A modern automatic for a Packard

July 1, 2009 | By Richard Prince


I own a 1956 Packard Clipper Super, with the 90-degree V-8. It’s a nice car but the problem is that the past owner removed the Ultramatic transmission and put in a three-speed stick. I would like to put a more modern automatic in it, or a different manual that is not geared so low. Any advice would be appreciated.


The hardcore Packard people would strongly urge you to return the car to its original configuration by installing a correct Ultramatic transmission.

If you don’t want to go that route, Mike's Transmissions (www.mikestransmissions.com) converts GM 700R4 overdrive automatic transmissions to bolt onto and work with vintage Packard engines. Unlike in most instances where an updated transmission is retrofit into an older vehicle, this conversion is not done with a bolt-on adapter.

Instead, the front of the 700R4’s case is cut off and an adapter is machined and then welded on. The bell housing area of the modified case is then machined as a total unit, helping to ensure that the transmission aligns correctly with the engine. In addition, the Packard’s original drive plate needs to be drilled to accept the 700R4 torque converter and an adapter is required to align the input shaft with the crankshaft.

You will also need to use adapters to get the transmission linkage and other external bits functioning properly. And finally, the drive shaft needs to be modified to work with the standard slip-in GM rear yoke.

Another option is to convert your Packard to work with a Turbo 400 automatic. Jack Nordstrom (4975 IH-35 South, New Braunfels, TX 78132) converts Turbo 400 transmissions to work with Packard engines.