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1936 Packard 120-B Convertible Sedan

Part 4: Finishing the Restoration

By Jeremy Wilson


Monte knew Dave had lots of experience restoring Packards, but still he was surprised when Dave started rewiring his Convertible Sedan.

“When the wiring harness arrived it had tags on the individual wires with numbers,” said Monte. “Dave said, ‘Tear those things off, they’re not authentic!’ And he proceeded with the installation.

“After the wiring was installed we tried the horns and they wouldn’t work at all. I pulled the relay box apart and saw it had a broken wire. Dave soldered it and we hit the horn and it was the most awful sound you’ve ever heard. One night, Dave was sitting at the table after dinner having a beer and he said, ‘I know what’s wrong with those wires!’ He ran out to the shop and unscrewed the horn flares, reversed them, and that fixed the problem. Each flare was tuned to work with one side only!”

Additional Tasks

To complete the restoration of the body and chassis, Dave and Monte installed new springs (front and back), a new exhaust system, replaced the brakes, brake lines, and running board treads, had the woodgrain trim at the top of the doors refinished, the shocks rebuilt, and sent the car out to have the glass replaced, and much more.

Starting the Engine

Meanwhile, Jim Classen had finished rebuilding and testing the engine in his shop.

“The engine had been bored out to .040” over and we bored it out to 0.060”; the next time around it will need sleeves, said Monte. “But it probably won’t in my lifetime because I only drive it in the spring and summer.

“The first time we started it, Jim Classen said he’d come over and help. It wouldn’t start and I got smart about it and said that the engine sat in my shop for a number of years and it was probably the condenser. All condensers are is tin foil paper and it got damp, I’m sure. I ran over to NAPA and bought another condenser, put it in, and boom away she went.”

Packards are renowned for their quiet, smooth running engines. Monte demonstrated this fact by balancing a nickel on the head while the engine was running at half throttle!

As with any restoration, one hopes that if everything is done just right, that after assembly one one can hop in, start it up, and drive to that first car show with no problems. The reality is closer the oft-heard saying: “A car restoration is never done!”

“When we’d start it up and drive it for maybe two blocks, it would overheat,” said Monte. “And that was my first hint of troubles with it. When I bought the car it had a 1930s Buick radiator but I had found a Packard replacement for it in Vermont. The guy that sold it to me said, ‘I’ll send it to you and if you don’t like it, just send it back, but you’re going to like because it has a new core in it.’ And it was good, but I took it to a radiator shop to flush it because when I shook it these little acorns would come out of it. It sat outside the seller’s shop for a winter and mice had gotten in it and packed it with these little acorns. We got that done and we thought we were ahead of the game, but it kept heating up so we took it to Mac’s Radiator in Hillsboro. The guy called us up and said, ‘No wonder the damn thing wouldn’t work, there was a mouse nest at each end of the thing.’ We decided to recore it and he said, ‘By the way, I’ve got room to add another row of tubes and fins, would you like that?’ So Dave and I said, ‘Oh that’s a great idea!’ Not such a great idea. We got the radiator back, and of course the car was all together, and with the extra thickness, we couldn’t fit it in. Eventually, Dave and I figured out that we could install it by first removing the fan and water pump. Then it fit, but it’s a devil to do and takes two guys to do it. Fortunately, Dave is so big and he can bend like a pretzel. He stood in front of the car and held the radiator up while I got on the side and guided it.

“That’s how we got it together, but I still was having heating problems. I’ve tried different thermostats, a product called Wetter Water, which really works well, and an electric fan, which I use only for long stops. And I also had the exhaust manifolds ceramic coated, which sends more heat out the exhaust pipes.

“Now it runs at 179-180 degrees and I’m very happy with it!”

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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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