Beginning in the early 1950’s Packard began their rebranding as a luxury car producer. In 1954, Packard acquired the Studebaker Corporation despite Studebaker being the larger company, Packard was in a stronger financial position. The following year they released the Packard 400 which was the hard top variant of the Packard Caribbean. The Packard 400 boasted a series of technical advancements such as a torsion suspension system, load leveling, and Ultramatic Automatic Transmission. In addition, there was also a series of cosmetic alternations implemented such as a new front grill, headlamp mounts, wrap around windscreen, and exterior trim format that allowed for two and three tone paint schemes. The Packard 400’s updated and modernized appearance in combination with its forward technologies made it a very appealing executive level car. A short production run of only two years resulted in about 7,200 units dispatched in 1955 and a little over 3,200 units in 1956 making it a relatively rare car.
The example on offer is chassis number 56871998, engine number 56871998 making it a desirable matching numbers example. This particular 400 Coupe has traveled 122,550 miles from new. Included with this car is a series of documents and receipts that date back to 1989 but the early history of the car is not fully known other than that it was titled in PA first in 1959. Based on the cars records, it seems to have spent a good portion of its life in Pennsylvania being purchased by one of its more recent caretakers in 1989 and then changing hands to what appears to be member of the same family as the previous owner in 1995. From 1995 to 1999 we can track a series of part purchases for the car that include small items like a battery tie down, wiper blades, etc. The car then seemed to change hands once more to its previous owner in 2013 and then recently welcomed into the LBI Stable.
This 1956 Packard shows an eye catching Heather pink and white exterior that has received a repaint at some point. It has incurred some very minor chips from being enjoyed on the road but is consistent with a driver quality example such as this one. The panel gabs all fall into acceptable clearances with only item worth noting bring the seam where the hood meets the grill, likely factory, but something we noticed. The chrome bumpers and trim pieces all show well overall however some are new, some are original and as such there are pieces that look excellent and others are original with some pitting. The wheels are nicely finished and the tires are new. The glass has incurred some wear but nothing severe, some light surface scratches here and there with the worst of it being a small area on the passenger which appears hazed. It is an item the driver would not notice however, it may be something a passenger would point out. All remaining items including the head and tail lights, grill, trim, and emblems are all in good condition, and are consistent with the rest of the car.
Pull open either door and you are immediately greeted with the artfully preserved original interior. An inspection of the door jams will reveal that some areas in the paint are cracked but in line with a driver quality example. The dash shows beautifully and was likely refinished at one point with the metal face giving this car a somewhat futuristic look. On the passenger side, it seems the metal face of the dash has incurred a slight indentation. All of the gauges show superbly and are fully operational. This example is equipped with the optional push button shifter pod mounted on the steering column, adding to the intriguing design of the car. The front bench seat has managed to remain presentable in its original condition and is an indicator that this car was well cared for throughout its life. An item to note is that some of the seams are being to separate but are not beyond repair. The rear seats are in amazing original condition are were certainly used less than the front seats which equates to the omission of some of the flawing the fronts have developed. The headliner and rugs are in unison with the state the rest of the interior is in. As a whole, the interior has developed a welcoming patina that can be appreciated by any enthusiast and its original condition puts one in awe given the reading on the odometer.
Moving to the engine bay, there lies the 374 cubic inch V8 power plant. Once again we see a fair amount of patina that has developed over the years but under close inspection it can be noted all components have been well maintained. All hoses are fresh, clamps are new and correct for the era, wires replaced, and valve covers polished. A walk around to the rear of the trunk and one will notice the liner to certainly be original. The original spare wheel is also present and well preserved. An inspection of the underside of the car will raise no cause no surprises and reflects the quality of the other areas of the car. The load leveling system is fully operational and provides an extremely smooth ride.
Mechanically, this 56’ Packard is a turn-key example. The current owner recently executed over $12,500 worth of service receipts, tending to all systems on the car including transmission rebuild, shifter adjustment, water pump, oil pan gasket, brakes, miscellaneous bushings, shocks, control arms, and the list goes on. The car starts without any hassle at all and idles comfortably. A push of a button and the car easily goes in and out of gear. Once on the road the car preforms flawlessly and provides a pleasant ride. The engine pulls nicely without any hesitation or smoke coming out the tailpipe. The brakes function as they should, bringing the 4,300-pound luxury coupe to a stop. This Packard certainly provides a 50’s driving experience without a doubt, and will surely provide an excellent weekend tour car.
In summation, this example is one of the last cars produced by Packard before they shut their doors for good. This is an example that has been tediously sorted mechanically that one can simply get in and enjoy. The original interior gives the car a distinct patina and adds to the collectability of the car. The Packard 400 is great car to go for cruise in and would be an interesting piece to take to a show as well as a quintessential 1950’s American car as an addition to one’s collection. Offered with the sale are the original books, spare, and service receipts.