Brunn & Co. of Buffalo, New York had a long tradition of fitting fine quality bodies to Pierce-Arrow, Packard, Rolls-Royce and in particular, Lincoln chassis. Hermann A. Brunn’s German heritage shone through in the high standard of workmanship he demanded as well in his understated, Teutonic designs. In 1937, Packard had taken a liking to one Brunn design in particular, the so-called Clear Vision Touring Cabriolet, which was first shown atop a Lincoln Model K chassis and used as the Brunn Family’s personal transport. This elegant, formal style featured an enclosed driver’s compartment, division window, and an opening Landaulet-style rear treatment that was fully lined and weather tight in the closed position. A most interesting detail was the inclusion of a pair of green-tinted “Neutralite” glass panels above the windscreen, which allow the driver easy sighting of traffic signals as well as giving a more open feel to driver’s compartment.
1939 marked the final year for the legendary Packard Twelve, with end of the custom bodied era soon to follow, as the Brunn Touring Cabriolet was one of only seven selections offered in the 1939 Packard Custom Catalog (5 styles by Rollston, 2 by Brunn). At $8,135, the Brunn Touring Cabriolet atop the 1708 chassis was the most expensive Packard for 1939, and their own literature suggests it would suit as either “limousine or owner-driven sedan”. Chassis with soapbox driver’s seats were shipped from Detroit to Buffalo to be up-fitted by Brunn’s craftsmen. In an effort to save money, Packard required Brunn to use existing door stampings, which in turn had to be heavily reworked to achieve the level of fit dictated by Brunn’s own high standards. This level of perfection resulted in a net loss for Brunn on virtually every unit produced. In the end, customer demand was light and just 22 Packards would feature this stylish and versatile body in the three years it was offered.
This handsome 1939 Packard 1708 Twelve Brunn Touring Cabriolet is a fine example of this exclusive model with known history from new. It was first purchased by the Armour family of Chicago who were proprietors of one of the largest, most successful, and sometimes notorious meatpacking companies of the era. The family retained the Packard in their fleet through 1950 when it was purchased by Hal Davock of Fort, Lauderdale Florida. Mr. Davock was a pioneer in the collector car world who valued these special-bodied early Packards at a time when many of them were simply treated as “used cars”. He cared for the car for nine years before passing it to George Tilp of New Jersey.
Mr. Tilp was a fascinating character. He was a trained engineer who had turned his father’s metal stamping business, Adams Industries, into a hugely successful operation. Tilp possessed a great love for cars and racing, and he was one of the most influential players in the early days of the SCCA. While not a racer himself, he owned numerous race cars, including an Aston DB2/4 powered by an Offenhauser four-cylinder that was raced by Walt Hansgen, an Offy-powered Ferrari Mondial, and several factory-backed Mercedes 300SL racers. Tilp also served as a primary sponsor for a young Phil Hill as he was starting his career in motorsports, and the two remained good friends until Tilp’s death in 1979. Aside from his racing exploits, Mr. Tilp had an affinity for classic machinery, and this Packard Twelve was counted among his proud fleet that also included a V16 Cadillac and even a restored Pullman Coach. Whilst in his care, Tilp had the Packard returned to its original shade of Brunn Ruby, and actively enjoyed the car, winning numerous CCCA awards along the way.
In 1981, the Packard was purchased from George’s son Peter Tilp by Dr. Armand Crescenzi. From 1985 through 1998, the car was in the hands of Al Dumrose of Corrales, New Mexico. All along, this wonderful Packard was maintained in highly original condition thanks to its careful owners. In 1998, the Brunn Packard joined the world famous Otis Chandler collection where it remained until 2003, when it passed into the hands of its most recent owner, a passionate California-based collector of important Full Classic automobiles, who continued to cherish and enjoy the car.
Presented in its original Brunn Ruby body with cream yellow accents, this fabulous Packard remains in excellent condition. It is believed that the indicated 38,500 miles is original, as close inspection reveals a car that has been properly maintained through the years, with light restoration work done as needed. Paint and body remain excellent, with Brunn’s renowned quality and detail showing through in the fit of the doors and panels. The handsome body is fully accessorized with dual Trippe Lights, Cormorant Mascot, bumper overriders, trunk rack, and dual covered side-mounts with mirrors.
The beautifully appointed interior is trimmed in beige broadcloth with tan carpets and door cards. The driver is treated to an array of stylish and clear instruments – in original condition – and Packard’s typically sensible control layout. For 1939, the shift lever was moved to the column to allow for more front seat leg room. The woodgrained metal dash is beautifully presented, as is the wood on the door caps which continue into the rear compartment. The passenger compartment retains original 1939 upholstery on the seats, as well as beautiful wood, an original Jaeger clock in the division panel, and the original radio with controls in the rear seat arm rest.
Mechanically it is in fine order, performing with graceful ease, and retaining the feel of a solid and highly original car. This rare and truly extraordinary Packard is one of just 446 Twelves sold in 1939, with single-digit survivors in this body style; representing the end of the multi-cylinder, coachbuilt era in America. Benefitting from many years of attentive ownership, this fabulous Full Classic remains in fine order, ready for CCCA CARavan tours and similar club events.