I have been so close to finishing my 1951 Packard Mayfair (2 door hard top) several times, but there were things that kept coming up. Once the rear brakes locked up. Then there was the blown radiator cap and the rear quarter panel badging (bottle openers) that just didnt want to go on. Now everything is on and I went for a test drive, and the only thing I found was spongy brakes. (I will bleed them again; they are new.) I have published a series of articles on this car, and they can all be read on the www.southernwheel.com Archives. In this article, I will give my personal overview of how this car came to be.
In 1999, my family and I were on the way to my parentshome in Chattanooga, TN. As we drove over Missionary Ridge, I saw the front of the Packard way off the road in a car port, its aristocratic face looking out at me saying, Help me! We were on the way to Thanksgiving dinner, so we couldnt stop, but the next day I went back. It was up on a hill to the rear of an old 1920s house, and as it turned out, I knew the owners. It was a 1951 Packard two door hardtop, Packards first that came out in March of 51. It had been repainted in its original colors of Corona Cream body and Matador Maroon top. In fact, everything was original including its straight 8 with Packards Ultramatic (automatic) transmission. The mileage showed 36,767 miles and was correct! I asked if it ran, and was told no. It would start, but wouldnt continue to run. We checked the points and filed and reset them. In Chattanooga, it rains a lot and oxidation is just something you live with. Then we loosened the fuel line going to the carburetor and cranked the carno gas! We set a gas can on the fender, ran a line to the inlet of the manual fuel pump and the car started and ran. Within a few minutes, the smoke cleared and it sounded great as we pulled it up onto the car trailer. When we got back to the shop, even though the car had a little over 36,767 miles, it would need extensive restoration, but all the parts were original. It ran great and the interiors leather and nylon were in good, but dirty, condition. So the goal was to restore what needed it and to preserve the rest. The body was straight with a few rocker rust holes, so the chrome was removed and polished (it was beautiful, March of 51 was just before the Korean chrome), the body was stripped to bare metal, body work done and repainted to Corona Cream and Matador Maroon top using acrylic enamel and color sanding everything between, with a total of twelve coats.
The interior was completely removed and insulation put down, gauges removed and serviced, new carpet and all leather cleaned and conditioned. The car was gone through bumper to bumper and all of this can be read in the SW Archives online. I enjoyed all of this and have become fond of the 51 hard topa car that I had only mild interest in before I got it. I have always liked the 30s and 40s Packards, but the quality and ease of handling has made me a fan of the 51-54. (They are pretty much the same car.) The two most frustrating things about the restoration/preservation were one, rebuilding the back brakes. The drums fit on a tapered shaft and hadnt been off in 20+ years. Applying heat is what was needed to get them off. The second frustrating thing was doing body work. The holes for the rear quarter trim had been puttied over (bottle openers and Ultramaticscript). There are three bottle openers on each side. Each had three holes. Fortunately, there were a set of three holes on each quarter panel that had been left open. Referencing factory photos, I approximated the distance between each one, drew a paper template on my drawing board, taped one on each side and marked and drilled holes. The hole size was determined by the stud on the trim. Barrel nuts slide over the studs then push into a hole in the body.. The way you know what size is needed, measure the stud, then look up barrel nut to go with that stud. The barrel nuts come with a chart to tell you what size hole to drill in the body. I had the three holes in the body, which were 1/4holes. They used #2232 barrel nuts for 1/4holes, over a 3/16stud. It worked out. Now the car is being test driven and the brakes fine tuned. I used old style brake linings, DOT 3 conventional brake fluid, so they will perform well once I get all of the air out. What a great Christmas gift! We can enjoy riding around in the old 51 Mayfair.
Hope you all have a great Christmas and New Year, and that you are well.
See you next month, and keep em driving!