Prior to the stock market crash in October 1929, Packard was riding high. As one of the “Three Ps” (Peerless, Pierce-Arrow, and Packard), it was at the very top of the American car hierarchy. Despite the financial calamity late in the year, in 1929, Packard built a heady 55,000 cars, which amounted to 20% more cars than the combined total for Cadillac and LaSalle. Of course, that was about to change.
The full force of the Great Depression had not yet been felt when the Packard’s Eighth Series was released in mid-August 1930. More refinement than revolution, the 840 and 845 models retained the best of the prior series, adopting the engine from the highly-celebrated 734 Speedster. It benefitted from that model’s larger intake and exhaust ports, and a three-piece intake manifold with a cylindrical chamber to preheat the mixture. Enhancements included upgrades to the carburetion and fuel pump. Power output from the 384.8 cid straight-eight engine has been quoted at between 120 and 145 horsepower, depending upon the source, and that power was delivered with Packard’s renowned refinement.
Offered in both 140.5-inch and 145.5-inch wheelbases, both chassis lengths featured solid axles suspended on semi-elliptic leaf springs. Mechanical drum brakes were fitted to all four wheels, and the shorter wheelbase chassis also benefited from an automatic lubrication system.
Approximately 20 different bodies were offered on the 840 and 845 chassis, with the sportiest being the 2/4 passenger roadster, such as the car on offer. The lightest of the cataloged bodies, this was the last true Packard roadster before roll-up windows were introduced. Other features included a rumble seat, and a golf club compartment. At $3,490, the sporty Roadster sat at the bottom of 840 price sheet – yet was still an automobile that scant few Americans could afford; just 2,035 840 Deluxe Eight models in total were sold for the 1931 model year.
This lovely and elegant 840 Roadster was restored some years ago, and is presented in outstanding condition inside and out, having mellowed gently with age and enjoyment. Resplendent in its livery of metallic silver-gray with black swage lines, the body is impressively straight with outstanding panel fit. The chrome and detailing are superb, with high-quality and crisp plating. The wire wheels – painted black and fitted with polished spokes – are fitted with wide whitewall tires for a proper period-sporty look. Additional equipment includes dual side mount spares, Pilot Ray lights, dual CM Hall search lights, radiator stone guard, trunk rack, and a goddess of speed mascot.
The cockpit continues the theme of quality and style. Trimmed in red leather with gray carpeting, it is in excellent condition, with the seats showing some light creasing from use, and the door cards and kick panels are crisp and tidy. Controls, instruments, and switches are nicely restored with ivory knobs set in a woodgrain finish dash panel, while the doors are topped in wood accent trim. The tidy black fabric top is piped in red and features matching side screens to tie the theme together nicely.
Packard’s superb L-head inline-eight is well detailed with authentic finishes, hardware, and fittings, showing only light indications of use since it was restored. It runs with the smoothness and refinement expected of a Senior Packard, with snappy acceleration thanks to the relatively lightweight coachwork. Put simply, it is a joy to drive.
This lovely Roadster can best be described as a former show quality car that’s mellowed into a fabulous tour car, yet it would undoubtedly still turn heads at concours and club gatherings. With so few of the 840 series built, this roadster is as rare as it is usable.
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