The 1951-1953 Packard Mayfair was the Packard auto company's offering in the quickly growing hardtop market of the immediate postwar era. Along with the all-steel station wagon, hardtop designs grabbed upwards of a third of domestic output by mid-decade.
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The hardtop stole the show with its pizzazz, however, causing automakers to jump on the bandwagon. Some hardtops looked like deft, ground-up designs; others looked like what they were: two-door sedans with hastily contrived pillarless side windows.
The 1951-1953 Packard Mayfair was among the later arrivals, and product-wise wasn't truly satisfactory because of compromises. Packard built it on the junior short-wheelbase chassis, and attempted to sell it (and the concurrent convertible) as a prestige line. Thus it came with a "250" designation, senior-style grille teeth, 327-cid engine, full wheel covers, and pelican hood ornament.
None of this disguised the fact that at $3,200 to $3,400, the Packard Mayfair competed more with Buick, Chrysler, and Mercury than with Cadillac, Imperial, and Lincoln. It thus failed to buck up Packard's sagging luxury image, and added little to sales of middle-priced Packards.
None of which meant the 1951-1953 Packard Mayfair wasn't a nice car in its own right. All of the above deluxe components combined with the pillarless windowline did make for a sporty, upmarket Packard. "Mayfair" seemed an appropriate name, too, conjuring up images of a fashionable district in London, or a famous London coachbuilder. And the smoothly integrated styling avoided the "cobbled" look of such hastily contrived rivals as the Hudson Hollywood and DeSoto Sportsman.
Interiors of the Packard Mayfair, true to hardtop standards, sparkled with pretty combinations of nylon, vinyl, and leather, color keyed to the exterior hues. Full carpets and chrome plated pseudo-convertible top bows for the headliner also added a convertible touch. As long as one didn't equate it with the Coupe de Ville, the Packard Mayfair was a perfectly attractive proposition.
Whether it suffered by that comparison, or from its competitive market territory, the Packard Mayfair didn't sell very well. Packard didn't publish individual production figures, but careful analysis of serial numbers by Edward Ostrowski of the Packard Club divulges a minimum of 1,258 in 1951 and 3,959 in 1952. The actual 1951 figure is probably higher because Ostrowski's figures account for only 79 percent of 250 production; for 1952 his serial numbers span 95 percent of the cars.
For more on the brief but intriguing existence of the 1951-1953 Packard Mayfair, keep reading.
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Though the 1951, 1952, 1953 Packard Mayfair wasn't the most successful hardtop in automotive history, it did steadily improve from. Packard's Mayfair production figures for 1953 indicated 5,150 units, the highest volume to date. The improvement probably came about because, without a price hike, Packard managed to make the 1953 Packard Mayfair look more like a senior model.
Bold, chrome finned housings highlighted the taillights on the Packard Mayfair, and a full-length strip of bright metal enlivened the body sides, as did the standard fender skirts. Six choices of nylon, leather, or nylon-and-leather enriched the interior, while options like Easamatic power brakes, power steering, power seat, electric antenna, three-way radio, underseat heater, hydraulic windows, and air conditioning helped make life a little more agreeable.
And for a little more flair, one could order a Packard Mayfair with chrome wire wheels and a "continental" exterior spare carrying either a disc or wire wheel. Finally, one could overdo things entirely by ordering bright metal "venti-ports" for the bodysides -- dummy vents which Packard collectors liken to bottle openers.
Thus, without much effort, the $3,278 base price of a 1953 Packard Mayfair could be run up to nearly $5,000. But however bedecked, the result would still be a Mayfair, not a Coupe de Ville. That remained a problem. Cadillac, it might be noted, pushed out 14,550 Coupe de Villes that year.
Packard could not survive at volume one-third that of Cadillac -- certainly not as an independent, probably not even as a cog in a multi-make corporation. Actually, Packard's total 1953 production came to two-thirds that of Cadillac, which was reasonable perhaps, but it fell to a third the following year.
The hardtop Packard Mayfair carried a "Pacific" badge for 1954 and was given another ration of luxury, but fewer than 1,200 left the factory. It wasn't until 1955 and the Four Hundred that Packard finally produced a genuine luxury hardtop.
Check out the specifications of the 1951-1953 Packard Mayfair on the next page.
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1951, 1952, 1953 Packard Mayfair Specifications
Though the 1951, 1952, 1953 Packard Mayfair had a mildly successful run, it was simply too expensive to keep up with the Cadillacs it was supposed to compete with. Check out the 1951-1953 Packard Mayfair specifications below.
Engine: sidevalve I-8, 327.0 cid (3.50 × 4.25); 1951-1952 150/155 bhp; 1953 180 bhp
Transmission: 3-speed manual; overdrive and Ultramatic optional
Suspension, front: independent, coil springs, tube shocks
Suspension, rear: live axle, leaf springs, tube shocks
Brakes: front/rear drums
Wheelbase (in.): 122.0
Weight (lbs): 3,805-3,905
Top speed (mph): 90
0-60 mph (sec): 15.0