1939 Packard Super Eight Darrin Convertible Victoria SOLD

Originally Owned by the World ’ s Most Famous Lion Tamer – Clyde Beatty

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ESTIMATE: $225,000 - $275,000

$286,000 Sold

Originally Owned by the World ’ s Most Famous Lion Tamer – Clyde Beatty

Model 180, 130hp, 320 cu. in. L-head inline eight-cylinder engine with three-speed syncromesh transmission, coil spring independent front suspension, leaf spring live axle rear suspension, and four-wheel assisted hydraulic brakes. Wheelbase: 127"

With the demise of Packard ’ s Twelve in 1939, the Super Eight 180 became the company ’ s top of the line car. Despite the fact that junior cars had saved the company, the senior cars – especially the 180 – still set the standard both within the Packard organization and for its competitors.

On the inside, interior trim was on the cutting edge of technology. It featured a dash fascia molded almost entirely in plastic, well ahead of many of Packard ’ s competitors and undoubtedly an anomaly for the period.

Similarly, the coachbuilt era was drawing to a close. Before it did, however, some of the most exciting cars of the era – the coveted “ Darrin Packards ” were buit. The Darrin story begins in the late teens.

Howard A. “ Dutch ” Darrin was a pilot in WWI when he met Thomas L. Hibbard, an automobile designer who had co-founded the LeBaron body company in New York. Following the war, the two visited Paris to find a company to build bodies for LeBaron to take advantage of the lower costs in postwar France. Instead, with a financial backer, the two founded the legendary firm of Hibbard & Darrin and began designing and building their own bodies.

After the crash of 1929, their backer withdrew and Hibbard returned to America. Darrin remained in Paris, where he teamed up with another partner to form Fernandez & Darrin. By 1937, however, the writing was on the wall and Darrin returned to Hollywood, California to establish his own small custom body shop. Darrin ’ s initial designs on the 120 chassis were quite striking, and his order backlog began to grow.

It is difficult today to appreciate the dramatic effect that Darrin ’ s designs had on contemporary eyes. Here was a car with no running boards. It was much lower than other cars, and the doors swept gracefully down to meet the quarter panel. Darrins had smoothly integrated trunks at a time when most trunks were separate add-ons, or built out “ bumps ” on the rear of the car. Even the shape of the top was a design element, not just a replacement for a missing metal roof.

Catering to the whims of the stars, his stylish designs were very popular. These striking cars had long hoods, pretty vee windshields, and the famous “ Darrin dip ” in the beltline at the rear of the doors. His success attracted Packard ’ s attention, and a deal was struck for Packard to manufacture Darrin ’ s cars under Dutch ’ s supervision at the Central Body Company ’ s plant in Connersville, IN.

It is perhaps even more remarkable that Dutch ’ s design has stood the test of time so well; they are as striking today as they were in 1939. In a very real sense, they also represent the swan song for the coachbuilt era – the last of the truly custom crafted automobiles. The example offered here was originally purchased by the world ’ s greatest lion tamer, Clyde Beatty. With a career spanning the 1930s through the 1950s, Beatty earned fame on film, television and in live performances with the Clyde Beatty-Cole Brothers Circus. For his most daring stunt, Beatty would enter the ring with only a whip and a pistol at his side to perform his ultra dangerous “ fighting ” act with as many as 40 wild animals including lions, tigers, pumas and hyenas. The iconic lion tamer was the first to use a chair in his act, thus creating the standard for generations to come. In 1939, few cars were exotic enough for a thrill seeker like Clyde Beatty, a notable exception being the Darrin Convertible, which was a natural fit for the lion tamer ’ s persona.

The Packard received a complete professional body-off restoration to the highest standards several years ago. A CCCA National First Prize award and a Best California Custom award attest to the accuracy and quality of the restoration. Some of the paint, although recently buffed and fully detailed, shows some signs of deterioration, particularly on the front fenders where shrinkage is visible. However, the interior leather and carpet remain in excellent condition, as does the engine bay. The car is equipped with correct period Trippe driving lights, white sidewall tires, and accessory bumper guards. Notably, the Packard has been part of a private collection of significant motor cars for many years and its availability at auction now marks the first time it has been offered for sale in almost 20 years.

Darrin ’ s cars are extremely popular today. They offer the drivability of Packard ’ s excellent prewar chassis with its independent front suspension, hydraulic power brakes, and silky smooth steering, combined with the panache of Darrin ’ s racy design and a healthy dose of Hollywood provenance. The fact that they are rare only enhances their appeal – and their value.

Reference Number 5848

as of 1/10/2007

Car 1939 Packard Super Eight Darrin Convertible Victoria
VIN 17032012 
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