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Re: 1956 400 Ultramatic Transmission Questions
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Okay. Two things to consider, especially in light of all the modifications and swaps:

1.) I'm going to presume there is no pushbutton shift on this particular Four Hundred. Right? Or wrong? Was it originally the way it is now? Or was this changed since new?

2.) Most people don't seem to know that there were two different shift arms on V-8 Twin Ultramatics. One arm was used in 1955... the other on 1956 Ultramatics WITH selector lever and without Pushbutton shifters. I have seen numerous occasions where a Pushbutton trans was converted to selector lever using a 1955 arm. BAD idea since this conflicts with all the rest of the linkage design and adjustment for 1956. You can adjust the linkage until the cows come home and never get it right.

ONE of the big reasons for the change was to avoid the linkage dropping into the "straight-arm position" and thus allowing what appeared to be the transmission supposedly locked in Park position (it was the linkage that was locked–not the transmission).

Furthermore with a kittywhampus linkage arrangement, the transmission is certainly going to shift oddly. Something to consider and an area you will certainly want to inspect so see what you have going on there.

Posted on: Today 10:52

Re: 1955 Caribbean top material
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Just to show you how well (and how long) I've known the Howard Hughes/Jean Peters 1955 Caribbean that I mentioned is now in the National Packard Museum. AND that I actually do have the things I tell you I have. Here is another artifact I saved from the 1970s when I first drove the car and wrote about it.

I occasionally did freelance work at Petersen Publishing Company (the folks who published Motor Trend, Hot Rod, Car Craft, Rod & Custom, Sports Car Graphic and a whole bunch of other cool magazines). Their offices were on Sunset Blvd. in West Hollywood, just up the street from the Sunset Ecology Car Wash where I believe they photographed the car. A friend with whom I later worked at Mazda (developing the Miata sports car) also previously worked at Petersen at that time..

Right after the Hughes Caribbean had just been photographed and initial page runs for the magazine were completed, he handed this poster-sized print to me and I've kept it ever since.

This is a first proof print-out of what would later become the center spread for an issue of MT magazine– with the first news stand article covering the car.

I had no input on the MT article, and thus no possibility of correcting what it said (silly things like Caribbeans having "air bag suspension"). But it was certainly a very lovely photo (and lovely Hollywood model). I eventually wrote the article I wanted for The Packard Cormorant magazine of the Packard Club.

Now back to today. As I said, if you want to see an unmolested ORIGINAL 1955 Caribbean factory-installed convertible top, you'll want to get over to the National Packard Museum in Warren, Ohio. Let's hope that the museum is sensible about displaying this rare item with the top in the RAISED position. Anybody with a bad or non-original top can hide it by lowering it. And if the original top on THIS Caribbean is left smooshed down in the lowered position–sooner or later it will need a top replacement too! And that would be a terribly sad waste. Let's SEE this one in the RAISED position, showing off the pink inner face!

Attach file:

jpg  HowardHughesCaribbeanProofWM.jpg (2,299.53 KB)
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Posted on: Yesterday 13:45

Re: Packard Bikes
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Something I neglected to say when talking about the Packard bicycle I showed you earlier sold in 1944 (scroll back in the thread)... those of you who know such things surely are aware there was no such thing as a 1944 Packard automobile. Like most of the bicycle companies in the USA, the car companies also were not making cars during most of World War II. So... for the folks with the stories about Packard bicycles given away to sell a car... WHERE were the 1944 Packards?

Again. Nowhere. The bicycle sale in question had zero connection to a Packard automobile sale. American bicycle COMPANIES were not making Packard bicycles to go with Packard Automobiles. Yes, there were car names (or more accurately, car-like names) on some bicycles. And yes, in most cases this practice was "accidentally-on-purpose"... but was not done in connection with car companies or with the sale of automobiles (insert the endless ridiculous argument about "Pierce" and "Pierce-Arrow" bicycles here).

