In 1931 the Great Depression's grip on America and its burgeoning automobile industry tightened into a stranglehold. Packard still stood at the top of the luxury market but its future, like that of its competitors both domestic and foreign, was tenuous. Despite Packard's success in providing high quality chassis for custom coachbuilders Alvan Macauley advocated bringing custom coachbuilding in-house and 1931 was the year his plan was implemented. Development of the lower-priced Light Eight was rushed ahead while its polar opposite, the new Twin Six V12, was aimed at the pinnacle of Packard clients, those captains of industry and finance whose assets were sufficiently vast to be immune even to the depredations of the Depression. Both, however, would debut as Ninth Series 1932 models, announced on June 23, 1931. The 1931 production year for the Eighth Series Packards was opportunistically truncated as only Packard, which still insisted on designating its variations in series rather than model years, could do. Packard's 1931 may have had only ten months, but the automobiles built during this difficult period were exceptional. The Seventh Series 734 Speedster had relied upon a high performance engine to answer the challenge of Cadillac's V16. The 734's innovations included an 8:1 compression ratio cylinder head, better breathing through larger intake and exhaust manifolds and a dual throat Detroit Lubricator updraft carburetor and a performance rear axle ratio. A horsepower race was on and the Eighth Series Packards adopted the 734's modifications across the board giving the Deluxe Eight's strong and quiet nine main bearing 385 cubic inch engine 120 horsepower. Packard's big eight was then, and remains today, the paradigm for quiet, luxurious, unobtrusive power, more than adequate to propel even day's heaviest and most lavishly appointed formal coachwork. When fitted with the more sporting and lightweight open bodies such as this Raymond Dietrich-designed Sport Phaeton, Eighth Series Packards powered by the 120hp Deluxe Eight engine with standard 4-speed transmission are capable of cruising comfortably in today's traffic. Superbly designed by Ray Dietrich, this Sport Phaeton is an older restoration that has been in one of the Midwest's premier collections of great classics for over a quarter century, maintained there by an in-house staff of professional mechanics with full shop facilities. It is a 1985 AACA National First Prize winner and is still exceptional in its livery of brown body, black fenders, brown leather upholstery and interior trim and beige cloth top accented by a black beltline molding with cream coachline. Accessories and fittings include Trippe lights, a pair of spotlights, opening windshield, wind wings, folding rear windscreen with wind wings, radiator stone guard, donut chaser radiator cap ornament, disc wheels with chrome lockrings and hubs, wide whitewall tires and a pair of chrome ringed rear-mounted spares which relieve the fenders of the interruption of side-mounts and highlight the sweep of the 840's body and long hood and cowl. It has been consistently and professionally maintained for years and recently comprehensively detailed and serviced to be ready to tour and show in coming months. It is one of the Classic Era's great automobiles.
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