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53packard 09-20-2004 03:50 PM

53 Packard Clipper Engine Swap?
I've pretty much given up the idea of trying to resuscitate the Straight 8 (327 c.i.d.) engine that's in this thing now. I intend to put a newer engine and transmission into it. I'd like to be able to use it as my second, everyday car. The engine the car came with develops 160 h.p.@3600 RPM measured by pre-1971 standards (the method used to measure HP beginning in 1971 and later would put this figure at 120 HP@3600 RPM). The torque is 295 ft./lbs. @ 2000 RPM. (these figures are from the shop manual that came with the car). The car weighs 4300 lbs., 1010 lbs. of which are engine and transmission (a 2 speed Ultramatic that gives me a 1:1 ratio in high gear). My "other" car, a 1995 Mercury Villager weighs 4050 lbs., dry. It's powered by a 3 liter Nissan engine. All of this information got me to thinking that I really don't NEED all 5 L (327 cid=5.3L) that is in the 2611 engine I have now to move my Clipper, and that someone, in the last 51 years has figured out how to get the torque I need out of a smaller engine (I'd like my "everyday" car to get more than 8 mpg.). What I'm trying to do, at this point, is find out which engine (or engine/trans. combo) would work in this thing. Does anyone out there (in here) have any suggestions? Everyone I've asked so far is trying to get me to put a GM 427 or 455 in the Packard. I'm looking for an alternative that will give me the dependability and fuel economy of a newer engine.

pzatchok 09-21-2004 12:05 AM

Heck with that much room you could put in almost anything. Plus a few southern imagrants.

If you don't mind me asking whats wrong wiith the old straight 8? Just can't find parts or can't find anyone willing to work on it? I've found its hard to find anyone willing to work on one of those Packard transmissions.

How about anything Caddy and V8. Any 50's or 60's should fit and could look close to factory. Even a 70's or 80's engine would look ok if you managed to keep the air filter and the Packard colors. If you don't care about keeping the older look then its all up to you and your budget.

The rearend should take gentle normal driving. But the drive shaft might take some real work to get to mate to the new trans. Don't know about the rearend gearing.

As for gas milage on a tank like that You might have a hard time breaking 20 mpg without something computer controlled and bigger than 3 litres.

jimfulco 09-21-2004 01:33 AM

I'm assuming you don't care if it's fast or slow, just economical & dependable. The 302 (5.0L) found in the '86-'88 T-birds & '87-'91 Crown Vics was rated 150hp @ 3200RPM & 275lb/ft @ 2000RPM. This is with single exhaust w/catalyst, & relieving that back pressure will wake it up noticeably. Mine ('88 T-bird) was capable of over 28MPG at freeway speed with the overdrive automatic, & in over 176,000 miles, has given me relatively little trouble. The only problems with the fuel injection were a little crud on the throttle blade (sprayed clean maybe 3 times) & the throttle position sensor bit the dust at ~175,000.

curly5759 09-21-2004 06:28 PM

I tore apart a late 50's packard V8 with my students just for the Heck of it. Besides the fact it weighed a ton, it looked an awful lot like the engine in my 59 Cad.
I'm willing to bet that you can fit just about any GM engine w/o much modification.

I'm putting a Chevy 350 in a 41 caddy, and I 'm getting the same advice about big blocks, 472/500 Cads, etc. I chose chevy because 1) I already had the engine and 2) parts are plentiful and cheap.

As far as mpg goes, those old beasts weigh a lot. I would suggest an overdrive trans with fuel injected engine to get the best mileage.

