When the once-mighty Packard released its 1953 Packard Caribbean, sporty cars weren't attracting many sales in the '50s. However, they sure attracted buyer attention that helped move less interesting stuff. The brainchild of new company president James Nance, the flashy, top-line 1953 Packard Caribbean convertible was part of his effort to restore Packard's pure-luxury image and thus boost sales after years of decline from an over-reliance on medium-price cars.

1954 packard caribbean
The 1954 Packard Caribbean was designed for an elite audience,
which crippled its sales. See more pictures of classic convertibles.

The Caribbean borrowed visual cues from the earlier two-seat Pan American show car, but was a full six-passenger model derived from Packard's standard convertible. That meant the same 122-inch wheelbase as Clippers and lesser Packards, so the Caribbean wasn't as impressive as it could have been, though its 327-cubic-inch straight-eight engine was shared with the longer "senior" models. Designers ladled on fully radiused wheel cutouts, air-scoop hood, jaunty "continental" spare tire, wire wheels, even tiny bright tailfins.

Still, the basic design was two years old, while the price was a towering $5210 -- $1000 more than a ragtop Cadillac 62. That was supposed to give the Caribbean an air of exclusivity, and it did. Only 750 buyers stepped up.

1954 packard caribbean
The 1954 Packard Caribbean had plenty of luxury features, with a luxury price tag.

For 1954 the Caribbean added flat-top rear wheel arches (for a longer look) and standard two-tone paint, radio, heater, power seats, and power windows. What's more, its engine was pushed to 359 cid and 212 horsepower -- America's most potent postwar straight eight -- while price was optimistically pushed to $6100. "There is no more glamorous car than the new Packard Caribbean," brochures exclaimed. "The swank continental look will turn all eyes." But the '54 found only 400 buyers as total Packard sales dropped some two-thirds. And even worse was yet to come.

For more classic convertibles of the 1950s, see:

1950 Oldsmobile 88

1955 Chevrolet Bel Air

1957 Lincoln Premiere

1951 Chrysler New Yorker

1955 Mercury Montclair

1957 Oldsmobile Super 88

1951 Lincoln Cosmopolitan

1956 Ford Thunderbird

1958 Continental Mark III

1951 Rambler Custom Landau

1956 Lincoln Premiere

1958 Edsel Citation

1953 Oldsmobile Fiesta

1956 Packard Caribbean

1959 Cadillac Series 62

1954 Hudson Hornet Brougham

1957 Chevrolet Bel Air

1959 Dodge Custom Royal

1955 Buick Century

1957 Chrysler New Yorker

1959 Ford Thunderbird

1955 Cadillac Series 62

1957 Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner

1959 Pontiac Bonneville

For more information on all kinds of cars, try these: