As the world emerged from the Great Depression, automakers were cautiously optimistic about the recovering market. Luxury carmakers suffered the most during the economic collapse, and several great names, including Pierce-Arrow, Duesenberg, and Auburn had either disappeared or were on the brink of closure. For the high-end car companies that survived, the importance of a mid-price model was more apparent than ever. Cadillac had LaSalle playing the supporting role since 1927, while Packard toyed with a junior line with the 1932 Model 900, then again in 1935 with the 120. Despite their somewhat clumsy handling of the 900, the initial success of the 120 showed management that the buying public was ready for a cut-price Packard, despite earlier fears that it would cheapen the brand.
Despite the fanfare surrounding the new 120, the “senior” Twelfth series line captured plenty of attention thanks to beautiful new styling that predicted the streamline age to come. The senior line consisted of the Eight, Super Eight, and the flagship Twelve, all with numerous chassis and body options to cater to the traditional, upscale Packard buyer. New-for-1935 styling featured fully skirted fenders, a more integrated, body-color V-shape radiator shell, and painted bullet headlamp housings. The overall styling was more integrated and smoother than ever before, all while maintaining the presence, elegance, and sophistication that Packard owners expected.
The Twelve remained the obvious choice for Packard’s most exclusive clientele. Engineers continued their quest to provide the smoothest, most relaxed driving experience, devising several ingenious solutions to dampen vibration and road shock. The trunnion blocks used spring-dampening to reduce vibration through the steering, the V12 engine rubber-mounted, bumpers had weighted fluid dampers, and the steering box featured roller bearings for smoothness. Everything about the Packard Twelve was designed for silent operation, exquisite ride quality, and performance. Packard rated the 473.3 cubic inch V12 conservatively at 175 horsepower, easily rivaling the Cadillac V16. Each Twelve got a thorough, 250-mile shakedown run at Packard’s Utica, Michigan proving grounds before delivery; although 1935 proved to be the final year of that practice. While the Depression was nearing its end, buyers of high-end luxury cars were still scarce, and even wealthy individuals were still hesitant to flaunt their status with flamboyant automobiles. Production records show Packard constructed just 445 12th Series Twelves compared to nearly 25,000 mid-market 120s in the same model year.
This 1935 Packard 1207 Twelve is a rare and highly desirable Dietrich-bodied Convertible Victoria. At $4,790, the 827 Dietrich Convertible Victoria was the most expensive catalog body available on the 1207 chassis, with only the Custom-line LeBaron All-Weather Cabriolet coming in higher. Sold new by Zell Motor Company of Baltimore, Maryland this car was the subject of a concours level restoration some years ago and is a former CCCA National First Prize winner. Finished in a handsome, period-appropriate shade of dark brown with a complimenting beige roof and saddle-tan leather interior, this gorgeous Packard has mellowed into a marvelous tour-quality car. Factory equipment includes chrome wire wheels, dual side-mount spare wheels with painted covers, trunk rack, and a Cormorant mascot. This superb restoration took place while in the care of the late Bill Hirsch, a well-known and highly respected supplier of restoration parts and materials for Packard, Rolls-Royce, and other classic automobiles. Following Hirsch’s ownership, it passed through the hands of several noted marque experts who enjoyed the car on the road and maintained it in superb order. Today, this Packard Twelve presents in excellent condition, with a slight mellowing of the cosmetics from years of enjoyment by its series of enthusiastic custodians.
In the five-passenger cabin, beautiful natural tan leather covers the seats, door cards, and interior panels. It presents in fine order, displaying some light creasing acquired through use and care on the seating surfaces as well as minor wear on the carpets. Controls and switchgear are in excellent order, and the wood-grained dash is beautiful, proudly displaying the original instruments set into a chromed surround. The fabric top shows in a similar condition to the rest of the upholstery, with a snug fit and the lightest creasing from use.
For the 1935 model year, Packard bumped the displacement of the L-head V12 to just over 473 cubic inches. The factory conservatively rated output at 175 horsepower, although it was the seemingly bottomless torque rating that made the Twelve such an outstanding performer. Refinement was also improved, making the1935 Twelve one of the best driving of all the twelve-cylinder Packard range. This car’s engine presents in good order, showing some patina on the painted and enameled surfaces, yet appearing very clean and well-maintained overall.
As one of just 445 twelve-cylinder 12th series cars produced, this superb Convertible Victoria is a supremely rare sight indeed. Just a handful of these elegant open cars exist, and this marvelous example has enjoyed a charmed life in the attentive hands of notable marque experts, now beautifully mellowed and inviting regular enjoyment. The powerful and refined nature of this Packard Twelve makes it an excellent choice for CCCA CARavan tours, or numerous other road events on the calendar.