1929 Packard Eight Roadster

The introduction of the Sixth Series on August 1, 1928, marked some significant changes in the lineup. Packard’s legacy of exceptional quality, engineering excellence, and sophisticated style carried on unchanged, naturally, but the six-cylinder engine got dropped, and they went straight-eight across the board. The base of the lineup consisted of the 626 and 633 Standard Eight models (wheelbases of 126” and 133” respectively), with a 90 horsepower, 319 cubic-inch eight-cylinder. The term “base model” is relative as the least expensive sedan came in at $2,285 at a time when a new Ford was just $435. As always, Packard’s coachwork catalog was rife with options, offering buyers no fewer than ten different body styles, from the base sedan to a seven-passenger limousine, and a host of open bodies as well. One of the prettiest of all was the gracefully designed 2/4 passenger Runabout, style number 352. With its deeply curved front fenders, low profile, and raked windscreen, the Runabout roadster captured the essence of late-twenties American sports motoring.

This rare and desirable 2/4-passenger Runabout is a marvelous example of Packard’s sportiest offering from the Series 633 line. This car was in the long-term ownership of a dedicated marque enthusiast and life-long CCCA and AACA member, who commissioned its restoration in 2003. The story of this charming 1929 Packard picks up in 1956, when a young car enthusiast named Mr. Phil Rector, fresh out of college, began the hunt for an open-body Packard to join his model 626 sedan. An advertisement by the Carriage Cavalcade Automobile Museum in Silver Springs, Florida, piqued his interest – in particular, the 1929 Packard runabout roadster in running condition, described as needing a full restoration. Rector jumped at the opportunity and immediately went to see the car. He found it to be much better than expected, and a new battery was all it needed to spring to life. With a deal done on the spot, he brought the car home, and while it was a bit tired cosmetically, all it needed was some brake work and a pair of replacement headlights to get it back on the road.

Through the 1960s and beyond, Mr. Rector used the Packard Runabout regularly in club events around the Southeast United States. He continually worked on it, and treated the car to some restoration work as required, including a paint job, a new top, and replacement rings for the 319 cubic-inch inline eight. As Rector and his family moved around the country, so too did the Packard. In the 1970s, they resided in California and later Arizona, where they relished the opportunity to soak in warm evening drives with the Packard’s top folded. A letter dated October 1993 describes the enthusiasm the whole family had for the car, marking the occasion of it used in a family wedding, and shuttling the kids around town in the rumble seat.

In 2003, Philip Rector and his wife Carolyn retired and moved to Florida, naturally taking the Packard Runabout along with them. After 47 years of regular enjoyment, they finally decided the car was due for its first, well-earned restoration. They delivered it to Bob Ohara of Ohara’s Restorations in Frostproof, Florida, who would tackle the project. Thanks to its years of continuous care and maintenance, it was in surprisingly good condition and the ideal basis for a straightforward restoration. About the most challenging part of the project came when Rector had to pick colors for the car. He felt the previous primrose yellow and black scheme was outdated, and he gave considerable thought to a suitably bold paint scheme that would reflect the car’s sporty nature while also keeping it period-appropriate. Inspiration for the vivid orange and brown came from a period advertisement that hung in Rector’s garage, and seeing a similarly-liveried car at a show sealed the deal. With the colors settled, the car received a high-quality respray in orange with brown fenders, orange disc wheels, brown trim, and a tobacco-brown leather interior. After the complete restoration, the car now presents in lovely condition, with a gently mellowed character from continued enjoyment.

Fittingly for a sporty runabout roadster, the body is relatively unadorned and free from accessories to clutter up the elegant lines. Features include dual side-mount spare wheels, body-color grille slats, a trunk rack with a covered trunk, and purposeful black wall tires. The paintwork is excellent, appearing well-maintained and pleasingly detailed. There are a few minor imperfections found on close inspection; however, the overall presentation is outstanding and well-suited for touring and casual show. The brightwork is restored to a similarly high standard, with excellent bumpers, radiator, headlamps, and minor fittings.

Dark brown leather provides a lovely complement to the body. It is in excellent condition both in the cockpit and the rumble seat area. The floor is appropriately presented in linoleum and pyramid-pattern cast aluminum, and the dash features beautifully restored instrumentation set in a lovely woodgrain pattern fascia. Underhood presentation is similarly tidy, with correct Packard green paint on the block and head, atop the silver-painted crankcase. Black enamel manifolds and accessories are period correct and finished to a very high standard, with proper hardware, wiring, and plumbing.

The time and effort put into the restoration of this cherished Packard culminated in 2013, with a CCCA Senior Award (no. 3087) followed shortly afterward by an AACA Senior National First Prize, awarded in Lakeland, Florida. Since leaving the Rector family after so many years of loving care, this marvelous 633 Runabout remains in excellent condition, and its fabulous presentation makes it suitable for continued enjoyment in casual shows and on club tours.

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