1941-1947 Packard Clipper

1946 and 1947 Packard Clipper
Packard’s top-of-the-line series for 1946 was the Custom Super Clipper.
Packard’s top-of-the-line series for 1946 was the Custom Super Clipper.

If few in number, the top-of-the-line Custom Supers in the 1946-1947 Packard Clipper line were splendid automobiles. Hubcaps enhanced with jewel-like cloisonné, a Packard tradition of two decades, were standard equipment, though surprisingly no pelican hood ornament was available. (Some people managed to install them anyway, but the effect was not graceful.) Instead, Packard used a rather plain-looking chrome spear, with a stylized "flying lady" as an option.

Inside, the Custom Super departed significantly from the Super, which, though identical in size and specification, was trimmed similarly to the lower-priced Deluxe. Exclusive to the Custom were individually wrapped coil springs for seat cushions and backrests alike, which insured even weight distribution and noiseless operation; they were adjustable by the dealer to any firmness setting -- a forebear of today's lumbar adjustors.

A material similar to foam rubber was placed over these springs, while the seat backs were padded with genuine down -- a remarkable extravagance.

Where the Super had "oriental wood graining" on its garnish moldings, the Custom Super used an exclusive "Amboyna éburl" appliqué for window molding wainscots and the central dash panel, combined with a handsome, smoky "pearwood" graining for the upper door panels.

Genuine leather-covered kick panels were standard; plush "Mosstred" carpeting, like velvet to the touch but very hard-wearing, covered the floors.

Overhead was Clipper's unique woolen headliner, its seams running fore-to-aft. The only reason given for this complicated sewing method was to give "an impression of greater length" to the interior. Obviously, Packard was as willing as ever to spend extra money on aesthetics.

This club sedan features a cormorant hood ornament and several other accessories.

The first postwar Packards were built in October 1945, but the first Custom Super didn't come off the line until April 18, 1946. Interestingly, after building a few with "Super" script, Packard deleted the nameplate entirely -- two years later a famous ad would say of the then-current Custom, "One guess which name it bears."

Only 2,763 Customs were produced for the 1946 model year; the 1947 total came to 7,480. Of these 10,243 cars, 3,081 were long-wheelbase models. No convertibles were offered, though a few formals by Derham and others were built on the long chassis.

The lack of a convertible (and a wagon) was eventually rectified, but it took a major restyle to do so, in 1948. John Reinhart thought the 1948s (nicknamed "pregnant elephants" by friend and foe alike) represented a mistake, while admitting that at the time, the dealers just clamored for more.

But those were years when a manufacturer could sell anything, and the case was strong for loading more sheetmetal onto the Clipper to freshen it up and meanwhile pushing the lower-priced junior models as fast as they could get them out the door. This worked -- for a while. The return of competition after 1950 would prove Packard's policy a short-sighted one.

Thus, the Clipper line that had debuted with such promise in 1941 was consigned to oblivion after 1947, that is until Packard collectors began snapping up the many survivors and returning them to their original glory. More power to them, and to their cars -- they know what it is to "Skipper the Clipper."

Packard knew what it had all the time, though. To learn how Packard positioned the Clipper in sales material, continue on to our final section.

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