Handsome, well-maintained example of Packard’s last great car. One repaint, beautiful original interior, fantastic chrome and trim. Everything works including pushbutton Ultramatic and auto-level suspension. Great ‘50s cruiser that isn’t the same old thing.
This particular The Four Hundred has one repaint some years ago in the original code MP Jamaican Yellow over Dover White, which still looks fantastic today and could almost pass for a very well preserved factory paint job. Packard gave the The Four Hundred that lovely strip of ribbed trim bisecting the sides of the car and providing a dividing line for the two-tone paint jobs, and it’s remarkably well-preserved. Since it’s a casting, it should be subject to pitting, but the trim on this one shows almost zero issues—that’s really extraordinary for one of these cars. In fact, all the chrome and stainless trim is in great shape, from the familiar Packard crest on the nose and tail to the gold anodized “The Four Hundred” emblems to the awesome rear bumper with built-in exhaust tips. Whatever Packard’s financial status may have been in 1956, it didn’t show in their styling.
The two-tone Primrose and Black interior remains almost entirely original as well, and there’s nothing you could do today to replicate that funky brocade fabric. It’s beautifully detailed and very ornate everywhere you look—this car had to be insanely expensive to build. The upholstery is in fantastic condition with the only notable wear being a bit of fraying on the driver’s seat back where someone might grab it to pull the seat into position when in the back seat. The seats are comfortable, there are no split seams, and the door panels are highlighted by more finned trim in equally good shape. The lovely instrument panel uses a gold-toned mesh as a background, and the theme continues in the gauges that are as ornate as anything from the 1930s. This car has the optional pushbutton control for the Ultramatic transmission, and it works properly. There are switches under the dash for the electric fuel pump, which is useful for priming after a period of inactivity, and one to disable the auto-leveling suspension—believe us, it’s a little disquieting to go out into the garage and hear the The Four Hundred adjusting itself in the dark. The headliner has three or four holes that have been reasonably well patched, but given that it’s original, we think that’s a forgivable sin. There’s also a well-finished trunk wearing its original lining materials and carrying a full-sized spare and jack assembly.
Packard enlarged their V8 to 374 cubic inches in 1956, which had the side-effect of adding 30 horsepower. As a result, this Packard feels very energetic on the road, and despite its rather extraordinary heft it steps off with enthusiasm from a stop and cruises effortlessly at speeding-ticket velocities. It’s easily identified by its gold-painted valve covers, but is otherwise unremarkably detailed—black engine block, familiar dual inlet air cleaner, and a Carter 4-barrel carburetor. It starts quickly and easily, idles smoothly, and as I mentioned, pulls this big hardtop around like it weighs 800 pounds less than it does. It has no bad habits, stays cool in traffic, doesn’t smoke, and generally goes about its business like a Packard luxury car should. There’s even a new insulated hood pad to help keep noise and heat at bay.
The Packard Ultramatic is one of the better-engineered automatic transmissions of the era and it shifts properly. It’s a 3-speed unit, but with 3.54 gears out back and a mountain of torque, the The Four Hundred never feels flat-footed. Look around underneath and you’ll see that spending most of its life in Texas has kept the car’s vitals in excellent condition—just check out that spare tire well! There’s no rot in the floors, the frame shows no signs of ever being bent, and a recent dual exhaust system uses NOS mufflers for exactly the right sound. As I mentioned, the auto-leveling torsion bar suspension works correctly and it’s really an ingenious design that neatly eliminates all the problems the other guys were having with their air springs. There’s recent service work to the brakes, newer shocks, and a few other signs that this car has been properly maintained all its life. Factory steel wheels are finished in bright red for a bit of contrast and wear factory wheel covers and a set of 225/75/15 Diamondback wide whitewall radials.
The Four Hundred includes an owner’s manual, original shop manual, 1956 Packard full line brochure, a salesman’s guide to the torsion bar suspension, paint chips, and a stand-up show board with period advertising. It also comes with a few extra parts and some touch-up paint.
We like the The Four Hundred, and unlike some other 1956 models, the Packard is extremely affordable, ringing in at a price that’s probably less than a Chevy—how’s that for value? Call today!
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