Make no mistake, the 1941 Packard Clipper is a groundbreaking car. Packard, as a company, was steeped in tradition and viewed styling only as an offshoot of engineering. They weren’t fools at Packard, they knew what their clientele wanted: conservative, traditional styling that didn’t raise any eyebrows. But in the late ‘30s, when their highest sales year was followed by their lowest, they knew something had to be done. Glancing across the street at the hardware coming out of the studios at General Motors, they knew that traditional styling wasn’t going to carry the company through the coming decade. The result was the 1941 Packard Clipper. Based on the trim and modern Packard 120 chassis, it was a breakthrough design with a full envelope body featuring steeply raked front and rear windows and long fenders that extended into the front doors. The man largely responsible was Howard “Dutch” Darrin, whose sporty roadster bodies had been adorning Packard chassis for years. His signature is evident throughout the Clipper, and even though it is not exactly what he envisioned (in fact, he was flat-out disgusted by Packard’s meddling with his design), nobody can argue that it isn’t a gorgeous car. This 1941 Clipper has been restored as needed over the years, and is in very presentable condition today. It is an excellent driver with an absolutely gorgeous interior, and I’ll be honest with you: I like this car so much, I’m considering buying it for myself. Bias and disclaimers aside, this really is a handsome car. Darrin’s styling is flat-out gorgeous, and it looks as good today as it did when it hit the market seventy years ago. The traditional Packard grille up front is like a ship’s prow cutting through the air, and the rest of the car is a streamlined art-deco envelope of curves and graceful shapes. The color is called Saratoga Beige, and while it’s not exactly eye-popping, it is authentic and correct for the 1941 Clipper. The bodywork is average, and was clearly done many years ago—a quality repaint would make this car absolutely heart-stopping. On the other hand, this is a car that you can drive without worries, and that’s exactly what appeals to me. This is a Packard you can get in, turn the key, and drive anywhere without worrying about road rash. The chrome and other stainless trim on the car is complete and in good condition. The grille is probably original, the bumpers have been re-chromed, and the stainless has been buffed and polished throughout its life so it has a lovely patina about it. All the lenses and bulbs are functional, and the glass is all intact and undamaged. Mechanically, the car is powered by Packard’s trustworthy, smooth, and torquey 282 cubic inch flathead straight-8, the same one that powered the 120 models. Making 125 horsepower, it was plenty to move the Clipper along at a good, er, clip, and the incredible smoothness and prodigious torque output of the long-stroke engine made it feel like you were at the end of a giant recoiling spring. I presume that the engine was rebuilt a few years ago when the engine bay was restored, and it presents well today. Packard engines were over-engineered and under-stressed, so they were reliable and durable, and often made it well over 100,000 miles before needing major servicing. The engine block and head (labeled “HC” for “high compression”) in this car are bathed in correct Packard green paint, with black painted accents like the air cleaner and oil filter lid. The wiring harness is in a correct fabric loom, and an original Packard radiator keeps it all cool. The carburetor looks like it has received a fresh rebuild, and sits on top of cast iron manifolds that are in outstanding condition. It fires up easily, idles so silently you have to remind yourself that it’s already running, and burbles through traffic with little more than a whisper from the tailpipe. Remember that in the pre-war era, smoothness and quietness were paramount, and engineers worked especially hard to eliminate vibration. And nobody was better at that than Packard. The transmission is a 3-speed manual that slips through the gears thanks to a column-mounted shifter, still a relatively recent innovation in 1941. Out back the original differential housing holds 4.30 gears which make this car feel lively around town and certainly makes the most of the engine’s flat torque curve. The exhaust system was done at the same time as the rest of the chassis, which shows no signs of heavy pitting or rust damage. Up front, the lever-action shocks are still in place doing their job, while out back tube type shocks are installed on the original differential and leaf springs. The 4-wheel drum brakes are hydraulic (Packard was one of the last manufacturers to switch to hydraulic brakes in the late ‘30s), and everything is clean and serviceable with no signs of significant rust. Wheels are 16-inch steel wheels with Packard hubcaps featuring the famous red Packard hexagon logo, and the tires are 7.00-16 BFGoodrich Silvertown wide whitewalls. As I said, this car would make a wonderful driver, and you won’t have to spend every spare moment of time cleaning and detailing the undercarriage. The interior is where this car really sparkles. I don’t know who did the work, but it is excellent throughout. The materials, patterns, and textures are correct and beautifully done. The woodgraining on the dash and window moldings is authentic and professionally done—note the two different grains on the moldings themselves. This is expensive, high-quality craftsmanship here. The same goes for the seats and door panels, which have been stitched in the original patterns using an authentic wool broadcloth with a slight pattern. Overhead, a new wool headliner is taut and wrinkle-free, while new carpets are under your feet. The gauges are crisp, and all the switchgear is functional. I’m positive that the steering wheel has been re-cast in the original cream colored plastic, and it looks lovely today with its rim-blow horn button. I could happily spend a lot of hours in this interior. Documentation includes receipts, some restoration photos, and a few other pieces of Packard Clipper history. As I said, I’m angling to buy this car for myself. I like the way it looks and I love the way it drives. It’s the perfect car for someone who likes to drive and enjoy their hobby cars, and maybe someday down the road you could throw a high quality paint job on it and really raise the value of the car. These are reliable, powerful, comfortable cars that will easily carry the whole family and their luggage across the country on a tour. Packard’s slogan for many years was, “Ask the man who owns one.” Well, wouldn’t you like to be that man?
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