Many of our readers have asked what is happening with our restoration project cars on which we have done articles in the past, but haven't mentioned since we started our '53 Roadmaster series. We have received e-mail from around the world, asking about the '49 Buick Roadmaster Sedanet and the '41 Packard LeBaron Sport Brougham, so we decided that this would be a good time to bring everyone up to date.
We currently have five restoration project cars in the shop, in addition to our other cars and projects. First, an update on the 1941 Packard LeBaron Sport Brougham. This is #77 of 99 of the semi-custom-bodied cars from LeBaron Coachworks. The rarity and beautiful lines of the car justified bringing it home in boxes. The body was rusty, but it had all its parts (including side mounts) and it ran; we drove it into the shop. Now the drive train, steering, and brakes have been re-done, the undercarriage has been cleaned and painted, much of the chrome has been done, and 95% of the metal work is complete. We have test-driven the car and are now ready to complete the exterior body work, paint and interior. Look for the completion of the car in future articles, and see how we solve the hydro-power window problem and complex interior assembly.
CAR HISTORY In 1941, Packard commissioned LeBaron to build two custom cars for them: A Limousine and a Sport Brougham, on the Custom 8 148" & 138" chassis, respectively. The front sheet metal was basically unchanged. The major changes in the body were a sweeping, upward-curved roof line, giving a semi-circular window area above the belt line The rear quarter window was moved forward to produce a partial blind rear quarter, providing privacy for the passengers. The conventional door window frames were changed to chrome metal tracks which framed the windows. These were similar to the window treatment that would be seen on hardtop cars of the late 40s. Inside, the window ledges are burled walnut with mother of pearl inlay. Our car has power hydro-electric windows, overdrive (Aero-Drive), but does not have the optional air conditioning--a Packard first in the industry. Movie buffs will remember this car in black in a scene from the original Godfather film, when Paulie is shot and Clemenza tells Rocco to leave the gun...take the cannoli . We have nicknamed our car Cannoli.
1946 Packard Standard 8. This was my first Packard. I bought it in 1969 in Cincinnati, Ohio from a livery service that sold and rented limousines. It had been taken out of service in 1954 and hadn't been driven since 1964. It was in excellent original shape, and after a new battery and fresh gas, was driven back to Lexington, Kentucky where I was living at that time. I drove it regularly until 1974, when I put it in barn storage until we began its current full restoration. The drive train, brakes, undercarriage and body have all been completed, and we will finish it in future issues. It will be fun to re-woodgrain the dash, reconstruct the interior, paint, and see it come back together the way it was years ago.
CAR HISTORY In 1941, Packard needed a new design to compete with GM s new Cadillac and Buick offerings--something sculpted, with free-flowing fenders, no running boards, and streamlined to move the company into the new decade. They hired designer Howard Dutch Darrin for the job. Darrin had worked for Packard before, creating some of their most prestigious customs. This time the design was to be a production car called the Clipper They gave him 10 days to design the car. When the clay model was revealed, it had the sweeping front fenders flowing into the body, no running boards, long hood, short trunk and rakish windshield, creating a sense of moving forward while sitting still. Even though there were modifications to the design, the car was immediately accepted by the public, and has stood the test of time.
1948 Packard Custom 8. You either love or hate these cars, and that s the way it was when they were new. They sold well, but some people didn t like the bath tub styling. I think the car works well in a 2-door Coupe, or as Packard called it, a Club Sedan . The big round body with its fastback and long hood really has a period look I like. We were fortunate enough to find a rare, low-production Custom 8, 356 Straight 8, in New York about 5 years ago. It had been sitting in a barn for years, and had some rust rodent-soiled interior, but it ran and was complete, and had only a little over 60,000 miles. We are doing a body-on restoration, having completed the drive train, front end, brakes, clutch, transmission and metal work. It will be a pleasure to paint it its original Cavalier Maroon, and put back on the new chrome and assemble its complex egg-crate grill. We bought the last of the shadow cloth seat material in tan and will feature articles on the paint and interior, including the unusual fore-to-aft headliner. See next month's issue for Part Two. Keep 'em driving!