By Will Silk
When conversing about American premium luxury automobile manufacturers, no conversation would be complete without the mention of Packard; the focus of this edition of Classic Cars for Sale with a 1937 Super Eight Convertible Sedan found in the 1965 catalog of the Vintage Car Store.
Packard’s history is lengthy and indeed worthy of a feature length story in its own right. In brief, the company was formed in Warren, Ohio in 1899 by James Ward Packard, his brother William Doud Packard, and partner George Lewis Weiss. In a story that somewhat parallels that of Lamborghini later in the 20th century, Packard had purchased a Winton carriage and was fairly dissatisfied with its construction, so much so he made sure Mr. Winton knew of his dissatisfaction. Mr. Winton was very upset with Packard’s words and challenged him to build a better product. The company was established in 1900 as the Ohio Automobile Company, and later, on October 13, 1902 was rechristened the Packard Motor Car Company after quickly being recognized as a vehicle of excellence.
By the middle 1930s the company had been moved to Detroit, Michigan. Unlike its local neighborhood competition of Lincoln and Cadillac, both of whom were well-seated under a corporate umbrella to shield them from the wrath of the ongoing economic depression America was experiencing at the time, Packard was left to find their own way forward through creative means while striving to continue to deliver the high quality product the company had become known for. What ultimately attributed to Packard being able to press on was the fact that they used only one production line and believed strongly in parts interchangeability between their models.
Packard also introduced the 120 model in 1935, an entry level value-priced car, and this in turn led to an entirely new factory as demand was high for this new Packard model. All of these factors attributed to the company being able to move forward with the high-end luxury line that included the Eight, the Super Eight, and the Twelve; all of which required a great deal of hand construction and labor to produce.
For 1937, Packard offered four models; the Twelve was the highest order of luxury car in the line that year, followed by the Super Eight as the stepping stone to the Twelve. The company-saving Packard 120 was below the Super Eight in status, and finally, the Packard Six as the entry level model with a six cylinder engine for power instead of Packard’s trusty straight eight.
The 1937 Super Eight line started at $2335, which although was a great deal of money in 1937, it was actually less than the previous year’s Eight model cost. The frame was touted as being new in a 1937 Packard sales brochure which mentioned the fact that the new double trussed frame actually aided the patented Packard Safe-T-Flex suspension to work better under braking.
Power for the Super Eight was Packard’s 320ci straight eight cylinder engine with nine main bearings and an output rated at 135hp with the optional iron head. The Safe-T-Flex suspension was Packard’s own independent front suspension which comprised wishbones and coil springs to take care of the cornering duties. Wheels on the 1937 Super Eight were all steel.
Three wheelbases were offered for 1937 Super Eights, the first being a 127 inch for the 1500 Series cars, followed by a 134 inch wheelbase for the 1501, and finally the 1502 model’s full stretch out to 139 inches. Bodies were largely provided by custom coach builders, and in the case of the car featured here, came from Dietrich in the form of a four door sedan with a full convertible roof. Our car is said to be a documented one-owner car with just 42,000 miles on the clock and in excellent operating condition.
The Vintage Car Store had this Super Eight Convertible Sedan priced at $3,700 in 1965, and with prices ranging from $2335 to $4990 in 1937 for a new Super Eight, clearly indicate that there was little depreciation for well kept examples from the higher end Packard models 46 years ago. Today however, these custom bodied vintage American iron masterpieces frequently change hands in the realm of $200,000 plus. The person that made the purchase of this Packard Super Eight Convertible Sedan in 1965 certainly made a wise collector car investment.
[Source: Packard Brochure]