Some (NOT all) automotive names (or automotive-like names) that appeared on classic-era (feel free to ask what this means) American-made bicycles were as follows:


... and more.

And while I'm at it, guess I ought to tell you that a LOT of USA-made bicycles from the classic era had car model names. SOME of these were as follows:

Bel Air
Coupe Deville
Super Deluxe
Fleetline (and Fleet Line)
Pan American

...and many more. AND here's another point: several American-made bicycles from the classic era had THEIR model names long before cars appeared with those names. For example, "Challenger" bicycles were sold by B.F. Goodrich and this model name existed long before Mickey Thompson's Bonneville car or the Dodge Challenger that debuted in 1970. SO... some car names may have originated from CLASSIC BICYCLES! But in the case of Packard bicycles, we're safe. Packard Motor Car Company had the name first.

Why haven't automotive historians and publications picked up on these facts of history? Good question!

Of course, many automotive stylists (some of them friends of mine) designed American-made classic bicycles. Among these were Harley Earl, Count Alexis de Sakhnoffsky, Brooks Stevens, Benjamin Bowden and several others. And yes, we have bicycle examples of each. Some we exhibited at the Oakland Museum in Oakland, California, years (decades) ago (yes, you can look it up). Since that time you'll find a few DIY-ers repeating the info about car designers doing bicycles without telling you where they got it. Yes, there were many more car designers who did bicycles.

LOTS of automotive history here... that nobody ever paid attention to... unless they were repeating a certain article...

Posted on: 2/13 21:38

Re: Packard Bikes
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So... it's either raining or snowing outside? Brutal cold? Ice storm? Or you're hunkered down at home maintaining social distancing because of covid?

Who ya gonna call? Or what're you gonna do? How about looking at some more Packard bicycle history of course?

You've seen the many Packard bicycle headbadges I've shown you so far. Here's another. And no... (sorry Schwinn worshippers) it wasn't made by Schwinn, it wasn't made by CWC either. Nope... not Huffy. Not Murray-Ohio. And no one has yet to ID the maker of the last headbadge we posted, so this will put you two behind. Have fun!

(And just think... a big publisher turned down my book on bicycle history in the early 1980s–claiming it was of limited interest and they didn't think people would be collecting this stuff. A bicycle history that also dared to mention cars? OMG! Now who on this earth would possibly be interested in that? As silly as it may seem, some publishers back then wanted to know why I didn't include "diet and exercise tips" in my history? THIS is where SOME people's lost empty heads were... and some still are. Now... we've got guys on TV raking in millions talking about vintage cars and vintage American bicycles... and home-brew "books" photocopying and guessing, trying to talk about the subject and determine history by group consensus (could be this, might be that, I saw a picture...NOBODY could really, possibly KNOW this stuff–and how dare anyone say that they do!..., etc. etc....). My 1970s manuscript and thousands of original factory photos? Still sitting in my computer after alllll these years. Smart guys of vision, huh?)

Attach file:

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Posted on: 2/13 18:49

Re: Packard Plant Update - 2/12/2021
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As someone who owned three commercial buildings on Mt. Elliott (since the 1950s), just blocks away from the Packard plant... and familiar with the plant since it was in operation I can tell you a few things:

1.) We had commercial buildings in the area and watched the value drop after Packard left.... as if it was all water in a tub and somebody yanked the drain plug. We had those properties since the 1950s and they became almost worthless overnight.

2.) Of the three buildings I had, two are vacant lots today. The third was built over with another commercial building.

3.) Whatever remains of the Packard plant is there not because the guy from Peru saved it (he didn't). It is there because it would cost a fortune just to tear it down. And then what?

Anyone who took the time to watch the overly-staged news conferences during the last few years could easily tell you that the minute the TV cameras were switched off, the fake "activities" stopped. And NOBODY was there working the next day.

