1954 Packard Caribbean Convertible

by | May 9, 2019

Photos ©2019 Courtesy of RM Auctions

1954 Packard Caribbean Convertible

by | May 9, 2019

Photos ©2019 Courtesy of RM Auctions












RM Sotheby's


May 29 -June 1, 2019

It’s true some people think the only proper Packards were manufactured prior to World War II. There is also an argument that although by 1954 the fabled automaker was staggering through its last years, its Caribbean Convertible was a handsome alternative to Detroit’s other offerings and truly worthy of the Packard name.

First built in 1899 with 1-cylinder engines, Packards quickly established themselves as worthy luxury cars that fit right in with the top marques of several succeeding eras. Four have crossed the awards ramp at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance to win Best of Show, among them Phil Hill’s 1927 Packard 343 Murphy Convertible Sedan in 1977.

Though the company survived the Great Depression and World War II, it struggled after the war. Competition among Detroit’s Big Three was so intense, it had the residual effect of causing the smaller automakers to collapse in on one another. Still, James J. Nance, then Packard president, charged ahead with a hoped-for turnaround strategy.

In 1953, Packard shipped 750 convertibles to Mitchell-Bentley, a well-known body company in Ionia, Michigan, that worked for all the Detroit automakers. What Packard got in return were the exclusive Caribbeans.

For the 1954 model year, when only 400 of the convertibles were made, the Caribbeans were customized with two-tone paint emphasized by a chrome strip that glides down the beltline and rearward. Kelsey-Hayes chrome wire wheels add more exterior splash. Luxury elements inside include leather upholstery, and on the dash the instruments are in an oval-shaped inset and the 3-way radio has a power antenna.

The 1954 Caribbean is powered by a 359-cu-in. straight-8 with 212 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque, and it is mated to a 2-speed Ultramatic automatic transmission. Weighing in at around 4,570 pounds, the Caribbean is reported to be able to cruise (boat-like) from 0-60 mph in 13 seconds, but acceleration seems largely unimportant. What is impressive is the manner in which one could motor in a Caribbean on a warm summer day.

Original price for a 1954 Packard Caribbean Convertible was right around $6,000, which would be $57,000 in today’s dollars. As the Caribbean’s ad in the day proclaimed: “Why Struggle Against Temptation? Drive It Instead!”

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