At an undisclosed warehouse somewhere in New Hampshire, I’m lead through a smeared and smudged glass door, then through a curtain of blue plastic sheeting who’s function is to deter prying eyes. There’s a musty smell in here, something like damp concrete, dust and age. I flip the lightswitch and several overhead fluorescent lights snap on with the classic tink-tinktink-tink sound. The long room I’m standing in contains a partially restored antique truck, a white 1970’s Porsche Carrera, a jet ski, and judging its the sheer size, something clearly very special underneath a tan car cover.
Resting under that cover is an absolutely mint Packard Carribean. Long acres of hoods and gleaming yards of chrome reflect the long bands of sharp flourescent light as the cover is gently rolled back. In the ’50’s, the Caribbean was Packard’s halo vehicle and was only produced from 1953 to 1956. This car, a 1955, has a great hunk of American iron under it’s sculpted hood – two sets of Rochester four-barrel carburetors on it’s 352 cubic-inch V8 help make 275 antique horsepower. Even today, the Caribbean’s proportions feel right and there is something truly attractive about its design. But don’t take my word for it, click HERE to check out a video from someone who knows a thing or two about classic cars – Jay Leno. It runs a little long, but it’s worth it to watch it to the end.
Cars from this era have a unique “something” in their character and design that seems to have been lost in the few decades since the Caribbean first hit the road. Case-in-point, the sensational “cathedral” taillights on the Caribbean: styling cues like those just don’t translate into most modern cars. You take a look at those epic taillights, then you see the supremely bland-tastic new Toyota Camry or the mind numbingly dull Nissan Sentra, and you can’t help but wonder where that gusto all went. Don’t be mistaken, this isn’t a nostalgic appeal for cars to be made “like they used to”, just an observance that you have to swing way, way above the Caribbean’s pay grade and into an entirely different class of vehicle to find anything with this much style.
While older cars don’t normally make their way onto the pages of TDC, it seemed appropriate to feature the Caribbean as it is such a special machine. If given a choice between choosing a classic car or a modern vehicle, the majority of the time, the newer car would make the cut and end up in the TDC garage. However, with a car that looks this fantastic and has this much style, I’d make an exception for the Caribbean. All I saw in that musty warehouse when I first looked at the car was riding low and slow down a sun soaked boulevard, one hand on the wheel and the other resting on the door. Someone hand me my Ray Ban’s, let’s go for a ride.