Meanwhile, the Detroit city government is still sitting there... like an alligator hissing with its mouth open. Just like it was when the poor fellow who previously owned the plant was hanging on for dear life (the city "fathers" in their incredibly brilliant vision made a grab for the property and evicted the PAYING TENANTS–yes, the site was generating revenue and was home to numerous businesses–who were paying taxes to the city and creating jobs). What a move. What a history. Sad, sadder, saddest.

Posted on: 2/13 8:42

Re: 1955 Caribbean top material
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ewrecks wrote:
I went through the convertible top replacement for the Caribbean several years ago. I posted my “ solution” but cannot find the link in my history.
I originally purchased a top from Klass collections at the suggestion of the late president of the packard Museum in Dayton where I bought the project car.
Suffice it to say that was a mistake..the top had a sewn in cloth lining which would never have worked. The top was not cut properly and the installer ruined it while trying to make it fit.and Klass had ceased making tops.
I was able to secure 10 yards of the pinpoint white vinyl through Superior tops( they only deal with professional installers):which had the tan interior color vs the Black which was all I could find elsewhere.
A company in .California makes a water based dye which they color matched to the lighter green of the interior. I have the name in an archive folder and it should be in my post.
I sprayed the inside of the fabric and shipped it to Superior who produced the top .
There are a few shots of the color coordinated top on a subsequent post where I screwed up and broke the top frame of my car( the fitting at the top of the cylinder was positioned to the inside rather than facing forward...contacted the wheel well).
The too looks fine but it is not the original Orlon which , if the late Bill Hirsch is to be believed , is fortunate since it tended to schrink and needed replaced within a short time.
Hope this helps.
I believe the material can be secured with the tan interior and sprayed as I did. I have stumbled into several suplliers since who offer dyes that seem durable enough for the inside of a top. There are still upholsterers who can produce a top and pads but the seams would probably leak....but who drives a Caribbean in the rain?
I am not sure .Superior would afford the same service or even if they are still in business.

Okay... but here is yet another situation where non-professional trimmers need to stop and think. This is one area where bypassing the middleman can actually create more problems than it may seem to solve. A convertible top on a Caribbean needs to have an accurate pattern and dielectrically sealed seams. While a Caribbean might not be driven in the rain, what are you going to do when you wash the car? How will that water be prevented from entering via a home-grown seam and seeping into the inner facing and staining it? Or leaking into the pads and eventually either ruining them or building up wonderful mold–especially the bad, bad kind? And... there are other issues.

And you don't want to go to an "upholsterer," you want to go to a professional auto trimmer and professional auto trim shop. Someone familiar with convertible tops and convertible top manufacture and installation. They should have the connections and know the best source companies to get what you need, without getting in between their dealings with wholesalers/suppliers (most of whom certainly do not want to deal with the general public anyway). Then let THEM (your trim shop) obtain the fabric after you tell them what you need because they may not know.

Trying to DIY the whole thing from top to bottom (no pun intended) can end up with you just creating more problems and more expense than necessary. And there are still companies around (not known to the general public but known to professional trimmers) that can manufacture a proper top.

Posted on: 2/2 21:04

Re: 1955 Caribbean top material
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Pack120c wrote:

Would the white vinyl diamond pinpoint be a suitable substitute for a 1953 Caribbean also?

Thank you for sharing this valuable knowledge.

You are most welcome.

In light of the fact that the original Orlon is not around, the closest in appearance is a material I found some time ago... but it is something over $300 a yard and you'll need at least six yards (and that's with no mistakes or error margin for same)! AND... lonnnnnng waits to get the stuff. And this is just for the bare fabric... which soils very easily.

THEN you have to get it made into a top. Which, of course costs MORE $ money. By the time you've just got the top made (not installed or colored yet) you're into it for thousands... with all that time expended... and with a lot left to do.

Worse, a lot of trimmers (especially today) don't even want to work with it due to the cost and damage liability. One mistake and you're on the hook for large money.

