Scrolling back through Packard’s illustrious history reveals many examples of why the marque consistently stood head and shoulders above its rivals. From the company’s inception in 1899, Packard stood for quality and uncompromising excellence above all else. In 1913, their recently-hired chief engineer, Jesse Vincent, began work on a sophisticated new V-12 engine that firmly established the marque as the undisputed king of American luxury. The typically conservative board gave Vincent the green light to develop the engine for aircraft use, which progressed into approval for motorcar production. Ahead of its launch in 1916, Packard’s President drove a new Twin Six halfway across the country in grueling conditions and declared it “the greatest piece of machinery that ever went upon the highways.”
Following a hiatus, Packard reintroduced the twelve-cylinder engine in 1932 as an all-new clean sheet L-head design. The Twin Six name also returned briefly, but the marketing department changed it to the more upscale-sounding Twelve from 1933-onward. As it had with the original Twin Six, Packard produced a superb engine, delivering seamless power with unparalleled refinement. It stood proudly at the pinnacle of Packard’s catalogue from 1932 through 1939, spawning some of the most achingly beautiful and eminently desirable automobiles of the Classic Era.
Packard’s Twelfth Series of 1935 introduced new styling across the range. The Streamline Moderne era had landed, and Packard embraced the trend with new fully skirted fenders, bullet headlamps, and integrated, V-shaped radiator shells. Buyer of the Twelve had the option of standard or long-wheelbase chassis and various body choices from LeBaron, Dietrich, and the firm’s in-house body shop. Five styles were available on the flagship 1208, with all but one carrying the prestigious Dietrich nameplate. At $4,950, the Convertible Sedan was one of the most expensive bodies offered, and with just 788 Twelves produced in 1935, exclusivity was undoubtedly assured.
This Series 1208 Convertible Sedan was delivered new to Boulogne, France, via the Parisian importer Barbezat in November of 1935. One can only imagine the impact such a grand and elegant motorcar would have made on French roads in 1935! While little is known of its early history, it has enjoyed attentive ownership in the USA since the early 2000s. In 2005, it was shown in the Circle of Champions at the Packard Club’s Southern California Regional meet. In 2008, it changed hands and was freshened for further concours use, and again qualified for the Circle of Champions on two occasions. After another change of ownership, the new owner prepared it for touring and detailed it further, earning 99 points at a CCCA Grand Classic in 2013. In 2016, the respected experts at Classic & Exotic Service performed a complete engine overhaul, totaling over $40,000.
The big Packard has a magnificent presence, strikingly presented in claret red with a burgundy belt line over a beige interior and top. Features include chrome wire wheels, twin side-mount spares with metal covers, dual Trippe Safety Lights, a Cormorant mascot, and a trunk rack. Notably, this car wears “Dietrich Inc., Detroit” coachbuilder tags, indicating it was designed by Ray Dietrich and built under his supervision in the Dietrich shop, distinguishing this as a genuine coachbuilt Packard. Other models that carry a “Dietrich” nameplate are designed by Ray Dietrich but are constructed by Packard’s in-house body shop. The quality of the restoration is first-rate, and it remains in superb condition throughout, with a pleasing character earned through occasional enjoyment on the open road.
Beautiful beige leather upholstery shows exceptionally well, with slight creasing noted on the driver’s seat. The dash features correct original instrumentation, switchgear, and controls for the factory-fitted radio. Detailing is superb, including a woodgrain finish dash and horn button, beautifully finished wood trim with gold-inlay banding on the door caps. The tan canvas folding top is in excellent order and is accompanied by a matching boot. Rear passengers enjoy spacious seating on the plush rear bench and ample legroom to relax and enjoy the quiet, refined ride. This car also features a wind-up glass partition for added privacy.
This lovely Packard remains in superb mechanical condition and is ready to enjoy on driving events such as CCCA CARavan® tours, yet is simultaneously more than capable of impressing concours judges. It is a gorgeous example of a powerful and prestigious Dietrich-bodied Packard Twelve, ready to take center stage in its next caretaker’s collection.
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