1955-1956 Packard Patrician/Four Hundred/Executive

Packard gave the Patrician and other senior models new grillework and other changes for 1956.
Packard gave the Patrician and other senior models new grillework and other changes for 1956.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Styling of the 1955-1956 Packard Patrician/Four Hundred/Executive, which after all were still based on the aging shell dating back to 1951, reflected the wizardry of Bill Schmidt's design department, chiefly Dick Teague.

A 1955 update touched all the bases for buyers with a glitzy mid-1950s eggcrate grille, hooded headlamps, a ribbed chrome molding for the sides to break up the tall appearance, enormous "cathedral" taillights and dual exhausts at the rear, and a wraparound windshield.

Most importantly, the 1955 Patrician sedan was at last joined by a hardtop worthy of the first rank, named the Four Hundred -- a designation Packard had used before, but now spelled out.

The 1956 Four Hundred (shown) and Patrician had a 374-cubic-inch, 290-horsepower V-8.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Performance, good looks, a truly innovative suspension system, and luxury brought Packard modest success in 1955. Sales nearly doubled 1954 levels, and the company enthusiastically released a mild face-lift for 1956. In addition to the Patrician and Four Hundred -- and with Clipper now officially a separate make -- Packard added a lower-priced "Executive" sedan and hardtop on the Clipper wheelbase, priced about $700 below the flagships and distinguished by the Clipper's pointed "slipper" taillights.

Unfortunately, the 1955 recovery had not been sufficient, nor nearly what Packard needed. Output, after all, still remained far below most pre-1954 figures. A spate of service troubles involving rear axles, Torsion-Level motors, Twin Ultramatic, and assembly quality, did further damage in the marketplace. Sales, counting Clipper, fell again -- to lower than the 1954 level.

Financing for future models dried up, Nance left, and Studebaker-Packard signed a management agreement with the Curtiss-Wright aircraft company. Future Packards would be in fact merely deluxe Studebakers: the 1956 was destined to be the last of the big Packard luxury cars.

For 1955-1956 Packard Patrician, Four Hundred, and Executive specifications, continue to the next page.

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