So? Diamond pinpoint grain vinyl can be a decent substitute. Far easier to clean and more robust. AND if you are lucky enough to find it with off-white or light tan inner facing, then you're pretty much home free!

The insides of the 1953-54 tops were very light to compliment the white bows and top frame. Packard was trying (via Mitchell-Bentley) to create a convertible top that looked bright and airy inside–even with the top raised (dark inner facings darkened the overall interior and looked odd against the white frame). People today don't know this and therefore do their cars wrong or listen to bad advice from those who don't know either). Packard did a LOT of work and research on convertible tops.

By the way, the link discussed earlier also shows a 1954 done with a top that looks almost the right color in the photos. No idea what fabric they used here. But then they blow it by putting a fabric strip at the base of the backlight window. Something the original Caribbeans never had.

Posted on: 2/2 14:47

Re: 1955 Caribbean top material
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point wrote:
u are correct, it takes a stainless strip
i believe Merritt has those strips ,i wouldnt put the top on without the stainless strip,looks cheap without it, u can dye the inside, me and a guy did one comes out nice ,the company made the dye ,mixed it the color wanted , and like i stated good place buy the top is from
aro2000.com they show one on there site in vinyl looks good i have installed many conv tops in my day believe me

No. If you click on the link and go to "1955 Packard (which they call some name–"Club Coupe"– other than Caribbean, but show a Caribbean) there is no vinyl top shown. And no colored inside. This doesn't mean they don't make good tops... but what is shown is NOT authentic at all. Just a top. This is not up for debate.

The top this site shows on a 1955 Caribbean is very clearly tan canvas. The site actually says so. And THIS is the site's recommendation... Haartz Stayfast canvas. The web site states that it is "tan/tan Haartz Stayfast." That's NOT vinyl and it is not the right color. And "tan/tan" in the trim business means "tan on the outside and tan on the inside." 1955 Caribbean convertible tops were never, ever tan. Didn't happen.

It may look nice (especially if one does not know any better), but it certainly does not look authentic and is definitely not like the original. White vinyl in diamond pinpoint grain LOOKS a whole lot closer in appearance to the original tops. And like I said, the top shown is missing the stainless trim on the rear bow. People make these things without ever studying an original...and then claim they are accurate. It hasn't been that many years, but this is how far the history and memories have strayed between 1955 and 2021.

And Haartz Stayfast, I can assure you (having once been in this business myself for many years owning a shop that replaced thousands of tops in Southern California) this material is canvas. Not vinyl. Used it many, many, many times and still have the full sample books I got from the company back in the 1970s and 1980s when Steve Giaquinta was their corporate OEM representative.

I even have photos of us standing together at the cycle test of Mazda Miata's folding top with tempered glass window (something I also introduced–credited or not). I also went to dinner many years annually in Las Vegas with my good friend Mr. Nat Danas who was publisher of Auto Trim News. I knew Mr. Danas for many years and he literally wrote the book (and I still have mine) on the automotive convertible top trim business. I can assure you, I know this business and I don't make statements without knowing my stuff.

Any good automotive trim shop can make A convertible top for you. But that does not mean the top is authentic. Nor does it mean said top looks like the original. And if you go this far in a restoration, what's the point if these things don't matter?

FINALLY... if you want to see a REAL original... unmolested 1955 Caribbean convertible top, hustle yourself over to the National Packard Museum in Warren, Ohio. Take a good look at the very low-miles Jean Peters/Howard Hughes Caribbean which now resides there.

IF the museum is smart and keeps the top raised UP rather than leaving it squished down (like any common display you can see anywhere in the world), you can see a REAL ORIGINAL 1955 Caribbean convertible top. With correct original fabric outside and color INSIDE in all of its original glory. IF you look close and the museum allows, you can also see how on 1955 Caribbeans, the color of the inner top face extended down into the top well (this was changed for 1956).

