1936, sales more than doubled. In 1937, the new Junior line was expanded to include a six-cylinder model, the Packard “Six.” By the decade’s end, nearly half a million Junior Packards had been sold, keeping Packard in business, at least for the time being.

As the Junior sales rose, the Senior sales declined. Some debate exists as to the role the Junior cars played in the Seniors’ lackluster sales. But the American way of life was changing and the demand for luxury vehicles had nearly evaporated. Pierce Arrow, Duesenberg, and many other luxury marques were going out of business but Packard, thanks to its popular Juniors, survived.

In 1934 Packard hired George Christopher, a retired General Motors production specialist, to help with the manufacturing of the Junior cars. His success with the new line eventually led to his appointment as president and general manager in 1942. Christopher saw volume production as the way to do business so it was no surprise when, after WWII, Packard moved forward with only its Clipper line, abandoning all the “traditional” models having the vertical-slatted grills. The Clippers sold well in 1946 and 1947, as did the restyled “Bathtub” Clippers in 1948-49. But the public, and even Packard employees, were divided on the “Bathtub” look. In 1950, though sales had dropped off, Christopher wanted to continue reworking the “Bathtub” body into 1951 and beyond. His chief engineer balked, along with the company’s board of directors, resulting in Christopher’s resignation at the end of 1949.

Hugh Ferry was named to replace Christopher and almost immediately, Ferry began looking for a replacement. He soon found James J. Nance, then CEO of Hotpoint (a subsidiary of General Electric). However, Nance did not accept the position until 1952.

So it was under Ferry’s watch that the Twenty-Fourth Series 1951 Packard was developed and sold. The new body was styled by John Reinhart and his staff, and promoted by Packard’s marketing department as having “Contour Styling.” Noteworthy are the bold, oxbow-shaped grill and the high beltline, raised by the engineering department because of the high cost of glass. In Packard: A History of the Motorcar and the Company, Reinhart said, “I wasn’t particularly happy with it, but then I hated every design I ever made anyway. You never really get what you want because you have to compromise; the thing could have been a lot better looking had we the option of altering the glass along with the sheet metal.”

After the war, Cadillac’s strengths were its wide selection of models, its untarnished luxury image, and the support of a huge corporation. Packard outsold Cadillac in ‘46, ‘48, and ‘49, despite Cadillac’s advantages. But it stumbled badly in ‘50, selling fifty percent fewer cars than its competitor. The ‘51-‘53 models were received well by the public and for a time, Packard was at least in the running, but sales fell precipitously in ‘54 and ‘55. Between ‘56 and ‘58, its final year, fewer than 20,000 cars were sold. So ended a glorious marque.

PRODUCTIONNOTES Production Notes...

According to the Standard Catalog of American Cars 1946-1975, during the 1951 model year, Packard sold 100,132 cars. The production total for the 200 Deluxe Sedans was 47,052 and its shipping weight was 3660 pounds.

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