Have fun

bluesman123 09-21-2004 07:54 PM

Car I learned to drive on was a 55 Packard Clipper. I can't believe how much power that thing had. Also seems like it had a tranny with an least it had 2 marks either side of the "D" that you could select for town or highway. First car I ever got over 100 (at least on the speedo!!)


farna 05-24-2006 05:46 AM

One problem you might have is that the engine bay was designed for a straight engine. So the engineers may have put things in that will interfere with exhaust and such on a V-8. But since you seem to have an economical cruiser in mind, I'd look at a modern straight six. There are really only two -- the Chevy Vortec OHC, which is so new it might be a bit expensive, and a Jeep 4.0L. Cherokees are pretty common in salvage yards now and would be a good compromise between power an economy. They are rated at 190 hp and should have enough torque. Finding a 2WD Jeep in the north is pretty tough, but they are common enough down south. Using the OD auto from a 2WD Jeep would be preferred and the easiest to install. The wiring isn't difficult to use the EFI. The stock axle can be used if it's an open driveshaft, but forget trying to convert a torque tube.

Gearing is based on the trans and engine torque at low rpms. Most of those old early 50s engines are ready to pull off idle, and have a low, flat torque curve. Many have low geared rear ends. The eary Ultramatic used the torque multiplication of the torque converter to full advantage. It slipped a lot taking off, but that slipping allowed it to multiply engine torque quickly, with the side affect of creating a lot of heat. Most US torque converters produce a 2:1-3:1 torque multiplication at low speeds, meaning that if an engine puts out say 100 lb/ft at idle, once through the converter it equals 200-300 lb/ft. Then you have the gearing to add to that.

The Packard is about the same weight as a Jeep Cherokee, so you should be able to expect about the same economy with the same drivetrain (4.0L, OD auto, 3.55 gears = low 20s on the highway). I get 22-24 with my stroked 4.0L Jeep six (to 4.6L) in my 63 Rambler wagon (see my album). When I ran a stock 4.0L I got about 2 mpg more (24-26 average cruising on the interstate).

KSGerry 05-24-2006 11:33 AM

Check with this group, Inliners International at
Perhaps the members may have a few options.

Gerry Dedonis "KSGerry"

Packard V8 02-22-2008 07:34 PM

It's a Packard, stay with the family

The '56 Packard 374" V8 will haul your lead sled around in style. I've got a couple built and ready to go. Send me a PM at

thnx, jack vines

amcramblermarlin 05-24-2010 09:56 AM

Packard engine swap idea
AMC enthusiasts regularly contend with newcomers who are curious to swap the engine/trans/drivetrain, thinking to 'improve' the vehicle. I'd expect the same scenario with Packard people; the engine swap would decrease the historical authenticity and cause the car to lose favor with other Packard loyals. Packard was an acclaimed engine designer and builder who made engines for many different types of machinery. The 327 Packard straight eight is famous for it's smoothness and durability. As the engine in question still runs, doesn't that create enough respect to increase it's efficiency by giving it a quality rebuild? The Ultramatic trans, not respected either by mainstream merchandisers, (they want you to buy -their- stuff, of course) was an all 'in house' Packard design. Among the very first full automatic transmissions, Packard's featured a torque converter with lock up design in 'high' for better gas mileage. (As did's Studebaker's joint effort with Detroit Gear to create their DG 200 and 250 four speed lock up automatic trans, in '50) (Packard's Ultramatic is a two speed lock up auto having a high and low range, making it a four speed) So the vintage transmission definitely has historical value, whereas Ford had no 'in house' auto trans design and resorted to purchasing 'ford-o-matics' from Borg Warner, finally obtaining the rights the build it 'in house' about '67, seventeen years later. GM's first automatic transmissions called 'hydramatic' in the early fifties did not incorporate a modern type torque converter. In the context of history, the Packard engine and trans are both valuable to the car for their historical contributions. All one need to do is consult with loyal Packard enthusiasts to find the right leads. Kanter, on the web, is a Packard parts supplier, try Packard auto club sites also.

amcramblermarlin 05-24-2010 10:25 AM

Packard engine swap
Packard's straight eight was envied by most other auto people at the time for it's large 327 displacement, providing more power than the competition's smaller 250 or 300 cid designs. The inline design was formerly accepted to be the most dependable engine design, whereas the Packard inline eight placed the power of eight cylinders upon a nine main bearing crankshaft design, part of the early history argument against a V8 design was the idea of putting the power of eight cylinders onto a five main bearing crank = not enough bearing area, would wear out faster. This is partly why the early US V8 engine designs were typically considered to be 'overbuilt' and heavy, with comparatively small cid; the early V8s were matching the displacements and weights of the earlier I8 designs, aiming to have the same durability. Flat head inline engines were made to keep the vehicle's center of gravity lower, and to reduce the engine height for a lower profile hoodline, all component parts in the historical evolution of US automobile history. Interestingly enough, most new V8 engine displacements have evolved back to those early inline eight displacement sizes, the more powerful new V8s being somewhere around 327 cid, or 5.4L.

