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Packard's first postwar droptops

Packard built upon its prewar Clipper model and dropped the top in 1946.
Packard officials captioned this picture as a late experimental design of the Super Eight Convertible Victoria 22nd Series introduced in the Spring of 1947 as a 1948 model. Very few evident changes were made for production.

Packard officials captioned this picture as a late experimental design of the Super Eight Convertible Victoria 22nd Series introduced in the Spring of 1947 as a 1948 model. Very few evident changes were made for production.

During World War II, forward-thinking experts at the Packard Motor Car Co. in Detroit imagined the new postwar models well before that war concluded. Like most American car companies, defense contracts were being adjusted or shortened, even increased, as evidence of a Cold War grew. Packard rushed to reinstall its prewar tooling and stamping units in order to stay economically alive. No one knew for certain what the car market could bear and what soldiers returning to civilian life would pick as their four-wheeled desires.

The modern Clipper styling, introduced mid-year 1941, proved sensational in a very short time. Fade-away front fender lines graced into front doors on the ’41 Clipper. An outstanding number were made: 16,600, according to reliable sources, all four-doors on a 127-inch wheelbase and priced above the popular Packard One-Twenty in the upper-medium price range. More than 19,000 Clippers bounded from the factory for the 1942 model run, which was curtailed by federal decree early that year. By then, the Clipper was offered in two ranges, powered by a six or straight-eight, and with two wheelbases of 127 or 120 inches. The question remained: Was the design still fresh enough for postwar 1946?

Packard set its model variations for what it believed would sell per customer needs. So, for 1946 and 1947, the Clipper styling was put in motion once again with hardly a jot-or-tittle of change. Basic offerings were a four-door sedan, a two-door club coupe and a long 148-inch-wheelbase version. The long-wheelbase version could be a divider-windowed limo with leather seat or a long sedan with a cloth interior, both meant to seat seven or eight with fold-down seats in the rear compartment. Top-end models came as Super Eights and Custom Supers. More medium-priced offerings abounded in the junior range of Clipper Eight and Six on wheelbases of 127 or 120 inches. Sales were respectable, but demand for a more modern look abounded with each passing month. Buyers wanted Packards that were not only new but looked newer than before.

So it was that Packard moguls at the headquarters strove to make a difference while maintaining Packard fit, finish, quality and styling. What resulted was a rotund appearance with slab-sided styling and plenty of room inside. Respected Packard comfort and performance were necessities.

The Packard design was of the design school that ran similar to Ford and Kaiser-Frazer offerings (even a smack of Hudson) for the late 1940s. A different school of design dominated General Motors cars that same time. A still different choice was evident in the boxier, high-hat appearance of Chrysler lines from Plymouth through Imperial. It was a true designers’ race to see which styles the public preferred.

Packard hedged its bet by updating the sleekness of the prewar Clipper with the boldness and fresher update of the nearly slab-sided school. The conservative result was fresh, but still carried Packard design motifs in the front grille, roof line and tastefully accomplished woolen interiors. Packard even promoted its new design in the taxi field (a much-neglected sales segment stilted by supply falling short of demand for several years).

Leading the introduction in the spring of 1947 was the Packard convertible, something that the Clipper line failed to deliver in early postwar years. (The only way to get a Clipper convertible before 1947 was for an owner to custom-order a redesign by a firm such as Derham, one of the few companies that still specialized in one-of-a-kind cars tastefully altered by shaving the top to suit the whim of the wealthy buyer.)

By August 1947, the Packard Super Eight Convertible Victorias, Model 2232 (Serial prefix 2272 for the 22nd Series), were occasionally changing hands from factory to dealerships to car buyers. Base price in the heart of the Midwest was a tad above $3,290. Some were gussied-up with overdrive and Electromatic Clutch (an early version of the semi-automatic transmission), vacuum radio antenna, white wall tires, under-seat heater and defroster, luggage compartment light, dual exterior mirrors, spare tire extension and oil filter, bringing the cost (less taxes and state title) to $3,618.95, according to sales invoices. That was more than $1,000 less than the Packard Taxi Partition models being offered that same month, and which were selling quite well, thank you. Still, the new well-equipped 1948 Convertible Victoria was priced $1,000 less than the last of the 1947 seven-passenger sedans and limos bearing the Packard moniker. Total sales of the 22nd Series Super Eight Convertible Victoria amounted to more than 7,700 for 1948, plus an additional 1,200-plus running the series into 1949. The more expensive Custom Eight 22nd Series Convertibles amounted to a production of a shade over 1,300 units for 1948-1949.

Of course, more of the Packard saga was being extended, thanks, in part, to the successful sales and income from cars such as those.

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