1930 Packard 734 Speedster Runabout

In 1930, Packard took a big step outside of its comfort zone as well as deliberate swing at cross-town rival Cadillac with the introduction of the sporty, driver-focused 734 Speedster. The 734 (7thseries, 134” wheelbase) was based on a new, shortened and strengthened chassis that was designed exclusively for the model. Built in Packard’s new in-house custom shop, each 734 received a revised version of the proven 385 cubic inch straight-eight engine. The engine was upgraded with a newly designed separate intake manifold, oversize updraught carburetor, and a 45-degree mounted, finned exhaust manifold. A larger vacuum booster was added and the engine was mated to a model-specific four-speed gearbox. These additions could push the new 734 to 100mph, so it also featured upgraded brakes with large, finned drums. Contrary to popular belief, the “Speedster” name referred not to the body style, but to the sporting nature of the chassis. The 734 Speedster was actually available in five different custom-catalog body styles: A two-seat boat-tail runabout, four-seat runabout roadster with rumble seat, sport phaeton, Victoria coupe, or sedan. In spite of the exceptional performance and quality, Packard only sold approximately 113 examples of the 734. The marketing team was unsure of what to do with such a high-performance machine, given the majority of Packard clients preferred luxury and silent operation over outright speed. Today, the 734 is one of the most coveted of all Packards, with only a handful of genuine examples surviving, it is considered by many to be the Holy Grail of the America Classic Era.

Our featured example, chassis number 184006, has enjoyed a rich history and has recently been part of an important European collection and run regularly in tours and rallies. It is believed that it left the Detroit works with a Victoria body, however that body was removed at some point and replaced with this high-quality and very accurate recreation of the factory 2-seat runabout, but the original correct Speedster pieces are still present, the rear axle, the front axle, the finned manifold, the Speedster carburetor, etc.  The robust nature of Packard construction meant that chassis would occasionally outlive bodies, so rebodies are not uncommon. In the 1962, this car joined the renowned William F. Harrah collection in Reno, Nevada. At some point during the 1960’s or early 1970’s, the Boattail body was built by the renowned Richard Kingston of California Metal Shaping, using an original 734 Speedster Runabout as a guide.  Eventually, the Packard found its way via Hyman Ltd to the collection of its most recent keeper, a passionate and knowledgeable enthusiast who truly enjoys his automobiles as they were intended: On the road. He has reported that since purchasing the car from Hyman Ltd, he has amassed an astounding 30,000km and declared it capable of 130km/h and to be the most sporting car he has owned next to his XK120.

It presents in very good condition, a car meant for driving over show, yet still very attractive with good quality finishes and detailing. The two tone paint scheme is well suited to the sporting body, with black fenders and top surfaces accented by rich orange sides and subtle gold coachlines. The orange chassis adds an additional layer to the already attention-grabbing scheme. Paint quality is very good with fine finishing and gloss atop straight and well-aligned panels. The body wears appropriate accessories such as dual Pilot-Ray driving lamps, chrome Depress-Beam headlamps, dual C.M. Hall cowl lamps and dual side-mount spares topped with Packard-branded mirrors. The radiator shell features a polished stone guard and is topped with the “Adonis” (a.k.a. “Daphne at the Well”) mascot. The chrome plating shows in excellent condition, with no signs of pitting or blemishes. Six chrome wire wheels are fitted with blackwall tires for a sporty look, giving the car enormous presence. The body is very accurately constructed, down to the small trunk on the rear deck and the offset driver’s seat.

Being a sporting roadster, the cabin is simple and purposeful. Brown leather has taken on a pleasing patina from use, but remains in very good condition having been recently conditioned. The steering wheel also shows a nice patina, the sign of a car that has been used and enjoyed on the road for many years. The instruments are original issue Packard, with a lovely Jaeger 8-day clock facing the passenger. The cockpit is trimmed with a polished bright alloy rail, adding to the sporting flavor of the body.

The big straight eight engine (wearing serial number 184009) is well detailed with clean and tidy presentation. Having been regularly driven, it shows some typical patina from use which only adds to the appealing, inviting nature of this great sporting Packard. The engine retains its correct finned intake, finished properly in black ceramic. The cylinder block and head are painted correct Packard green and the crankcase remains in bare cast material as original. The presentation is pleasing and accurate, with no major modifications for road duty. A recent gearbox rebuild ensures reliable and easy motoring.

Having enjoyed regular maintenance and use, this rare and desirable Packard is ready to continue thrilling its next keeper. It is FIVA registered and eligible for numerous events worldwide. This is a rare opportunity to acquire a Packard Speedster, arguably one of the finest driver’s cars of the period.

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