As we end this election year, we’ve heard from both Republicans AND Democrats how much they resemble Harry Truman in ‘48. Truman and his opponent Thomas Dewey each campaigned in 1948 Packard Custom 8 convertibles (Truman’s black and Dewey’s white). Truman did look more presidential in the black car, and, of course, won the election despite what the early edition of the newspaper said! The nation was car-hungry and ready for something new from Detroit. Most car manufacturers were still using the pre-war bodies, getting ready for an all-new car in ‘49. Packard had re-tooled and fattened up the pre-war “Clipper” bodies, introducing the new 22nd Series for 1948. This was the first of the “bathtub” designs. It was chosen the most beautiful of the 1948 models by the New York Auto Show. The series ran through 1950 and was very successful for Packard. It is a look that one really likes or really hates. I like it, especially in the Custom 8 Sedan. The Custom had a 7” longer hood and an eggcrate grill theme which carried through to the rear panel under the trunk of the car as well. Also, it had the 356, 160 hp, 9 main bearing engine. Our car has the optional overdrive and can easily cruise all day at 70 mph. These cars are sort of like your own personal pullman coach. Very heavy, very insulated and straight as an arrow on the road, with no wander or drift. The interior is beautiful featuring woodgrain dash and window mouldings with pearwood panels beneath, the mouldings. Our car has a green exterior with emerald green door panels, carpet and seats. The seat material has a relief pattern so that it crates a shadow box appearance and has an off-white piping outlining the seats. The headliner is also unique, with the seams running front to back, brown in color, giving a nice balance with the woodgrain and dark lower interior. The options include overdrive, power vacuum antenna, radio, heater and electromatic clutch (a system that didn’t work very well, allowing the driver to put the car into 2nd gear and drive without using the clutch). Most owners disconnected theirs, as did we. Our car has only a64,000 miles, and was in good overall condition, needing just to be rubbed out and a new, correct interior installed. We found all original 100% broadcloth interior material from Bill Hirsch in Newark, NJ (201-642-2404). We also re-woodgrained the door frames (the dash was nice original). Woodgraining on the 48 was a straight grain and was fairly easy to do. Southern Wheels will feature an article on woodgraining in a future issue. These old Packards make great drivers in town and on the road, and can stand up to anything you put them through. Parts are pleniful and prices on a nice Custom are around $850012,000, with the smaller 8’s costing even less. Straight 8’s have a sound all their own, with a smoothness that can’t be equaled by any other engine, with the exception of the V-12 and V-16. Working on these cars is fun, and when you fix them they stay fixed. They run cool and are instant starters. As the ads read in 1948, they are the “Wizard of Ah’s”. See you next month.
Engine: 356 cu in, straight 8, 9 main bearings
Horse Power: 160 @3600 rpm
Oiling System: 7 qts.
Cooling System: 20 qts.
Carburetor: Carter WDO-2 bbl
Wheel Base: 127”
First Engine #: G-600001
Pros: Dependable, Classic Looks, Plush Interior, Easy to work on, Parts Plentiful
Cons: Heavy steering at rest, High cost of interior restoration