In the years leading up to the Great Depression, Packard’s board of directors considered building an “entry-level” model that could help broaden the appeal of the prestigious marque and help to shore up the bottom line. Prototypes existed as far back as 1927, but with business booming, any new model was considered too frivolous to the typically conservative Packard board. Besides, the mere mention of a “cheap” Packard sent dealers and distributors into a frenzy over fears of tarnishing Packard’s illustrious image. But at the September 1931 board meeting, with the country deep in the throes of the Great Depression and stocks of Eighth Series models still sitting in showrooms, the board took dramatic action and authorized a new mid-market car. Codenamed “X-127,” the new car was developed in record time for introduction at the 1932 New York Auto Show. Officially known as the Light Eight in sales and marketing literature, it was also referred to as the 900-Series in service documents. However, today’s enthusiasts know the car by the nickname “Shovelnose,” thanks to its bold, distinctive, and very un-Packard-like curved radiator grille.
The Light Eight was styled in-house by Packard’s chief stylist Werner Gubitz. Aside from the dramatic grille, the front end had no headlamp tie bar to spoil the lines, and the body featured a high beltline, low roof, and sweeping fenders. Packard offered four styles; a handsome four-door sedan, a two-door sedan coupe (or Victoria coupe), a coupe and coupe-roadster. Despite being priced below $2,000, dealers were relieved to discover the 900 Light Eight exuded Packard quality and prestige. It was also 600 pounds lighter than the Standard Eight, with which it shared its 320 cubic-inch eight-cylinder engine, imparting the 900 with brisk acceleration and better economy than its larger sibling. The 900 was the first Packard to feature a synchromesh gearbox, lauded for its exceptional smoothness and quiet operation. The Light Eight competed for market share against the likes of LaSalle, Buick’s 90 Series, Studebaker’s President, and top-line Hudson and Nash models. Despite the best efforts of Packard management and dealers, just 6,750 Light Eights were built, and the car was prematurely discontinued after only one model year. Today’s collectors covet the Shovel Nose for its unique looks, brisk performance and rarity. They enjoy Full Classic status with the CCCA and are lovely to drive, ideally suited for CARavan tours and road events.
For the driving enthusiast desiring a rare Packard 900 to enjoy on the road, look no further than this lovely 1932 Light Eight Coupe-Roadster. This handsome Shovelnose wears a well-preserved older restoration, featuring numerous desirable factory options. It is finished in tan over reddish brown fenders, with orange highlights adding a pop of color. The straight panels and excellent detailing point to a high-quality job and meticulous maintenance. The restoration has mellowed nicely, with attractive paint in good condition. The brightwork is quite presentable, with some polish marks and light hazing that are consistent with the age. This 900 is a well-optioned car, with the equipment list that includes wire wheels, dual side-mount spares with steel covers, front fender lights, and a trunk rack. The wheels are wrapped in fresh Firestone whitewalls, and the car sits beautifully on the road, looking low and sleek with the proud Cormorant mascot adorning the radiator.
Interior appointments on the Light Eight were simple yet elegant. For the roadsters, leather features in place of the broadcloth on closed cars. This car’s leather trim is in very good condition, with brown seats and carpets complementing the exterior color scheme. Rugs are tidy, door panels excellent, and the seat is very good with a bit of care-worn character to the upholstery. Steering wheel controls, gear lever, and switchgear are in fine order, and the instruments are excellent. Standard equipment included adjustable ride control and an “automatic clutch” which was operated by the red knob on the steering wheel hub. The top is trimmed in light beige canvas, which is sound and in good working order, though some minor blemishes are visible in the material.
The mechanical condition remains impressive, with the 320 cubic-inch straight eight starting easily and settling quickly into a silky smooth idle. With 110 horsepower on tap and a lightweight body, this Packard 900 is tremendously fun to drive. The car runs beautifully and is tremendous fun to drive. The block and head are detailed with correct Packard green paint, which sits atop a silver crankcase. Paint finishes are good, and there is some visible patina in some areas that are consistent with this being a well-maintained, older restoration. With a charming character, this Packard 900 practically begs to be driven. A quick ride will reveal why these cars are known as “The Hot Rod Packard” among enthusiasts. Highly collectible and wearing a lovingly preserved restoration, this Packard Shovelnose will prove to be a welcome companion on tours, rallies, and other road events.