Packard’s rich and fascinating history is full of ups and downs, spectacular success, and a handful of failures. The notoriously conservative board of directors was often at the epicenter of Packard’s dramas, and their decisions sometimes went against the best judgment of the engineers. From the mid-1920s onward, the board debated adding an “entry-level” model to the portfolio that could help broaden Packard’s appeal and provide some padding to the bottom line. Prototypes existed as far back as 1927, but with traditional business booming, the idea of developing a mid-priced car was considered too frivolous by the board. Besides, the mere mention of a “cheap” Packard sent dealers and distributors into a panic, fearing such a car could tarnish Packard’s impeccable reputation.
The reality of the Great Depression changed quickly changed attitudes at the September 1931 board meeting. Stocks of unsold Eighth Series cars were piling up at dealers, and with profits falling, the board took dramatic action and authorized a new mid-market vehicle in the same mold as the LaSalle, Buick 90-series and top Hudson and Nash models. 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 and internal documents. Today’s enthusiasts often refer to the 900 by the nickname “Shovelnose,” for it's bold, distinctive, and very un-Packard-like curved radiator grille.
The design of the Light Eight came courtesy of Packard’s in-house chief stylist Werner Gubitz. Along with the dramatic grille, there was no headlamp tie bar to spoil the lines, and the body featured a high beltline, low roof, and lovely sweeping fenders. Packard offered the 900 in four body styles, and despite starting at less than $2,000, dealers were relieved to find the car exuded the quality and prestige expected of a Packard. The 900 shared its 320 cubic-inch eight-cylinder engine with the Eight, yet the 600-pound weight advantage and new synchromesh gearbox imparted surprisingly lively performance, earning it another nickname: “The Hot Rod Packard.” Despite its apparent advantages, dealers weren’t well trained on how to sell the car, and just 6,750 Light Eights found homes before the model was prematurely axed by management after only one year. Today’s collectors covet the Shovel Nose for its unique looks, snappy performance and rarity. They enjoy Full Classic status with the CCCA and are wonderfully suited for tours and driving events.
This striking 1932 900 Light Eight is a sporty and highly desirable two/four-passenger coupe, lovingly restored from the ground up over ten years by its most recent owner. A passionate car collector, restorer, and active AACA member with numerous restorations under his belt, he discovered this rare Packard outside of Buffalo, New York in the early 2000s. He brought the car home to Ohio where he and his family began the painstaking process of restoring the car to concours standards. Penn-Dutch Restorations of Glen Rock, PA was called in to perform the body restoration, paint, and detailing. The Packard was carefully stripped and refinished in a handsome two-tone combination of Monarch Maroon on the main body, accented with black chassis, fenders, and feature lines as well as a gold stripe. According to factory literature, the colors align with Packard’s optional Paint Scheme C, which was one of several standard color combinations offered on the Light Eight, though buyers could, of course, select any colors they liked for an additional $90. Options and accessories fitted to this car include dual side-mount spares with polished covers, wire wheels, trunk rack, and the Goddess of Speed radiator mascot, traditionally reserved for Packard’s sportier models, of which the Light Eight certainly qualifies. The faux cabriolet top is correct, as every 900 coupe was fitted with an upholstered roof. The restoration is excellent, with a beautifully finished body and paintwork, high-quality brightwork and superb detailing.
Stunning woodwork and the wood-grained dash are particular highlights of the two-passenger cabin, which also features antiqued brown leather on the seats and door cards, with complementary tan square weave carpets. Detailing of the upholstery and fittings is up to the standard set by the exterior. The seat shows some signs of moderate use acquired in the time since the restoration was completed in 2012. Instruments and controls are correct, and the car features factory-fitted ride-control as well as the vacuum operated automatic clutch control on the steering wheel. The same rich, dark brown leather is used on the rumble seat, which presents in excellent condition.
Packard’s robust 320 cubic-inch L-head inline eight presents in fine order under the hood. Tidy and clean, the engine is properly detailed with period-type clamps, wiring, and plumbing. Finish quality on the block and crankcase is good, while the black porcelain manifolds appear in tidy condition. It has been driven and enjoyed since the restoration; however it remains quite clean overall. The substantial history file includes parts and restoration receipts, copies of period literature, ownership documents and an original handbook.
Following its outstanding restoration, this Packard was shown in numerous AACA events, earning its First Junior at the 2012 Southern Fall Meet, and a Senior National First Prize at the Auburn Spring Meet. It was also shown at the 2012 Glenmoor Gathering. In the time since the restoration has matured while remaining worthy of display in regional concours and club events today. Such is the Light Eight’s rarity, exquisite style, and historical importance, it qualifies as a CCCA Full Classic and is thereby eligible for CARavan tours and Grand Classic events, where the brisk and lively performance that makes the 900 so desirable can be fully appreciated.