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New-to-me 1954 Packard Henney ambulance


JonW
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As you can see by the cars listed in my signature, a Packard is way out of my wheelhouse, but I couldn't pass this one up. 

 

Neither my wife nor I do heat very well, so we were kicking around the idea of buying a panel truck (for headroom) and putting a portable a/c unit in the back so we could hop in and cool off when at a car show. In doing a search for "panel truck" in Hemmings, I came across this. It's a 1954 Packard Henney Jr. ambulance. It's one of only 120 produced in 1954 and one of about 500 in total for 1953 and 1954, the only two years they were produced. It has 67,000 miles (which is believed to be actual) and has been restored. We both fell in love with the look and decided to buy it. 

 

I have medical issues that require air conditioning, so I am looking into various ways to install a Vintage Air type of unit to use while driving. Any positive thoughts on that would be appreciated. 

 

It looks like there were 2 engines available in 1954. How do I know which one is in this car?

 

We're very much looking forward to showing this off at car shows soon. It is a very nice and very unique addition to our collection.

 

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As to the engine  there was a 288 cu in and a 327 cu in. Both based on the same block and outwardly similar. Both with a 3 1/2 cylinder bore, one with a 3 3/4 stroke crankshaft, the other 4 1/4 stroke. 150 and 165HP .You should see the number 288 or 327 on the head.

 

As to the air conditioning I would contact the Vintage Air company and any similar company and see what they recommend.

 

There was a 359 cu in engine as well but it was only used in the senior, Cavalier and Patrician lines. It may have been available in the ambulance as an option but  would be extremely rare.

Edited by Rusty_OToole (see edit history)
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Nice car. Interesting to see a standard shift on a '54.

 

There is a series number stamped in the firewall above the heater box. You can trace that to figure out the base chassis. With the lead time and date of completion it could be a 1953.

 

Before you get too deep into the AC addition you might want to try a period window hung swamp cooler. They work surprisingly well. And I think someone is making reproductions.

 

I am a big Packard straight eight fan of the Clippers through 1954. During the plague I lost track of a '54 Pacific in northwestern PA that I was interested in. It belonged to the dad of a Corvette shop owner. Medical, my wife has a deteriorating back and can't ride in my old cars now. I'm sure you know how nice that Packard seat is. I want one for her.

 

Saw your list, shoebox 9C! sounds good. My '94 Impala SS (9C1 lowered with leather seats and chrome wheels was the first one I parted with, great driver).

 

You will love that Packard.

 

 

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Because you have so much room in the back. You could install a portable camper/RV AC unit in the back. Very easy to make it look like something else back there. Then you do not have to modify the car. They make low voltage ones. https://us.ecoflow.com/products/wave-portable-air-conditioner?gclid=CjwKCAjwt7SWBhAnEiwAx8ZLajKMY4sL_lbTYIfKfDdEVmLJW7peXzAQzKM6kBpMVaTorLwbq2wQfxoC68oQAvD_BwE

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1 hour ago, Rusty_OToole said:

....You should see the number 288 or 327 on the head.

Heads can be swapped between engines, don't rely on the 288/327 on the head.

 

Instead, engine serial numbers for '53 start with the letter L and for '54 start with the letter M. For '53's 288's with solid lifters are L2xxxxx, 327's with solid lifters are L3xxxxx and 327's with hydraulic lifters are L4xxxxx. While for '54's 288's with solid lifters are M2xxxxx, 327's with solid lifters are M3xxxxx and 327's with hydraulic lifters are M4xxxxx. And, should it be a 359 with hydraulic lifters S/N's are M6xxxxx. Serial numbers should be on a pad on left/rear/top side of block just below the head.

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That is absolutely beautiful!

 

   The older I get, the more I like the odd/lower production cars (see my list) & this is definitely a great example of one. I would be proud to cruise/show that!

 

God Bless

Bill

https://www.jalopyjournal.com/forum/threads/nationwide-single-car-transport-hauling-open-or-enclosed.614419/

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Great looking car!  Not only the lone one at a show, I would bet there arent that many left running around period! Do you know if that colour combo is original? Looks great but I always picture ambulances in red and white. The old movies I watch are black and white so who knows?

Also see you have a 73 GTO, thats another one not seen very often.

Good Luck with the new Packard.

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33 minutes ago, TAKerry said:

Great looking car!  Not only the lone one at a show, I would bet there arent that many left running around period! Do you know if that colour combo is original? Looks great but I always picture ambulances in red and white. The old movies I watch are black and white so who knows?

