1954 Packard Clipper Super Inline Eight from North America
Big comfy gas guzzling behemoth
Gas tank had rust, kept plugging up fuel filter.
Carb accelerator pump bad.
Rusty rocker panels.
Needed a tune up.
Leaked oil (cover for oil filer wasn't tightened down enough).
Leaky brake lines.
Electrical gremlins everywhere!
I had seen this thing sit out in a field for quite a few years. It was owned by someone who was renting the near by house, and they left the car there as payment for many months worth of rent payments. The landlord had no appreciation of this vintage gem. After trying for a few years to get rid of it, he gave up on it and parked it behind some round bales where it sat rusting away quietly.
One day I decided to rescue it from becoming a landmark. I talked to the guy, he was more than happy to get rid of the thing. He was going to scrap it so the price was based on that. I shelled out $450 bucks and came back the next day with my motorcycle. The guy had the battery on a charger. He looked at me, and then the motorcycle in disbelief. I figured just maybe I would get lucky enough and I would be able to drive it home. The battery was put into the car, and the guy pumped the mess out of the accelerator petal. Car rolled over a couple times and coughed and sputtered to my amazement. A couple more whirls from the starter and the car was idling. Quite amazing, since the car hadn't been started over a year. I gingerly hopped into the car and took it out for a quick spin to make sure everything was in order. Transmission seemed to shift well enough, all two forward gears and reverse worked. Brakes were grabby but functioning. Car didn't overheat. I turned around and drove the car the 12 miles back to my house. It wasn't a very quick drive. Car quit three times, and the third time it didn't want to go again. Wound up towing it the rest of the way home.
After some tinkering I found the fuel pump was bad, ordered a new one from Kanter for $120.00 bucks. Later I found out I could have gotten one from Car Quest, sans the vacuum pump for the wipers for less than half the cost. I cleaned out the fuel tank by leaving a mix of molasses and water in there for two weeks. It took care of the rust in there. The brake lines were fixed, but the electrical troubles still persist. Most of the lights don't work nor does the radio, but the power antenna works great.
Parts are easy to find through specialty parts suppliers but aren't cheap.
The biggest annoyance is where the dipstick is located for the transmission. It is tucked neatly under the floor pan where the only way to get to it is by jacking up the car and crawling underneath it. It also makes it very inconvenient to add more trans fluid.
The transmission cooler is also a rather poor design. It is an odd shaped device with no cooling fins. The outlet (inlet?) on the engine goes to this little thing and then proceeds to go the radiator. An aftermarket cooler would probably be a good idea.
The power steering setup is pretty unique and has nothing in common with more modern setups seen in the 60s. It is a hydraulic ram and there is no return to center. You can go around a corner, take your hands off the wheel, and the car continues to go around the corner. It takes a little getting used to. There is no road feel at all, I feel like I am driving a car in a video game. The ride is very smooth, this baby was built to gobble up the open road. Not much for take off but it can keep up with modern traffic decently.
Gas mileage is horrible, fuel economy wasn't very high priority for the Packard engineering team. I got 12-15 miles to the gallon. Road handling and braking are adequate even by modern standards but nothing to write home about. Overall it is a rather well built car.
I gave the car to my dad this summer for his birthday. Gas was rather expensive and I really wanted an older car that could get at least 20 mpg. I miss it but alas it has freed me up to begin another hunt for a lonely classic waiting to be rescued from the ravages of time and field mice.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 13th December, 2008
Yes Packards with the line 8 are thirsty.
Why are you using a collectible as a daily driver?
I drive my collectibles as much as possible. Only 8 minutes to work and park inside the shop. It's better to drive than sit; no seals to dry out, battery does not need a maintainer. The limited mileage does not hurt value and get to drive big block Chevrolets as well.