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1936 Packard 120-B Convertible Sedan

Part 3: Paint, Bodywork, and More...

By Jeremy Wilson

Paint and Bodywork

The Packard was yellow when Monte and Elaine purchased it. That is, yellow over red over black. And the yellow enamel created a problem.

“The previous owner had it painted with enamel over the lacquer, which was not a good thing,” said Monte. “When I got the car, I could peel the paint off. There were cracks and you could roll it up. Dave told me, ‘We’re going to fix this.’ and so we took it down to bare metal.

“We discovered the car had been hit twice; once on the passenger side fender and once in the back. The back body work was really good, but Dave didn’t like the previous work on the right front fender. One of Dave’s sayings is: ‘Any car that I restore is not going to look like a washboard!’ So he worked the dent out--it was neat. He stretched it, banged on it, and sanded it; if he did that fender once, he did it 20 times, I swear.

“At one point he was painting the other fender and the doggone air hose tripped him and knocked over the fender he had just finished, so he had to paint it over again. But Dave never quits. If you work with Dave, he doesn’t stand around and take breaks, he just keeps working. That’s the way he is.”

Monte learned that the best tool for installing rear-fender welting is a second set of hands.

“My job,” said Monte, “was to lie under the car, put the bolts in, and tighten them up while Dave aligned the fender and the welting. He told me, ‘I’m not having it wiggle all over the place and I want it to come down at the end and be there right where it should.’ He cursed me when I wouldn’t get the bolts on fast enough. That was funny!”

The Packard Grill and Hood Ornament

The striking Packard grills of the 1930s often had thermostatically-controlled shutters, which would open when the engine warmed up and close when it cooled back down. For the 120-B, thermostatic shutters were available only on special order, and this particular car did not have them. In any case, each vertical bar is held in place by a small square tab of metal. The tabs are slightly twisted to hold the shutters in place. To replate the individual shutters, they must be removed from the grill assembly, a tricky task.

“I took it all apart and was proud,” said Monte. “Then Dave told me how you can break the little retaining tabs off if you’re not careful. And when it comes back from being chromed, the metal will be even more brittle, so be more careful. So I put it all together and said ‘Doesn’t that look good?’ And Dave replied, ‘Wonderful, Monte, you just put the outside ones on backwards.’ Fortunately I was able to reverse them without bending or breaking anything.”

“We replaced the hood ornament before installing the radiator shell because it’s a devil to do afterward. When I retired, my colleague friends chipped in and bought this one for me, which I thought was very, very kind. Nowadays they are expensive, but Packard used to sell them for $12.95 installed.”

Lining Up the Front End

One of the biggest challenges of a restoration is getting radiator shell, front fenders, and hood to align with each other and the body. In Monte’s case it was even more difficult because the radiator cradle had been altered.

“There was a 1930’s Buick radiator in the car when I bought it,” said Monte. “They had welded little round of pieces of steel onto the radiator cradle to raise it up, so when we installed a proper Packard radiator, the fenders and hood were too high. We repaired the cradle and now it works fine. But getting it aligned was hard. There are two bars going from the radiator to the body, the bolt on the bottom of the radiator cradle, and the fender-to-body bolts. I tell you, it seems like you’re adjusting a dozen things at once. Dave did a good job of lining it up and it’s still aligned pretty decent. We’re happy with that.”

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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
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.

National Automotive History Collection (U. S.)
Packard Motor Cars 1935 Through 1942: Photo Archive : Photographs from the Detroit Public Library's National Automotive History Collection (Photo Archive Series)
Iconografix, Paperback, 1996-02
1935 marked Packard’s move from a purely luxury car builder to a builder of luxury & medium price cars, in a effort to broaden its market. Shown are the twelfth to nineteenth series Packards, including the 115, Packard’s first 6-cylinder car in nearly a decade, the 120, 160, 180 and the last of the fabled 12-cylinder Packards.

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.

George H. Dammann, James A. Wren
Packard (Crestline Series)
Motorbooks Intl, Hardcover, 1996-06

Provides the definitive reference for the Packard enthusiast. Filled with 1,200 historic photographs from Packard archives. In the popular Crestline series.

Packard: An American Classic Car
Few American cars could match the beauty, styling and engineering of the Packard motor car. From its birthplace in Warren, Ohio in 1899 to its final days in Detroit, Michigan and South Bend, Indiana in the late ‘50s, this program chronicles the history of the Packard automobile through interviews with Packard owners, vintage film, and Packard archive photographs. Hosted by Edward Herrmann.
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