(a.k.a. Red Car Day at Chez la Vache!)
1955 Packard Caribbean, one of 500 built
Chief stylist Richard Teague's famous "Cathedral" taillights
Today we continue with the evolution of the fabulous Packard Caribbeans with the 1955 model. Last week, we visited the 1954 Packard Caribbean. As we've previously seen, when chief stylist Richard Teague arrived at Packard in 1952, he inherited the Packards designed by John Rinehart and put into production in the 1951 model year. Due to the long lead times in auto production, the Teague touch was light on the first Caribbean, the '53. As we saw last week, the '54 began to show Teague's ideas for the car, but it was the '55s where the "Teague touch" was really seen, including Teague's famous "Cathedral" taillights. Some of the styling cues that appeared on the '54 Caribbean were carried over to the '55 model. Teague's facelift of the John Rinehart-designed '51 body shell was so successful most people thought the '55 Packards were entirely new cars.
Teague touches on the '55 Caribbeans that first appeared on the '54s.
The "Caribbean" script on the front fenders (above)
and the revised "Packard" script on the rear fenders (below).
Another Teague touch on the '55: the running lights on the side. The running lights came on when the headlights were on, but also came on when the doors were opened.
As discussed last week, the number of Caribeans built was decided arbitrarily by Packard management rather than by market demand. For 1953, 750 Caribbeans were built. For 1954, only 400. The number for 1955 rose to 500 Caribbeans produced.
The '55 Packards were fitted with "Torsion Level Ride". The conventional leaf spring rear suspension and coil spring front suspension was replaced by torsion bars on each side of the car connecting the front and rear wheels. The torsion bars were 13' long. A height adjustment mechanism was fitted to the suspension. No matter how the car was loaded, the height of the car would automatically adjust to the "correct" (pre-determined) height within 7 seconds. The ride on these big, heavy cars was fantastic and the Torsion Level system made these Packards amazingly nimble, especially given their size and weight.
The "Torsion Level" suspension system designed by engineer Bill Allison.
For 1955, Packard's venerable straight eight engine was replaced by a 352 cubic inch V8. On the Caribbeans, the V8 was fed by two four-barrel Rochester carburetors. This engine was the most powerful in the industry.
The "batwing" air cleaner setup on the dual four barrel Rochester carburetors feeding the Packard V8 in the Caribbean.
The '55 Caribbeans reflected the optimism of the Eisenhower years in the U.S. with most of them being painted in bright tri-tone paint schemes. Equally colorful were the interiors. tri-tone leather being standard in the Caribbeans. The Caribbeans were fully equipped: power steering, power brakes (a Packard first - introduced to the industry with Packard's '52 models), power seat, power windows, power antenna, signal-seeking radio (in those days, radios were still options on cars) and Packard's Twin Ultramatic Drive automatic transmission were all standard. The only options were air conditioning (another Packard first for the industry: introduced as an option in 1941) and wire wheels.
The colors of the tri-tone paint schemes of the exterior were repeated in the leather interior of the Caribbeans.
For 1955, Packard labeled their paint schemes "jewel tones". The Caribbean pictured today is painted in "White Jade", "Fire Opal" and "Onyx".
See more Ruby Tuesday entries HERE.