Also see you have a 73 GTO, thats another one not seen very often.

Good Luck with the new Packard.

Not sure on the color combination. But in looking at photos of '54 Packard ambulances on the web, the color combinations are all over the map. 

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Congratulation on your becoming a Packard owner!  You will find a wealth of information and welcoming at the PackardInfo website:

Forums - Packard Motor Car Information (packardinfo.com)

Signing on and participating is free, you will derive much benefit from doing so.

 

You should also consider joining one of the Packard clubs either the Packard Automobile Classic (PAC) or Packards International (PI).   The Professional Car Society welcomes and includes all make such professional cars.

Packard Automobile Classics, Inc. - The Packard Club

Packards International – More than a club; a lifestyle

Home | The PCS (theprofessionalcarsociety.org)

 

Your 1954 Henney-Packard Junior, Model 5433, was the last in the line of professional cars built in an exclusive collaboration since 1937 of Packard and Henney Motor Co. of Freeport, Illinois.  Chassis and sheet metal kits were spec'd and shipped to Henney who performed the body construction.   The Henney Junior was developed as a less expensive series to compete with the lower-priced ambulances and hearse from professional cars such as the Pontiac Superior which was a major player in that segment.  

 

Good luck with your 1954 Henney Packard Junior, enjoy that rare and unique car.

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Given his experience, number of old cars he has, and presumably deep pockets I think JonW can pull off a conversion where a lot of people couldn't. I also have a feeling he will wish he started with a 12Volt car before he is done. But, I am sure the Vintage Air people have done air conditioning on 6 volt cars before and know the drill. Just adding a 12V alternator and battery exclusively for the air conditioner would be possible, but I am not sure about the pos vs negative ground problem. That may require a lot of other changes.

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Packard reinstated AC as an option for 53.  Granted, original systems are very hard to find, but they worked with the 6V positive ground electrics (as did the 40-42 version).  The compressor is mechanical, a 6V blower is no issue.  The question is temp control without a clutch - didn't some early systems use a warm air bypass?

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There was discussion on a similar project on Packardinfo if I recall correctly.  An important point was how much voltage does the clutch actually require to operate, and some said it was considerably less than 12 V.

 

Your vehicle's unusual body does make one wonder what equipment can be mounted under a gurney.

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4 hours ago, CarlLaFong said:

I'm afraid that I have nothing positive to add. 

 

 

   You should have stuck with your first inclination & NOT added anything!

 

   In the O.P.s original post he clearly stated that because of health issues he & his wife could not be in the heat, so I guess you want him to miss cruises, shows or just enjoying driving the car so that you can be happy that every old car on the road keeps 100% originality? I have them both (original & customized) & love them all! His car, he can do what he needs to do to enjoy it!

 

   Sorry for the rant, but "holier than thou" arrogance pisses me off! There is room in our hobby for ALL!

 

God bless

Bill

https://www.jalopyjournal.com/forum/threads/nationwide-single-car-transport-hauling-open-or-enclosed.614419/

Edited by Bills Auto Works (see edit history)
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36 minutes ago, Bills Auto Works said:

 

 

   You should have stuck with your first inclination & NOT added anything!

 

   In the O.P.s original post he clearly stated that because of health issues he & his wife could not be in the heat, so I guess you want him to miss cruises, shows or just enjoying driving the car so that you can be happy that every old car on the road keeps 100% originality? I have them both (original & customized) & love them all! His car, he can do what he needs to do to enjoy it!

 

   Sorry for the rant, but "holier than thou" arrogance pisses me off! There is room in our hobby for ALL!

 

God bless

Bill

https://www.jalopyjournal.com/forum/threads/nationwide-single-car-transport-hauling-open-or-enclosed.614419/

 

 HA. I agree with you, Bill.   I doubt very much if many of the "restored" cars are as they left the factory.

 

 

  Ben

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Thats the coolest looking early 50's Packard I've ever seen.   A/C will make it much cooler.   That Packard straight 8 has plenty of power for the A/C with proper belting.    I have a friend with a fairly stock 29 Model A Ford, with A/C.   My 35 Buick has A/C.   My 34 Fords A/C is limited to a

cowl vent and a opening windshield.

Call Vintage Air, they may have done a Packard before, or can figure out how to.

We live in the South and feel your pain from the heat.   Go for the A/C.

