Seventy years on, the Packard 200 is still affordably priced

By David Conwill
Hemmings Motor News

(November 14, 2021) One of the more controversial things Packard Motor Car Company ever did was start building less-expensive cars. In the 1920s, there was no such thing as an affordable Packard. If you owned one, it meant you were somebody of wealth and taste.

Come the Great Depression, however, fewer folks with taste had wealth. Moreover, those with wealth often didn't wish to flaunt it on the streets they shared with those without. Packard's answer was a high-quality, six-cylinder car aimed at upper-middle-class buyers. After the Depression and World War II were over, the economy recovered, but Packard continued to build more affordable cars alongside its luxury models.

In 1951, the entry-level range was restyled and renamed the 200 model. Priced like a Buick Super, Chrysler Windsor, or base-model Lincoln, the 200 rode on a 122-inch wheelbase, powered by a, 135-hp straight-eight backed up with a column-shifted three-speed manual, an over-drive, or Packard's torque-convertor automatic, the Ultramatic.

The 200 came in standard or Deluxe trim, the primary difference being a toothy grille on the Deluxe. Initially, the standard 200 could be had as a business coupe, two-door Club Sedan, or a four-door sedan. No Deluxe business coupe was offered and for 1952, the business coupe was dropped entirely. A two-door Mayfair hardtop and a convertible were offered on the 122-inch wheelbase, but with a 150-hp, straight-eight.

The Mayfair and convertible were grouped as the more-expensive 250 model and while they are a part of the "junior series" Packards, they are not included in this evaluation. The 200 sold well enough during its two years of production and served as the basis for the Clipper models that followed.

For 1951, counting all body styles, over 70,000 200s were built, about 2⁄3 of which were Deluxes. That number dropped to under 47,000 for 1952, in part because of material restrictions caused by the Korean War. Only about 15 percent of 1952s were built with Deluxe trim. Attrition has been hard on the Deluxe cars, too, as some of them have wound up as parts cars to restore more valuable 250 models.

No sedan from the early 1950s, with the possible exception of the Hudson Hornet, has a particularly outstanding rating for collectability. suggests an average value of just under $25,000 for a 1951-'52 Packard 200, but it has tracked the auction sale of only three Packard 200s in the last five years, all of which sold in 2017. Two of those were highly modified: one as a Mexican Road Race tribute with a sectioned body and a straight-eight (a project in primer that sold for $7,500), the other as a modern street rod with 5.7-liter GEN III Hemi power and a five-speed (it brought $57,000). The third car, a stock Club Sedan with an Ultramatic, went for $10,450.

Current offerings in the Hemmings classifieds range from $39,900 for a 1951 four-door sedan with overdrive, down to another 1951 four-door with a three-speed for $10,950. Only one of the five was from the 1952 model year, a four-door sedan with Ultramatic with an asking price of $16,450.

All of these cars, taken together, suggest that the current NADA book values, which average out to $7,800 for a four-door sedan, are pretty accurate for a stocker with no unusual features. The general sales trends at a national level seem to be relatively flat over the past 3 to 5 years, meaning that these cars are becoming more affordable when inflation is figured in.

That's largely good news for those looking for a nice-driving, high-quality car for not much money. Packard's build and material quality in the early '50s were utterly unimpaired from the company's prewar heyday and radically better than those of cheaper, mass-market cars of the era. Because of good materials and sound design, surviving cars, or those that have been restored over the past seven decades, are likely to remain in good shape with only reasonable maintenance. Conversely, now is probably not the time to undertake a ground-up restoration on a Packard of this era, unless economic justifications are unimportant.

If you've ever wanted the Packard experience, but you're on more of a Plymouth budget, don't let plateaued values scare you off. Pick up a Packard 200 and you too can find out what the company meant when it said, "It's more than just a car… it's a Packard."