Knowing you’ve made a good investment is one of the joys of owning a collector car. After all, antiques, classics, and muscle cars don’t usually depreciate as new cars do. In fact, they may appreciate from year to year, becoming an enjoyable part of your financial portfolio.
As with any investment, the key to success is making an informed purchase. That means doing some research before you reach for your checkbook. Ken Krolikoski did just that before buying his 1932 Packard Deluxe Eight Coupe Roadster.
“I was concerned when I started looking for a Packard,” said Ken. “I wanted to make sure I got something that I could resell, something that was going to be very desirable. And it was interesting to learn what people thought was desirable--or not. I saw a ’35 Packard and thought it was a good looking car, but people I spoke to said, ‘No, no. In 1935 they tilted the grill back a few degrees and they changed the front end a little bit. It just doesn’t look right.’
“So, I researched and asked, ‘Okay, which years are the most desirable?’ Of course, when people are advertising you’ll find they think whatever they are selling is the most desirable. But for classic Packards, it’s the ’32s, ’33s, and ‘34’s. Dennis Adler, in his book Packard, actually says that. And for most people, the two-door convertibles are the top of the line. Of course, the custom Dietrichs are even more desirable but much more expensive.”
Knowing which years and models fetch the highest price is extremely important, but Ken found it also pays to know why.
“A lot of people consider ’32 to ’34 the highlight of the classic Packards, but we’re not talking about the brass cars, because some of those are also very desirable. The major difference between the ’32s and the ’33s and ‘34’s, is that in ’33 they went to skirted front fenders and 17” wheels. The ’32s have the open fenders on the front and you can see the underneath of the side mounts. Some people like the fenders skirted and others like them unskirted. In fact, when I was looking for a car, I saw a ’33 that had the front skirts cut off.”
Armed with information, Ken did some shopping and found his ’32 Packard Deluxe Eight in Auburn, Washington.
“I would say it was a good driver,” said Ken. “A lot of it was still original. It had the original dash, chrome, headlights, and rear carpet. The paint job was done in 1994, and has held up very well. The first year I owned it, I re-chromed the side mount covers and showed the car at the Forest Grove Concours d’Elegance. It won first place in its class.
“The next year, I restored the wood grain dash and trim, installed a new wiring harness, a new leather interior, refurbished dash gauges, a new top, and re-chromed the headlights.
“I don’t know if I’m crazy, but there’s some script engraved on the headlight casings so I sent them back East and had the script over-engraved. When rechromed, they came out like new. If you don’t over-engrave before plating the chrome fills the script in. That’s the detail I went to on the headlights. Whether anybody notices it? Probably not.”
Before long Ken turned his attention to the car’s mechanical condition.
“The third winter, I decided to do a valve job with Jim Classen and that’s when I detailed the engine compartment. Unfortunately, right after that it started burning oil. At first it would take three quarts to drive over to Bend, which is 180 miles. Then it got to the point where it was taking three quarts if you opened the garage door.”
Currently Ken has the front end removed from his car and is waiting for the completion of a total engine rebuild. The 385 (384.8) cubic inch L-head, straight-eight engine produces 135 horsepower and is coupled to a four-speed transmission.
“Halfway through the 1932 model year, they switched to a 3 speed. So a ’32 Deluxe Eight can have either a four-speed or three-speed. Mine is a four-speed and it’s just been refurbished this year.”
This Packard is obviously getting special treatment and deserves every bit of it.
“They only made about 100 of these cars. This is number 54 for this body style and it was originally delivered to Connecticut. There’s no heater, which I thought was interesting, but in the ‘30s heaters were often afterthoughts. And the other thing is it could have been someone’s summer car. These were cars that were bought by the wealthy and the affluent like bankers, movie stars etc.”
“I think the car has only about 50,000 miles on it. It said 42,000 when I bought it and a lot of the original equipment was in fairly good shape. When we redid the gauges we noticed on the back of the speedometer that somebody wrote the date and mileage every time it had been repaired.”
In the 1930s, and before, a common manufacturing practice was to build car bodies out of metal over wood. When Ken had his Packard reupholstered, he could see the car’s wood framework.
“They’d build the body out of a wood frame and then beat the metal around it,” said Ken. “The metal is actually nailed onto the wood frame which required a lot of handwork. When the upholstery was out of it, I could see the wood and was happy to see it is perfect. It doesn’t have the creaks that some do--it’s actually fairly quiet, very quiet for a convertible. It’s a real solid car.”
The Standard Catalog of American Cars 1805-1942 states the 1932 Packard Deluxe Eight had a top speed of 85 miles per hour. Ken wants his engine to last and plans on a much more conservative rate of speed, in part because the car has mechanical brakes.
“I’ll keep it at 50-55 because it has babbitt bearings; that’s what I’ve been advised. It will go faster, but because of the babbitt bearings and the long stroke, I won’t push it. I considered going to insert bearings, then thought, ‘I won’t have the brakes to stop it if I drive 60-65! You have to remember that these cars were designed for the early 30s when they were rarely able to go over 40 because of the road conditions. One added benefit is you see a lot more beautiful scenery when you drive at this relaxed pace. I just got the machine shop bill for the freshly babbitt bearings. I definitely need a leisurely drive now to relax.”
Ken’s future plans are to continue taking his Packard to car shows and on tours. He’s a firm believer that cars should be driven and not just used as a show piece for your garage. And someday he may even change the color.
“The funny thing about the car is when I bought it, I disliked the color. It was like a butterscotch or whatever. Today I refer to it as “olive” or “Grey Poupon”. But then I get so many people who say to me, ‘What color is that? I love it!’ It’s a personal thing, but I think most people really like the color scheme. The color works for the car, and I referred to it as restrained elegance as oppose to the car being painted a more bold color like ‘resale red”. Ten years down the road, when I repaint it, I think I might go with silver and a black top. I think that would look nice. Or a dark green with a tan top. The good thing about its current color is that it doesn’t show dirt or scratches, so there are some benefits to having a light color.”
And lastly, as far as financial portfolios go, Ken offers this sage advice:
“The only time a guy should use the word investment is when he’s trying to convince his wife about the value of car he wants to purchase!”