So why does a Custom Super Clipper Eight Packard have a red-colored clutch pedal?
I wondered the same thing when the doctor who owned this 1948 Packard saw my quizzical look and came over to explain it to me at the 2011 Hillsborough Concours d’Elegance held at the Crystal Springs Golf Course.
There even is a special name for it: the Electromatic clutch.
The doctor told me it is the clutch is a vacuum-and-electric relay-operated mechanism that was featured on these Packards.
Packard, which installed them in many of its cars from 1941-1950, saw it as a way to compete with other car companies’ fully automatics.
The 1946 Packard service manual for the Electromatic (not electromagnetic) clutch explains how the clutch works:
“The Electromatic clutch is a vacuum-electric device that operates the clutch automatically. The driver uses the accelerator and shifts gears in the normal manner, but without the use of the clutch pedal.
“The Electromatic clutch may be made operative or inoperative at the will of the driver by means of a lockout switch on the instrument board.”
The 1948 Packard was Packard’s most-luxurious model.
“The company’s post-war design embraced the ‘bathtub’ style, which was generally regarded to be the future shape of automobiles,” according to information provided by the owner, who noted that Porsche chose it for its Model 356.
This Packard model was also given the company’s most-powerful engine: an L-head, inline-8 cylinder, displacing 356ci and featuring 160hp.
That engine was required to power this huge automobile.
“The rear wheels have fender skirts standard,” the owner noted, “giving it a clean and graceful design line from front to rear.
This particular Packard is also equipped with an overdrive, radio and power windows as accessories. The clutch was also standard.
The current owner was a very nice man and took quite some time to explain this car to me. With the way it was parked, people didn’t really get to see it as well as they could have, had it had more room, so I felt fortunate to be able to learn so much.
A year ago January, he completed a three-year frame-off restoration.
He did such a great job that it was awarded a Best of Show-Post War at the Packards International Concours!
(Photos, by Glenn Franco Simmons, are released under Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. They may not be used for commercial purposes.)