The 1953 Clipper was a distinct improvement on its 200 predecessor. It had a new grille, larger backlight, and cleaner side trim. Colors and interiors were brighter, fresher. But the 1953 Packard still had no V-8, so the Clipper made do with a 288-cubic-inch straight eight in use since 1948, though newly uprated to 150 horsepower.
The 1953 Packard Clipper was brighter outside
and more powerful under the hood.
The Clipper DeLuxe used a 327-cubic-inch, 160-horsepower engine. The business coupe had been dropped after 1951, but now there was an upmarket Clipper Sportster two-door sedan. While not a hardtop, it was painted in bright colors and came with fancier trim.
In 1954, aside from a reworking of the rear end, the base series became the Clipper Special, and the Sportster was moved to the Clipper DeLuxe line. A top-end Clipper Super range was added, including the first Clipper hardtop, dubbed Panama, another in a series of Western Hemisphere place names like "Caribbean," "Balboa," "Pan American," and "Pacific."
Only the Special had the 288 engine; the rest used the 327, which gained five horsepower for '54. Among all U.S. makes, only Packard and Pontiac still used straight eights.
The Clipper was a big, comfortable road car, with chair-height seats and smooth if not scintillating performance. It got around corners rather better than the ordinary Detroit balloon, and braking was notably fade free.
But 0-to-60 mph in 15 seconds was dull stuff compared to the scat of V-8 competition. Motor Trend suggested holding Ultramatic-equipped Clippers in Low to 50 mph, dropping into High, and skipping the torque converter part of the range. (A special governor kit adopted in 1954 allowed the high-range clutches to engage quickly.)
Packard's service department worried about what that kind of hot rodding would do to transmission life, and few drivers cared to hand shift automatic-equipped cars anyway.
The solution, in late 1954, was Gear-Start Ultramatic. This had two "Drive" ranges, one for torque-converter starts, the other for low-gear starts shifting automatically to high. The latter helped a little.
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