We, like many of you, keep several restoration projects going all of the time. One of those is our 1948 Packard Custom 8 Club Sedan (fastback), a car we bought in May of 2001. Fastbacks were popular in America in the late '40's and each manufacturer had its own special nomenclature. Buick had its Sedanet, Chevy its Fleetline, and Packard its Club Sedan. Packard came out of WWII with only one model, the Clipper (the 21st Series). It was available in its Senior and Junior Series: The Senior Series in a 356 CID, 9 main bearing straight eight, and the Junior in a 282 straight 8. Models included a limo, a 4-door Touring Sedan, a 2-door Club Sedan and a few were offered in a six, but there were no station wagons or convertibles.
When the '48's (22nd Series) were introduced, the top of the line Custom 8's had no badging or the name anywhere on the car, and the ads asked the question, 'One guess what name it bears!' But even in the bath tub design, you just knew what kind of car it was. The rear looked very much like the Clippers. Its hubcaps had hexagon centers with cloisonnes on the Customs. There was a return of the family crest on the grill and of course, it was the famous ox-yoke shape. The grill design was an egg crate on the Customs and straight horizontal bars on the Super and Standard 8's.
The first car to be offered in Packards new 1948 line was a Super 8 convertible. Packards own designers, as well as the public had mixed emotions about using the bath tub design--a design shared with other manufacturers such as Hudson's Stepdown and Nash's Airflyte. Even so, the '48 Packards sold well and were offered in three engine versions: 356, 327 and 288 CIDs, all straight 8's, and some sixes were made in taxi and export models, and they now offered a convertible and station sedan (woody station wagon). All series featured wood grain dash and window mouldings, a broadcloth interior with Mosstred carpets, (front rubber mats on the smaller series), and the beloved cormorant was once more available to grace the hooda detail that was at first not offered on the 21st Series. Loyal buyers protested until it was brought back and could be retrofitted to the Clippers using a 1940 cormorant mounted on a plain Clipper base.
All series Club Sedans are rare, but the Custom 8's are extremely rare, so when we saw ours in a magazine advertisement, we bought it sight-unseen over the phone, wired the money and waited impatiently until it was delivered. This time, the car was exactly as the seller described it. It was a family-owned car with 55,000 documented miles. It had been barn-stored for the previous 18 years in upstate New York, and unfortunately the open storage had not been kind. The car ran well, and even came with a new battery, but needed everything else. The body had rust, the chrome was bad, the interior had rotted (but great original patterns!), old tires, and no brakes. After washing it off and getting the brakes up, we drove it around the neighborhood and quickly fell in love with the car! It has a road-commanding feel and the straight eight was smooth as silk, the gears shifting like butter. We hated to tear it down, but it had to be done!
First we removed the chrome and sent it out for re-plating. Then we pressure washed the engine compartment and underside using a hot water, 3500 psi pressure washer (something I don't recommend if youre wanting to save the wiring harness--ours was to be replaced, so it wasn't an issue). There was heavy undercoating which had protected much of the underside, and without the hot water unit would have been very hard to remove. The floor boards and body rubber bushings had to be replaced. Once the undercoating was removed and the new floor pans were welded in, the bottom side was covered with Rust Bullet to seal the metal and prevent future rusting, then sprayed black with GM's semi-gloss Chassis Black #1050104. Then we removed all the glass, interior, doors and trunk and sand blasted the car and its metal parts. Then all bare metal was cleaned and wiped down with PPGs Metal Prep & Conditioner #57179, and several coats of PPG's lacquer primer (red oxide) were then applied.
Besides the floor boards, there was more rust, especially above the rear fender wells. Previous repairs had been made using lead and galvanized steel. There was evidence of the galvanized repair because all of the paint had peeled off due to not treating the metal before paint. Galvanized must be chemically treated or sand blasted to accept paint. There was more evidence that the car had been repainted at some previous time due to large pieces of paint flaking off where red lacquer putty had been applied too thick, using it like body filler instead of putty. At best, the red putty should be applied very thinly or cracking will result. We now made new repair panels out of 16-gauge cold rolled steel and primed the car with PPGs red oxide lacquer primer, then rebuilt the brakes, shocks, clutch assembly and reconditioned the radiator core, water pump, carburetor and ignition system. On these straight 8's, its a good idea to check the water distribution tube. Its brass, and runs the length of the block, and can be pulled out once the water pump is removed. We sent out the steering wheel, radio, heater core, etc., and had them reconditioned then logged and put away all parts for future restoration work, then parked the old fastback in a back corner of the garage, keeping fresh gas and oil in it and starting it regularly.
Now its time to continue its restoration. Lacquer primer will go bad in about 6 months. Our primer has been on the car for about 6 years, so the car has to be stripped again. This time it is being done with air tools, using an 8" DA for large areas, an air file to keep the bath tub lines straight, and a die grinder to get into channels and those hard-to-get-at places. After all of the primer is removed, the doors, hood and trunk will be removed and painted off the car. The car will be painted in PPGs acrylic enamel in an original Packard color of Cavalier Maroon poly. We will cover in upcoming issues all work done through the painting process and assembly of the car. This is one car I can't wait to get back on the road. I hope you and your family have a great Christmas and a prosperous New Year! We will continue our promise to help keep this wonderful old car hobby alive and affordable There will be no price increases in 2011. Happy Holidays and keep 'em driving!