Last year the President of the Classic Car Club of America issued a plea in the club bulletin:
What are we waiting for? Let’s drive our Classic cars now and not wait for tomorrow when the sun is shining. Let’s drive our Classic cars and show the rest of the world what they are all about...What are we waiting for? Tick tock.
I agree--you only live once! But what about those who want to keep their cars in show condition perennially? Especially after a time-consuming and expensive restoration. The simple answer is the addition of a “driver,” a car that is intended to be driven for transportation and enjoyment--not just to shows and parades.
Matt and Karla Hackney own several collector cars but it’s their 1949 Packard that provides the most driving enjoyment. They take it on club tours, to club meetings, estate sales, picnics, and even camping (towing a teardrop trailer).
In addition to being their driver, this Packard is also their first collector car, purchased in 1995.
“We looked at the ’49 and decided it was suitable, so told the seller if he could get it running, we’d buy it,” said Matt. “I drove it home not knowing how the overdrive worked or anything like that. I went bombing home, probably faster than I should have, but it didn’t appear to have done any damage. Soon after I learned how the overdrive operates.”
Their 1949 is a 22nd Series Packard, which included ’48 and some ’49 models.
“It’s a Packard Deluxe Eight,” said Matt. “It has better interior and exterior trim than the Standard Eight--it’s actually a really nice driving car. It’s also a four-door sedan six passenger, which works great for hauling people. It’s my favorite car to take to garage sales and estate sales. We’ve had five people in it on tour and stopped at garage sales one at a time. We had it loaded up with lamps and everything else, holding the stuff as we were driving down the road. The trunk was full, but we were out to have a good time and that’s what we did.”
Some collector cars look nice but leave a lot to be desired when it comes to handling. The Hackneys found that just replacing the tires made a big difference.
“It actually handles really well,” said Matt. “When we first got the car, it had bias ply tires. They weren’t new but they weren’t worn out either and you had to drive the car with two hands. In 2001, getting ready for the national tour for the Packards International Club, we ponied up for radial tires. This change literally transformed the driving experience from two-handed driving to two fingers on the steering wheel, and one arm on the window sill. It was night and day and I thought to myself ‘Why did we wait so long to do this?’ Updating the tires really, really helped the drivability of the car.”
Dual master cylinders were not required by law until 1967, so a failure at any point in the hydraulic system can cause total brake failure on older cars. With that in mind, it is extremely important to maintain and occasionally test the parking brake, as Matt can attest.
“I know my emergency brake works great because I had to use it one day going through an intersection,” said Matt. The master cylinder had a problem and had leaked out the fluid, so when I went to apply the brakes the car kept going. My brother-in-law (a mechanic) had just re-done the emergency brake cable about six months earlier, so I just reached down with my left hand, pulled up the handle, and, leaving smoke behind me, came to a controlled stop. Fortunately, people heard me hit the brakes so they stopped and watched me slide through the intersection. I was just a little embarrassed and needless to say it went home on a flatbed, but nobody was hurt.”
The 1948-50 Packard body has always been controversial, winning styling awards on one hand and garnering unflattering nicknames on the other.
“Is it the prettiest Packard out there? No. It’s not the prettiest Packard out there,” said Matt. Its body style says late ‘40s or early ‘50s--there’s no doubt what time period it’s from. We happen to have a ’49 Teardrop trailer and this Packard looks very good pulling it down the road.”
As one might expect, U-Haul does not have a hitch kit for ’49 Packards so Matt and his brother-in-law did a custom installation.
“It’s pretty well hidden underneath,” said Matt. “You can see the ball is right by the back bumper, but it’s not a show car, so I didn’t think it would really detract from its value. It’s the perfect era car to pull the trailer with.”
The joy of a driver car is that it can provide enjoyment while being restoted, a little at a time.
“The upholstery was done when we got the car,” said Matt. “The gentleman we bought it from had his apprentice do it and it looks pretty good. The paint is a repaint and it wasn’t that great so we cleaned it up and now it’s about a 15 to 20 foot car.
“Over the years we’ve had the engine rebuilt, installed new wiring, rebuilt the brakes, replaced all of the glass, and replated a lot of the chrome.
“We’ve got a lot more into it than it will ever be worth, but it is probably my favorite car to drive. The other cars are fun, but the ‘49 is the one I depend on. I’ve had it all around the state of Oregon and up into Washington. I don’t know how many times I’ve taken it to the beach. I don’t worry about coming home in the ’49 because I know I’m going to make it.
“As far as future plans, we’re just going continue to use it. One day I wouldn’t mind putting a paint job on it, or re-doing the wood graining on the dashboard. The car originally had a gray wood grain but it’s been redone in more of a reddish-brown. The back window surround still has the gray wood grain--that’s how I know it what it originally had--and I like it.”