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1932 Packard Deluxe Eight Coupe Roadster

By Jeremy Wilson

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!”

Recommendations
Click on any item below for more details at Amazon.com

Beverly Kimes
Packard: A History of the Motor Car and the Company
Automobile Quarterly, Hardcover, 2005-01-01

”The magnificence and coverage of the work is just unimaginable. This book is of major importance.”

-- Keith Marvin, The Society of Automotive Historians Inc.


Dennis Adler
Packard
Motorbooks International, Hardcover, 1998-10
This is the complete story of Packard, from its earliest days in 1899 through its final demise in 1958. Archival b/w photos, as well as beautiful new colour photos, accompany a thoroughly researched text.

The Hemmings Motor News Book of Packards
Hemmings Motor News, Paperback, 2001-03
From pre-war models like the 526s, 734 Speedsters, and Sport Phaetons, to the Custom Super Eights, 300s and Caribbeans of the baby-boom era, this book of Packard’s finest thoroughly examines nearly a dozen of the independent manufacturer’s significant models from 1928-1958.

Evan P. Ide
Packard Motor Car Company
Arcadia Publishing, Paperback, 2003-06-03
The images featured in this book represent the early years at the Warren, Ohio and Detroit, Michigan factories. Packard Motor Car Company contains rare images from the Larz Anderson Auto Museum that were saved from the Packard factory and the personal collection of James Ward Packard when the company closed.

James A. Ward
The Fall of the Packard Motor Car Company
Stanford University Press, Paperback, 1997-09
Ward summarizes the company’s early days--from the turn of the century to the 1935 release of the 120, Packard’s first middle-market vehicle--in a single chapter; four more follow the firm through the Depression and World War II. But Ward’s focus is Packard’s final days, from Hotpoint executive James Nance’s installation as president in 1952 to the 1956 shutdown of Packard’s Detroit operations and to 1958, when the last automobiles to bear the long-respected Packard name rolled off its merger-partner Studebaker’s Indiana assembly line.
History and Production Notes

In June 1931, Packard introduced its Ninth Series line of automobiles, including the Standard Eight, Deluxe Eight, and Individual Custom models. In an effort to boost sales, as the country entered the Great Depression, the automaker introduced two mid-year models: the 900 (“Light Eight”) and the “Twin Six” (V-12). With a base price of $1750, the Light Eight was a truly affordable Packard, $735 less than the Standard Eight five-passenger sedan. Granted, Ford’s 1932 V-8s cost only $460 to $650, but in the luxury market, the Light Eight’s price was compelling: Entry-level Cadillacs and Lincolns were nearly $3000.

Easily distinguished by its “Shovelnose” V-shaped grill, the Light Eight was unquestionably a Packard. Sporting a Standard Eight engine, but weighing nearly 500 pounds less, the Light Eight accelerated more swiftly than any Packard except the new Twin Six. Packard’s marketers talked up the Light Eight in this 1932 advertisement:

The new Packard Light Eight is a strikingly handsome car. In appearance it belongs unmistakably to the distinguished Packard family. And, in addition, it is smartly new in its youthful grace of line and proportion--as is well illustrated by the popular Convertible Coupe below. When you inspect the Packard Light Eight, you will be surprised at its size and roominess. It is a big and substantial car, with wheelbase of 128 inches. It is “light” only in comparison with other, larger cars of the Packard line--the Standard Eight, Eight DeLuxe and the new Twin Six. Richly appointed and upholstered, truly advanced in all mechanical features, the Packard Light Eight now offers the luxury of fine car transportation to motorists who have been accustomed to paying from $1500 to $2000 for their cars. For here is an eight--“Packard” in personality, prestige and performance--factory-priced at the astonishing range of $1750 to $1795. Before buying any car see and drive the Packard Light Eight. You will thrill to its velvety, 110 horsepower motor, it Silent Synchro-mesh Transmission, quiet in all three speeds, its simple safe Finger Control Free-Wheeling. Why not take your old car to your Packard dealer today? He will allow you all that it is worth--and, if you wish to buy it out of income, you will find the payments surprisingly small.

The Light Eight was an daring experiment in luxury car mass production. In Packard: A History of the Motor Car and the Company, contributor L. Morgan Yost quotes Packard president Alvan Macauley advising his dealers:

...we decided to do a daring thing. We decided to build a car that ought to sell for $2200 and to boldly offer it to the public at a medium car pride, in the hope and belief that the public will appreciate what we have done and will learn the difference between the quality characteristics of our Light Eight and other cars. And we counted on your enthusiasm being such that you could carry the message home with conviction...If the volume-response is not satisfactory, we shall not be able to keep the price at the figure we shall announce. We have arbitrarily priced it where it should sell in large quantities at a profit to you, even in these times. The uncertainty, and I frankly admit it, is whether it can be sold at its price at a profit to the company.

The experiment failed, forcing Packard to increase the price by $145 at mid-year, discontinuing the model line at year’s end.

The Twin Six was Packard’s first twelve cylinder engine since 1922. According to Dennis Adler, in his book Packard, “The Twin Six of 1932 was a byproduct of Packard’s plans in 1930 to develop a 12-cylinder, front-wheel-drive automobile to compete with the new Cord...Although the front-wheel-drive model never materialized, the V-12 engine was just what Packard needed to compete with Cadillac.”

At 445.5 cubic inches, the Twin Six would develop 160 horsepower and would achieve speeds of 100 miles per hour. The Twin Six model designation would last just one year, renamed as the Packard Twelve (1933-39).

PRODUCTIONNOTES Production Notes...

According to the Standard Catalog of American Cars 1805-1942, the 1928 calendar year production total for all model Packards was nearly 50,000. This number dropped to under 10,000 for the 1932 and 1933 calendar years, and fewer than 7000 in 1934. The ironic fact that these were (arguably) the most beautiful Packards ever, could not outpace the realities of the depression.

1938 Model Year Production Totals

Light Eight (900)

6750

Standard Eight (901)

3922

Standard Eight (902)

3737

Deluxe Eight (903)

955

Deluxe Eight (904)

700

Individual Custom Eight

N/A

Twin Six (905)

311

Twin Six (906)

238

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