Model A with A/C, one of the coolests cars on AACA Tours.

 

May be an image of outdoors

Edited by Paul Dobbin
Added Picture (see edit history)
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Snap this book up. It is a bargain at the price. I was lucky enough to get both books from Mr. Neal, signed with a nice note in each.

https://www.ebay.com/itm/274351657317?chn=ps&norover=1&mkevt=1&mkrid=711-117182-37290-0&mkcid=2&itemid=274351657317&targetid=1263433206854&device=c&mktype=&googleloc=1022758&poi=&campaignid=14859008593&mkgroupid=130497710760&rlsatarget=pla-1263433206854&abcId=9300678&merchantid=6296724&gclid=CjwKCAjw2rmWBhB4EiwAiJ0mtbj0GU2fcRiPeXo_81gZ9m06fa2rqye2pV2ALmKVDgGy4owh7O8FsxoCbsUQAvD_BwE

 

Image 1 - Packard 1951 To 1954 By Robert J. Neal (Hardcover, 2004)

 

The Henney cars start on page 221, lots of text and pictures. Your interior layout is shown.

 

From what I see the 77 number on the firewall most likely means it started life as a Mayfair with the C designating commercial, assuming the 299 is a sequence number. According to Mr. Neal's book there was a delay in body panel delivery across '52 and '54. Lots of management things going on at Packard in that time frame.

 

If you miss out on the book I can let you borrow mine for a couple of weeks. I have the set and haven't closed the door on a '54 for myself.

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Why not install series-parallel 6V batteries and leave the car 6V.  Add a separate A/C harness that connects to the batteries in series to provide 12V negative ground to the Vintage Air system.  Charge the batteries in parallel with the stock, or upgraded generator.

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2 hours ago, EmTee said:

Why not install series-parallel 6V batteries and leave the car 6V.  Add a separate A/C harness that connects to the batteries in series to provide 12V negative ground to the Vintage Air system.  Charge the batteries in parallel with the stock, or upgraded generator.

That's kinda the route I'm thinking we'll take.

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Here is a 1935 Packard sedan that I posted recently in Cars Not Mine... has a Vintage Air A/C system installed on original 320 cubic inch straight eight engine with separate 12V system installed for A/C and headlights only.

 

 

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On 7/13/2022 at 11:24 AM, JonW said:

What does this series of numbers mean?

 

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That is the "Theft Proof Number" TPN. Virtually no records of them survived Packard's demise, unless it's on original paperwork with the car. There is a poster on PackardInfo, with the Forum Name of "Owen_Dyneto", who is collating info on TPN's. He's always on the lookout for more to add to his database

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17 hours ago, JACK M said:

As suggested for local shows (an afternoon, or even over night).

That unit that Xander shows looks like a pretty slick deal with the extra battery feature.

You could build a stainless steel table that could cover it. And have it look like a rolling table tray. With fake front pull out draws. Very easy to give it the look of a medical item. The AC unit could blow out the side of the table. And a shelf could be built in the middle. So beer could be chilled while the AC is on. A manikin can be placed on the gurney. To strike up conversation at a show while you enjoy a ice cold beverage. 

 

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On 7/14/2022 at 8:38 AM, Restorer32 said:

We restored an identical ambulance some years ago.  Plenty of room in the back to hide an a/c unit in a medical cabinet. Careful with that rear curved glass.  Break one and you are in trouble.

Care to share the details. How was it vented? How was it powered when the car was not running, or did it only work when the car was running?

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  • 2 weeks later...
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Well, it looks like this is going to be for sale. I literally can't drive it. I'm 6'5", 300 pounds, and the steering wheel is pressed against my chest. My initial thought was to cut some of the cabinet work away that is behind the seat, to allow the seat to go back further. However, the cabinet houses the spare tire. The modifications I need to make keep mounting, and I'm sure there are more to come that I don't know about. This really is a great car, and I'm very disappointed, but I fear we're going too far down the modified rabbit hole, and I don't want to go there. 

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Just looking at the pictures. If you locate another front seat from a Packard. Modify it, and upholster to match the one you have. You could pick up about 7-8 inches of room. Also by raising the seat up a couple of inches. And rocking it back in a reclining position. You will pick up some more room. You can work with the space you have. And still keep the original seat wrapped up. I can see how it can work. A local custom shop should be able to do it. Modify the lower back portion of the seat. And with the raising blocks, reposition the seat backwards. Hard to describe in a text.

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