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Atlantic City bound: Interesting offerings at Taj Mahal auction

Many interesting classic cars were consigned early to The Classics at the Taj Mahal auction in Atlantic City, N.J., on March 1, 2013. Check them out!
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Packard’s ’53 Caribbean convertible was a specialty model.

Packard’s ’53 Caribbean convertible was a specialty model.

By John Gunnell

Many interesting classic cars were consigned early to The Classics at the Taj Mahal auction in Atlantic City, N.J., on March 1, 2013. This high-end sale kicks off the Atlantic City Classic Car Auction weekend on Friday evening with truly collectible automobiles. There will be an afternoon preview from 1-5 p.m., a cocktail party from 6-7 p.m. with the auction starting at 7:15.

Whether it’s the sluggish economy, new tax rules or just a growing hobby, the quality of the Taj Mahal entrants seems particularly strong this year. The consignments to date may also reflect trends in the collector market, since the cars are mostly premium postwar models with interesting histories or limited production runs. Early entries include a ’53 Cadillac Eldorado, a ’53 Buick Skylark convertible and a rare supercharged ’57 Thunderbird with an exquisite restoration in a rare Dusk Rose. Here are some details on five other stellar cars included in the Taj Mahal portion of the Atlantic City sale.

This 1927 Buick Country Club Coupe comes from Grant Miller.

This 1927 Buick Country Club Coupe comes from Grant Miller.

1927 Buick Master Six

The 1927 Buick Master Six Country Club Coupe is an automobile so handsome, a nearly identical car was used by the Fire Department in Buick’s hometown of Flint, Mich. That red Buick was the pride and joy of the fire chief, who picked a car that was fast and reliable.

The three-passenger Country Club Coupe has a blind rear quarter panels with landau bars. The rumble seat on this example was extra, but its golf bag compartment was standard. Buick Master Sixes featured a MotoMeter, scuff plates, clock, cigarette lighter, heater, smoking cases, vanity cases and shock absorbers. Buick liked the rich image, heftier prices and higher profits of the big-car market, and Master Deluxe models were trimmed for buyers in that market.

This Buick has received a rotisserie restoration and is finished in Light Mint Green with black fenders and Emerald Green mohair upholstery. The rumble seat is trimmed in black leather and the canvas top is accented with plated landau bars. All of the bright work is flawless and redone to the highest standard. The fit and finish of the vehicle is superb.

At $1,765, this 3,905-lb. car was one of the priciest 1927 Buicks, and only 7,095 examples were built. The inline valve-in-head six has a cast-iron block with a 3-1/2- by 4-3/4-inch bore and stroke for 274 cubic inches and 75 hp. It features four main bearings, solid lifters and a T4 Marvel carburetor. The 33 x 6 tires are mounted on wood spoke wheels with detachable rims. The three-speed, sliding-gear transmission with floor shifter carries the power to a full-floating rear axle.

This Country Club Coupe from prominent collector Grant Miller of Lockhaven, Pa., raises the bar for what a $100,000 restoration should look like.

1953 Packard Caribbean

The 1953 Packard Caribbean convertible was a $5,210 specialty model inspired by the historic automaker’s 1952 Pan American dream car built for Packard by Henney Coach Co. The Caribbean was Packard’s answer to the contemporary Buick Skylark, Oldsmobile Starfire and Cadillac Eldorado. Well-known industrial designer Richard Teague worked in Packard styling at this time and is credited with the Caribbean’s sporty and dramatic appearance.

A production Packard Cavalier body was modified to create this limited-production automobile. Mitchell-Bentley Corp. of Ionia, Mich., handled the custom fabrication work. In the modification process, all side trim was removed from the body for a cleaner look. Then, wide chrome moldings were added to accent the contours of the rocker panels and enlarged wheel openings.

A full-width air scoop was added to the hood, and the tail lamps were mounted horizontally in the “fishtail” rear fenders. Chrome Kelsey-Hayes wire wheels were fitted with a matching wheel in the center of the “continental” spare.

The Caribbean was released as a midyear addition to the line in January 1953, and automotive writers loved it. Production issues held up shipments until March. The car was made available in only four colors: Polaris Blue, Gulf Green metallic, Sahara Sand and the Matador Red metallic color seen here.

Powering the Packard was a classic 327-cid straight-eight of 180 hp, which was plenty in this era. This particular car — one of only 750 built — was originally sold and shipped to a customer in Lima, Peru. It was used in parades and ceremonies held there for years. The car returned to the United States in the 2000s.

After its return to this country, the Caribbean underwent a restoration that totalled more than $138,000. Steve Babinsky of Automotive Restorations rebuilt the engine, and Larry Fisher of Fatsco rebuilt the Ultramatic transmission. The perfect maroon paint job was topped off with a white convertible top and a matching tonneau cover. The interior trim in Caribbean Packards was natural leather in a variety of colors. This car’s maroon-and-white trim coordinates with its body and top colors. It has a power seat, a power radio antenna, power steering and power brakes. A modern AM/FM radio has been installed behind the face of the factory radio to make cruising more comfortable.

1954 Packard Caribbean convertible

The 1954 Packards arrived Jan. 15, 1954. The sportiest models had the nine-main-bearing straight-eight and were called the “Packard Line.” Included in this series was the limited-production Caribbean convertible, now with a $6,100 price tag. Only 400 of these cars were built. Packard’s President James Nance believed that giving cars specific model names such as Caribbean stressed the company’s luxury image and gave each Packard a distinct identity. Nance felt that models with a name would stand out and not be forgotten.

