The other day I was walking through my garage with a new employee. She lifted the rear corner of the cover on my 1956 Packard Super Clipper and asked if I could tell what the car was by just seeing the tail lights. I told her I could on this particular car, because the tail lights are very distinct. It started me thinking about that old Packard. I haven’t raised the cover on it for a long time. This car is a link to my childhood. It’s amazing how certain things trigger memories.
I grew up in Detroit. Growing up there you couldn’t help being a car lover. It was part of that culture. My dad was a dedicated Packard lover. He owned Packards since the 1930s. The first in my memory was a 1950 Standard sedan.
In 1956 he bought a new Super Clipper 4-door sedan. This is the one I have the most memories of. My brothers and I used to love to pile-up on the rear bumper and have the automatic levelers raise us up. We’d then jump off and do it all over again when it had reset. We didn’t have video games then and my Mom was not going to have a bunch of 9-to 12-year-old kids running around in the house. Back then kids played outside. We had to make our own fun.
I can remember the time my Dad ran over some rail road tracks. The car swung up and down like a boat on moderate waves. On the down swing, the dual mufflers caught the track and ripped off. My Dad was so mad. Not us, we thought the deep loud sound of the exhaust was cool. It took a while before he had them fixed. We would ride in that car with all the noise thinking “yeah, we’re bad”, imagining it was a race car.
That Packard was Dad’s favorite car until my oldest brother wrecked it in 1961. Since Packards were no longer available, he bought a 1961 Pontiac Star Chief, which I later drove in High School (1966-67). My Dad was never able to figure out why his tires never lasted more than ten thousand miles and I never told him.
Many years later, after moving to North Carolina, I was able to find a 1956 Packard Super Clipper 4-door sedan just like Dad’s. I bought it sometime in the mid-1980s. Still have it today. Slowly restoring sections as I go; much like the mechanic working on his own car, I rarely get a chance to work on it. I imagine I would get a kick out of people looking the car over at a show or cruise-in and asking, “What year Chevy is that?”
We’ve had a lot of fun in that car. Even the time it broke down in Asheville, NC — as frustrating as it was, it made a good story later. To me, the cars I’ve had are more than a hunk of metal on rubber wheel that get you from point A to B. They are a connection to my past, a reminder of so many great times in my life.
Matt Agosta is the President of Steele Rubber Products. He is an avid car-enthusiast. When he is not working or restoring one of his classic cars, he enjoys traveling with his wife, local author Carolyn Steele Agosta.