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1956 Packard 400 Hardtop *SOLD*


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*SOLD* The actual title of this should be "For sale: 1956 Packard The Four Hundred Hardtop" because that's what it says all over the car. Presumably the "four hundred" in "The Four Hundred" referred to the list of the four hundred richest people in New York, which was apparently a thing in the '50s. At any rate, the The Four Hundred was Packard's top-of-the-line, essentially a hardtop Caribbean, so you can't fault them for reaching for the 1%ers. This particular The Four Hundred is a really solid, clean car that lived all its life in Texas and has been restored as needed but never fully blown apart. It was repainted in the early 2000s in its original Jamaican Yellow over Dover White combination and some of the chrome was refinished, but not all. The sheetmetal is quite straight and in excellent condition and I see no evidence that this car was ever rusty or patched. Remarkably, the finned trim that runs along the flanks is in fantastic shape with almost zero pitting, which is a real miracle and I bet restoring just that detail is a five-figure proposition. The wide grille with stylized V emblem, the sleek Packard hood ornament, and the wonderful courtesy light on the qurater panel "vents" are all the kind of details that make this Packard feel upscale. Gold anodized emblems proudly proclaim this is a The Four Hundred, along with traditional Packard crests on the hood and deck lid, where it doubles as the keyhole. Also be sure to note the traditional Packard hexagon acting as a reflector in the taillights--the designers were hard at work getting the little stuff right and I have to admit I think this is a handsome car.

 

The interior is mostly original and still in very good condition. The black and gold brocade fabric is pure 1950s funky, and the leather bits surrounding it remain in great shape. Not perfect, as there's a little fraying on the outer corner of the driver's seat back where everyone surely grabs it to pull the seat into place, but there are no splits, rips, or broken seams and it's still firm and comfortable, not lumpy. I presume the carpets have been replaced since they're just too nice to be original, but everything else seems circa-1956. The two-tone steering wheel has some minor wear to the painted white sections, but no cracking or breaks and all the gauges are fully operational. In fact, it appears that everything works, including the power antenna, radio, and heater/defroster. The gold fascia on the dashboard is just beautiful and encompasses the radio speaker over on the passenger's side. I don't remember whether the clock is working, but I think it does. The original headliner is secured by chrome bows that add an upscale look, although there are four or five small holes that have been patched with round patches that sort-of match--probably better than leaving the holes open and cheaper than a new headliner. The trunk features original lining material and a newer black carpet for protection, as well as a full-sized spare tire and jack assembly.

 

Packard's big 374 cubic inch V8 with 290 horsepower is one burly son-of-a-gun, running notably stronger than, say, a Cadillac V8. Maybe the Packard is lighter, but this thing feels pretty darned quick for a car so massive. With 67,480 miles on it, I don't believe this engine has ever been out of the car, although there are plenty of signs of recent work, including a rebuilt carburetor, newer water pump, some fresh wiring, and new belts and hoses. It starts easily, idles almost silently, and as I said, it pulls this car around without breaking a sweat. The engine bay is tidy, if not sparkling clean and detailed for show, but there are no egregious issues beyond a few wiring faux pas using modern crimp connectors. Power steering and brakes are obviously standard equipment on something this mammoth, and the 3-speed Ultramatic automatic transmission works properly (as does the pushbutton control). Even more remarkably, the torsion bar auto-leveling system works like it should, although a shut-off switch has been added under the dash--I'll admit it can be disconcerting to walk out into a dark, empty shop and suddenly hear the The Four Hundred adjusting itself. The underside is clean, but not detailed or restored but there is no critical rust or rot in the floors, rockers, or body mounts. A newer exhaust system has been installed recently and it has the correct hushed tone, the brakes have been serviced, newer shocks installed, and an electric fuel pump to help with starting. Factory wheels have been refinished in bright red and fresh 225/75/15 Diamondback radials have been fitted, so it looks right and rides great.

 

Extras include an owner's manual, shop manual, some advertising brochures, paint samples, and a stand-up show board, plus a bunch of spare parts.

 

This is the second The Four Hundred we've had and I'm as impressed with this one as with the last. The Cadillacs get more attention, but the Packard has a very handsome, more subtle look and arguably superior road manners. And, of course, you won't see one at every show. Price is $32,900 and it's ready to go immediately. Thanks for looking!

 

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Edited by Matt Harwood (see edit history)
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  • Matt Harwood changed the title to 1956 Packard 400 Hardtop *SOLD*

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