1939 Packard Darrin Convertible VictoriaSOLD

RM Auction - Vintage Motor Cars at Amelia Island - March 10, 2007

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ESTIMATE: $170,000 - $200,000

$180,900 Sold

Model 120, 120hp, 282 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"

In the late 1930s, 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 built. 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 production 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 Packard 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. 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 in 1940 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 1939 Packard 120 Darrin Convertible Victoria presented here is a highly presentable example having just undergone a restoration spanning the latter part of 2006 and early 2007. The restoration was primarily cosmetic as the Packard required only minor mechanical attention. Stripped to bare metal, the Darrin Convertible was then thoroughly prepped before being repainted, color sanded and buffed. In the process of stripping the car, a section of the original paint was discovered, so it was decided to repaint the Packard in its very sporting original shade of yellow. A new tan convertible top and boot were fitted and the Carpathian burled wood dash was replaced. The burgundy leather interior shows beautifully, having been installed as part of a major restoration in 1999. The Packard also has a reproduction Lalique mascot. The original Packard radio has been upgraded internally to a solid state for greater dependability.

Although the early history of the Packard is unknown, the vendor has been able to trace the history of the car back to 1981, when Mr. Tiny Gould brokered the sale of the Packard from a Mr. J.J. Thompson in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida to the Imperial Palace Collection in Las Vegas. The Packard would change ownership two more times and was subjected to a complete restoration before being acquired by the current owner.

It is believed that there were only seven or eight 1701 series model 120 Eight Packards given the Darrin Convertible Victoria treatment. Furthermore, it appears that only a total of 30 Packard Darrins were produced in Hollywood between the years of 1937-1941. These numbers include five built in 1940 and one built for Errol Flynn in 1941.

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. The fact that they are rare only enhances their appeal – and their value.

Reference Number 7276

as of 2/19/2007

Car 1939 Packard Darrin Convertible Victoria
VIN B319346A 
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