The Packard Patrician was an automobile built by the Packard Motor Car Company of Detroit, Michigan, from model years 1951 through the 1954, and by the Studebaker-Packard Corporation of South Bend, Indiana, during model years 1955 and 1956. During its four years in production, the Patrician was built in Packard's Detroit facilities.
Packard Patrician 400, 1951–1952
In 1951 and 1952, the automaker attempted to use a numeric naming structure that designated Packard's least expensive models as Packard 200 and 200 Deluxe while two door hardtop and convertibles were designated Packard 250 and its mid-range sedan the Packard 300.
The highest trim level available was the Packard Patrician 400. The Patrician 400 replaced the previous model year's Custom 8 model range. The car was easily identified from other Packards by its chrome trim; in 1951 the model featured three chrome ports on its rear fenders and in 1952 the car featured four chrome ports. Patricians and 300s also sported a slightly revised grille which included chrome "teeth" in its oval area in 1951. That change occurred to the 250 series soon after introduction.
The Patrician 400 was available only as a premium, four-door sedan, outfitted with high-grade upholstery and chrome trimming within. Wilton carpeting and hassock-style rear passenger foot rests were also included with the car. With a list price of $3,662 it also was the most expensive regular Packard offered. The automobile rode upon a 127-inch (3226 mm) wheelbase shared only with the 300 sedan. All other Packards had a wheelbase of 122 inches (3099 mm).
Power for all Packards still came from their venerable in-line eight-cylinder engines. 200s used a 288 c.i. (4719 cc) unit with 135 bhp (101 kW), all others had a displacement of 327 c.i. (5359 cc), delivering 150 bhp (112 kW). Of course, the Patrician got the best engine Packard had to offer, too. For unequalled smooth operation, it's engine featured nine main bearings instead of five as in the other engines without increase in power.
Until 1954, Henney built a few 9-passenger Executive Sedans and Corporate Limousines on a chassis with 148 inch (3759 mm) wheelbase. Derham in Rosemont built very few Patrician Custom Formal Sedans with leather padded roofs, small backlights and elaborate interiors on the standard Patrician frame.
Introduction of the Patrician was, together with most other Packards (250s were delayed), in August 1950. Production totals for 1951 came to 9,001 Patrician 400 units, and 3,975 units for 1952.
The 400 model name was dropped for model years 1953 and 1954, however the Patrician name continued to occupy the premium trim level Packard from 1953 through 1956.
For model years 1953 and 1954, the Patrician continued to represent Packard's highest trim level sedans and rode on the 127" chassis. The Patrician also was used for the basis of the custom bodied Henney passenger models, including the 149" wheelbase 8 passenger Packard Executive Sedans and Limousines, the difference being that the latter had a partition window between the front and rear compartments. During these years the Patrician received annual trim changes and improvements associated with model-year change-overs in the 1950s.
The Henney professional cars (hearse, ambulance, flower car, service car) built on the 156" wheelbase commercial chassis generally used Patrician-like trim except for 1954, which used Cavalier-like trim. Since the professional cars were fully coachbuilt bodies (not conversions) built on Packard's separate commercial chassis, their trim level had little to do with the Patrician except for the general appearance. The Henney Junior, a short-wheelbase hearse or ambulance was built on the standard Cavalier-Patrician chasses (but with stronger, heavy-duty rear suspension) but had the 5-main bearing Cavalier engine rather than the 9-main bearing engine of the Patrician.
For 1953, the Patrician used the same 327-cubic-inch (5,360 cc) 9-main bearing engine that used for 1951 and 1952 but for the first time added a four barrel carburetor for an increase in power. For 1954, the new 359-cubic-inch (5,880 cc) 9-main bearing, aluminum head 212 hp (158 kW) engine was standard and also featured a 4-brl carburetor. 1954 was the first year to add a start-position to the ignition key - earlier years were started by a switch built into the carburetor which was actuated by depressing the accelerator pedal to the floor.
For 1955, the entire senior line of Packards received an extensive design update that freshened the last restyling that was done in 1951. Under designer Richard A. Teague, the Senior Packards received a more modern grille design, "Cathedral"-styled rear tail lights, hooded headlight housings and a new exterior trim layout that afforded Packard the ability to offer two- and three-tone paint combinations with the simplest of masking patterns. While Packard could not afford a whole new greenhouse for the passenger compartment, new trim at the base of the rear pillar made it look like it had a redesigned roofline. The cars were also outfitted with a wrap-around windshield, thus bringing it in line with American automobiles of the era. Inside, upholstery and bright work was also freshened and the cars received a new dashboard layout faced with a machined-look stainless steel facing.
For 1955, the Patrician was offered as a four-door sedan only and Packard produced 9,127 of the cars.
Changes for 1956 included a revised headlight housing that exaggerated the front peak further forward. The area around the headlight was painted black to give the effect of greater depth. The car also received a different grille texture. During the 1956 model year, 3375 Patricians rolled off Packard's production line before the model was dropped by the ailing carmaker.
The final Packard built (that was a true Packard and not a badge-engineered Studebaker President) was a black Patrician sedan, and it rolled off the Packard assembly line on June 25, 1956.
While Packard's James Nance had hoped to divorce the senior Packard from its lower-priced Clipper models for 1956 and beyond, Studebaker-Packard's Corporate finances were far worse than Nance bargained for following the 1954 merger between the two firms. Because of this, and a failure by American Motors to buy as many Ultramatic transmission units and Packard V-8's as Nance had hoped for, Packard production was eliminated at the firm's Detroit factory and transferred to Studebaker's South Bend complex for the 1957 model year. The sole Packard offered for 1957, a badge-engineered Studebaker President, was designated the Packard Clipper. The final Packard, a car with no series name, rolled off the line in 1958 and Studebaker-Packard's Board removed the "Packard" name from its corporate name in 1962.