I first drove and photographed this car in the 1970s in Beverly Hills–when it had less than 1,000 miles on the odometer. And I have original poster-sized color proofs from when the car was photographed back then for Motor Trend magazine. You can read the original history I wrote on the car in the 1970s in The Packard Cormorant magazine, published by The Packard Club (www.PackardClub.org).

Attach file:

jpg  HughesCaribbeanWM.jpg (48.10 KB)
1249_6019e0248524a.jpg 330X462 px

Posted on: 2/2 10:56

Re: 1955 Caribbean top material
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point wrote:
check this website for a conv top

Yes, but 1955 Caribbeans didn't have tan canvas tops. As in never. AND the rear bow outer should be covered by a stainless trim piece, not an aftermarket universal trim Wire-On or Hidem...

Posted on: 2/1 23:47

Re: 1955 Caribbean top material
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Kevin wrote:
I just picked up a 1955 Caribbean that needs a new top, so I’ll be following this thread with interest. From what I can tell, no one makes the 1955 original top material, and I believe that even in 1956, replace 1955 tops were make of the 1956 diamond pinpoint vinyl material. No one is offering 1956 tops with the color pads and headliner, so the two Caribbean owners in our PAC region have simply bought the raw materials and had the top and liners made from scratch. Prohibitively expensive, but they look stunning!

No. Original 1955 Caribbean tops were made of Orlon–a very tightly woven, slightly silky material. NOT vinyl and certainly not "diamond pinpoint"...

"Diamond pinpoint" vinyl is not a material so much as it is a convertible top grain. It is the fabric that I have always suggested comes closest to the appearance of the original Orlon. But diamond pinpoint grain vinyl is certainly NOT the factory-installed original stuff. Diamond pinpoint grain was the most commonly used convertible topping for most (not all, but most) American post-1940s convertibles.

I also recommended (and Mazda adopted) a diamond pinpoint grain vinyl convertible top fabric for RX-7 convertibles during development in the 1980s. I also did a re-design of the clock and warning light unit atop the instrument panel on the same car. RX-7 production convertibles used the diamond-pinpoint grain fabric I specified in black with a headliner. Finally, I had a prototype built using color-keyed canvas supplied to me by Robbins Auto Top Company, who I knew well. I have photos.

And as far as I know, it is still possible to buy American-made vinyl convertible top fabric in diamond pinpoint grain. But almost always this stuff is going to come with a black inner facing. Almost impossible to dye.

Back when it was possible to get white vinyl in diamond pinpoint grain AND light tan inner facing, I used a couple of these to simulate 1955 Caribbean tops. I used to have a very good dye specialist in Long Beach, California. Unfortunately he passed away many years ago.

Now. As for 1956 convertible topping... very different stuff again. The originals were made of Hypalon– a kind of rubberized vinyl, for lack of a better description. The Hypalon tops had a kind of leathery grain commonly known in the industry as "crush grain." Some people use other terms. I made perhaps 20 of these tops with colored insides back in the 1970s, using two companies located in Southern California.

At one time I owned the original factory patterns for 1955 and 1956 Caribbean tops, but I gave these to one of the companies doing work for me in the 1970s. No idea what ever happened to them.

I was able to substitute a vinyl used on Rolls Royce Corniche tops for Hypalon and this worked put very well in both operation and appearance. One of these tops complete with colored pads was folded new in the box IN my 1956 Caribbean when it was stolen out of my barn years ago.

No such thing as "liners" for Caribbean convertible tops. This is a myth. A popular one, but a myth anyway. A friend and I had a liner made as a desperate and VERY expensive solution in the early 1970s (as I recall, It was over $1200 THEN–which was more than some of the cars were bringing in those days). All Caribbeans had whatever color or shade you saw on the inside as the integral inner layer of the outer fabric.

I still have my binder books of convertible top fabrics that once were my lifetime reference source. But most of the fabrics and a lot of the companies are now long gone...

Posted on: 2/1 23:34

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