Ray Bell 05-24-2010 01:29 PM


Originally posted by amcramblermarlin
Packard's straight eight was envied by most other auto people at the time for it's large 327 displacement.....

Flat head inline engines were made to keep the vehicle's center of gravity lower, and to reduce the engine height for a lower profile hoodline, all component parts in the historical evolution of US automobile history.....

Do you really think so?

When you look under the hood at a car such as this Packard, you see a foot and a half of clearance between the top of the head and the underside of the hood. The engine is 'right down there!' in all its innocence.

The principle reason for making flathead engines was undoubtedly cost of manufacture. Most things in manufacturing boil down to this. No pushrods, no rockers, no oiling to the cylinder head, so much simpler to contain everything in the block.

Getting to the point, it does seem like the engine in the Packard needs a rebuild... I think this is why the word 'resuscitate' is used in the opening post. That might be an expensive proposition, I guess, and the OP is planning to use the car regularly in everyday traffic (another guess). So I think the idea of going with a more modern inline six of reasonable proportions and putting the original power package in a corner of the garage for posterity is a good idea.

The engine that comes immediately to mind for me is the Hemi 6 that Chrysler Australia built from 1970 to 1980. It came in 215, 245 and 256 cubic inch versions with power among the common varieties ranging from 140hp to 218hp, 200lbs/ft to 273lbs/ft of torque. You can bolt a Torqueflite 727 up to it and it's a simple pushrod engine with all the porting on one side.

An interesting proposition all round. Seeing as there's a Mercury with a 3-litre Nissan (inline or V6?) in the garage already, it's not beyond our OP to look beyond the square.

farna 06-17-2010 10:50 AM

The only problem with the Aussie Chrysler six is that it's in Australia -- hard to get over here! Domestic choices are the AMC/Jeep 4.0L, Ford 300 (4.9L), and the Chevy 250/292. Personally I'd use the Jeep or Ford six and keep the EFI. The Ford will be easier to find in a light truck with rear drive trans. Jeeps are hard to find in 2WD if you're in or near snow country. The only GM option I'd consider is the recent OHC I-6 or even the I-5. Any of the three would make a good driver getting around 20 mpg with an OD transmission (auto or manual). The Packard will have a LOW final drive gear, so an OD trans is a must. Hmmm... will probably want to change the rear axle out too, the Packard probably uses a torque-tube setup.

I'd definitely make the mods bolt-in and keep the original drivetrain stored. The car would definitely be worth more restored, but driving a car with such an old engine daily isn't for the feint of heart! I've done it (the old Rambler 196... some parts hard to get!) and been stranded for a few days a time or two waiting on parts, luckily only once on a long trip. Head cracked then... was costly to get the car back home!

A universal small block engine crossmember can be modified to fit one of the sixes and bolted in. Just a matter of a few holes drilled in the frame, and they can be easily filled if a later restoration required it.

bluesman123 06-17-2010 12:55 PM

^^Good advice from Farna! If you a going to upgrade to a modern engine you may as well look for a complete takeout that includes engine-tranny-EFI-confuser...the whole 9 yards. keep the old engine and everything else you take out of the drivetrain. Somewhere down the road you will be happy that you did. :thumbup:


Hippie 06-17-2010 03:26 PM

Not to be a nag or anything but do you guys realize the original post was in 2004? He only posted 4 times so I doubt he ever came back and I bet he doesn't even own the car now.

Ray Bell 06-18-2010 05:00 AM

A shame, really...

He might never know that the Hemi 6 is now available in the US.

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