Packard’s Eighth Series was first offered in August of 1930, just as the Great Depression was beginning to take hold in the United States and the market for luxurious automobiles was shrinking at an alarming rate. The declining market was of course directly related to the financial crisis, but indirectly, many buyers who could still afford such grand automobiles were wary of flaunting their wealth. Thankfully for Packard, there were still enough loyal buyers willing to spend their money on a new Eighth Series, and some were willing to spend even more on custom coachwork. New for 1931 was a line of “Individual Custom” bodies designed by the great American coachbuilders but built in-house alongside the standard catalog bodies at Packard’s Detroit works. Packard went to great lengths to tout these as true custom bodies, in spite of the fact that they were built in the main factory. Several styles were offered depending on the wheelbase specified, ranging from the very formal All-Weather Town Car Landaulet, to the sporting Convertible Victoria, Sport Cabriolet and Style #1881, the Dietrich Convertible Sedan presented here. This 5-passenger body offers the all-weather practicality of roll-up windows and a full convertible top, with the sporting feel of a Dietrich body with its laid back windscreen and low, rakish roofline. With a cost of $5,275 new, it was one of the costliest of all body styles offered that year. As a result, it is believed that just nine examples of Style 1881 were built on the 140” wheelbase, making this an exceedingly rare automobile and highly desirable among Packard enthusiasts.
On the subject of Packard Enthusiasts, this elegant 840 Dietrich comes to us from a line of well-known and hugely important collectors. The known history begins in the 1950’s when it was sold by a Mr. Miller of Los Angeles California to the famous collector of classic cars, Mr. JB Nethercutt. Mr. Nethercutt restored the Packard soon thereafter, replacing the engine with a period correct unit, as was common practice for the time. A correct transmission with synchros on the top two gears was also fitted at this time. The car was apparently in very good order, as the original wood was preserved and the body fit remains excellent. In 1963, the car changed hands into one of the most significant car collections of all time – that of one William Harrah. Mr. Harrah acquired the car with approximately 14 others and it was retained in his massive collection for 25 years. In 1988, when the Harrah collection was broken up, it went to Mr. Gordon McCall, then into a private collection where it remained before passing into another very well known collection. It remains today in wonderful condition, wearing the same high quality restoration as commissioned by the Nethercutts.
Finished with a tan body, dark brown fenders and belt line, and mocha colored wheels, it is a surprisingly elegant and well-judged color combination that suits the body design very well. Nicely accessorized from new, it wears dual sidemout spare wheels with polished covers, dual outside mirrors, a radiator stone guard, a wood-railed trunk rack and the iconic “Daphne at the Well” radiator mascot. It was clearly restored to a very high standard in its day and thanks to a string of passionate owners, has been maintained very well since. Today it shows with some minor paint imperfections, and a few signs of gentle use, but it remains very correct and handsomely well preserved.
A large tan cloth top operates well and appears to be in very good condition, accented by large chrome landau irons. Roll up windows and folding B-pillars seal the occupants against the elements. The windscreen opens and a subtle, adjustable visor aids in driver comfort. The elegant cabin, trimmed in tan broadcloth as per original, belies its age and shows in excellent condition. Dark tan carpets and gorgeous woodwork on the dash and door caps provide contrast to the seat upholstery. The big 385 cubic inch inline 8-cylinder engine is turned out in correct Packard green paint with properly finished porcelain manifolds, and correct clamps and hardware. The big Packard engine is a wonderful sight to behold, showing some age but still quite attractive. It runs exceptionally smoothly – a testament to its quality and the level of care it has received over the years.
With massive presence and timeless splendor, this rare and important Packard is ready to be enjoyed by its next caretaker. The passionate, careful and knowledgeable experts that owned this car in the past have ensured it has withstood the test of time with grace and elegance.
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