This 1953 Packard is a curiosity. From the front, it strikes you as any other ’50s era design: contoured, smooth, chrome-festooned. But a look at the back reveals a full El Camino bay, which necessitated the removal of half of the cab. In essence, the Packard and Chevy El Camino are fused together to create an intriguing hybrid of sedan-meets-pickup: the “Clipperamino.”
But what is really neat about his car is the custom interior, which was done by Paul’s Custom Interiors, based out of Virginia Beach, VA. The video readily illustrates the extensive, handmade exactitude exerted on the car, with such restorations as completely reupholstered seats, rubber floor, headliner, door panels, front kick panels and cargo area. Paul said the project took him about two months to finish!
Packard Motor Company was founded in Detroit, Michigan in 1899 by the Packard brothers (William and James) and George L. Weiss. Established as a luxury brand, the founders became flush with capital when the Detroit nobility invested heavily into the company. The cars became huge hits at home and abroad; soon, trucks were built to accommodate commercial needs. Packard made more than $21 million in profit in 1928 alone–almost $300 million in today’s dollar!
Post-crash, Packard maintained its viability not only by producing just one line of car in a year, but also by trimming down features and amenities to sell the cars to the middle class market. The 1935 Packard 120 was less than $1,000 and sold well enough to warrant a massive factory expansion, where it produced higher-priced models as well as lower-priced models. The lower-priced ones, dubbed “Juniors,” were ironically more advanced than the “Seniors”; independent front suspension and hydraulic brakes were not introduced to the latter until 1937, two years later than the Juniors.
World War II turned the Packard plant into an engine factory, churning out supercharged, Rolls-Royce Merlin engines for the venerable, high-flying North American P-51 Mustang. Post-war, the company was well-off financially, and wasted no time producing mid-level cars that kept the company afloat, but less than sailing smoothly. Remodeled, late ’40s pre-war cars were deemed “new” with only minor changes to the aesthetic design, and marketed toward the middle class, but by the same stroke forcing the company to abdicate its luxury pedigree to Cadillac. In 1952, a revived campaign was waged by newcomer president James Nance, who dreamed of turning Packard around by debuting new luxury models like the Caribbean, which was well-received. It was too little, too late, however. A merger with Studebaker in 1954 proved to be the beginning of the end for Packard.
In the mid-1950s, several problems began to diminish Packard’s glossy, refined image: eroding popularity for the company; the merger with Studebaker, whose designs and production underestimated demand, went bust; and the forced recalls on Clippers for faulty wiring and transmissions did not do Nance any favors. Packard essentially died in 1956, when its last genuine car was produced.
Still, the Clipperamino is a sweet piece. Be sure to check out the rest of Paul’s projects here.