The Caribbean’s 359-cid eight had a 3-9/16 by 4-1/2-inch bore and stroke. With an 8.7:1 compression ratio and Carter WCFB four-barrel carburetor, this smooth-spinning engine made 212 hp at 4,000 rpm. The ’54 Caribbean also had new headlamp bezels, a chrome band of trim along the edge of the hood scoop, lower rear wheel cutouts, two-tone finish (color-keyed to the interior) and a “Caribbean” script on the front fenders. The sweep spear moldings began above the split tail lamps and ran straight to the front of the fender pontoon before arching to the upper beltline. New integral tail lamps were seen.

Standard equipment on the Caribbean included Ultramatic transmission, power steering, power brakes, windshield washers, white sidewall tires, power windows, a power seat, dual heaters and defrosters, a three-way radio with electric antenna, a continental spare tire, chrome wire wheels and wide chrome wheel housing surrounds with body sill and rear quarter panel extensions.

This example of the ’54 Packard Caribbean convertible has optional air conditioning and is in excellent condition from top to bottom. Inside the car, black-and-orange trim complement the black exterior.

Lincoln priced the ’56 Continental the same as a Rolls-Royce.

Lincoln priced the ’56 Continental the same as a Rolls-Royce.

1956 Continental Mark II

The Lincolns unveiled on Sept. 8, 1955, were said to reflect “more than three years of intensive styling, designing and engineering.” Almost a month later, and after an even longer gestation period, the new Continental Mark II took its public bow on Oct. 6. This modern interpretation of Edsel Ford’s classic 1940 Euro-styled Continental was an exciting product from Ford’s new Continental Division, which was a separate entity from Lincoln. More than 600 Lincoln dealers had signed up to sell the new, ultra-sophisticated super-luxury make by the time it was introduced.

The Continental Mark II made its debut at the Paris Auto Show. A long hood, short deck, restrained use of chrome and near-perfect proportions helped the Mark II show the world just how beautiful an American production car could be. Like its predecessors, it was an instant classic. Yet it was not an imitation. The Mark II was unmistakably modern in design, and its $9,507 price accentuated how special this car was.

Former Packard stylist John Reinhart and Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg legend Gordon Buehrig penned the shape of the Continental. It was an instant “star car” and a very rare one. Most saw Mark IIs in movies, but off-the-clock Hollywood stars could also seen behind the wheel of these cars on the street. Among them were Frank Sinatra who not only owned a Continental, he also made a rare TV commercial for the Mark II.

Virtually all of the power assists offered as optional equipment on Lincoln Capris and Premieres were standard equipment on the Mark II. This included automatic transmission, power steering and brakes, a power seat adjuster, power window lifts (including power-operated vent windows), white sidewall tires, a radio and a heater. Air conditioning was, however, still an extra-cost option.

The V-8 used in the Continental was a specially constructed Lincoln overhead-valve engine with a higher 10.0:1 compression ratio and a Carter four-barrel carburetor. This gave the Continental 300 hp at 4,800 rpm. Mark II engines were said to be “triple tested,” with Ford Motor Co. testing each on a dynamometer alone, with the transmission attached and once in the car.

William Clay Ford, Edsel Ford’s son, developed the Continental for Ford. He said “the Continental is designed for an exclusive prestige market consisting of persons with good taste who want an automobile embodying distinction, luxury and quality.” The Milestone Car Society named the Mark II a “Milestone Car” and New York’s Museum of Modern Art said it was the most attractive automobile of the ’50s.

The mostly handmade Mark II is a rolling piece of art and a product of exceptional craftsmanship, with a price tag that matched the Rolls-Royce of its time.

According to very accurate production numbers maintained by the General Motors marketing department, model-year production was 3,000 Continentals for 1956 and 587 in 1957. These numbers are slightly higher than the production totals quoted by various other sources that also have slight variations between them. Whatever numbers are correct, fewer than 3,588 were built.

The ’58 Pontiac Bonneville convertible shared the smaller Chieftain body.

The ’58 Pontiac Bonneville convertible shared the smaller Chieftain body.

1958 Pontiac Bonneville

Bonneville became the name of a Pontiac line instead of a single model in 1958. A convertible and sport coupe (hardtop) were offered. Both models used the shorter Chieftain wheelbase, but with a special longer, ribbed rear deck lid also used on Chieftain convertibles. There were “Bonneville” fender scripts and hood and deck lettering, four chevrons on the lower front fenders, four stars on the rear fenders and rocket-shaped, ribbed semi-cylindrical moldings. Standard equipment included a Deluxe steering wheel, chrome wheel discs and special upholstery. The Bonneville convertible was $3,586, and 3,096 were built.

A new 370-cid V-8 was released and Bonnevilles came standard with the Star Chief version that had a four-barrel carburetor to boost power to 255 hp with the synchromesh manual transmission and 285 hp with Hydra-Matic.

Tri-Power carburetion on standard blocks was $93.50 extra for Star Chiefs and Bonnevilles. The “standard” Tri-Power setup used three two-barrel Rochester carburetors, 10.5:1 cylinder heads and a high-lift camshaft for 300 hp at 4,600 rpm. The example offered at the Taj Mahal sale has this 300-hp Tri-Power engine. Rochester fuel-injection was a $500 option on any 1958 Pontiac and produced 310 hp at 4,800 rpm. A NASCAR-certified “extra horsepower” (Tempest 395-A) Tri-Power V-8 with 330 hp was also released. A Tri-Power Bonneville convertible was selected as the official pace car for the Indy 500 race in May 1958.

This Bonneville convertible from the exquisite Troby’s Memory Lane collection is finished in black and silver with a gray interior. It has power steering, power brakes, automatic transmission and the very rare hard-shell bucket seats that were added to only a handful of these cars. Only 10 percent of the convertibles built are thought to survive today, and this one has had a complete body-off-frame restoration that was recorded. A “shelf style” continental tire extension is also included. The car is in excellent condition and shows only 1,158 miles of use since its restoration.

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