Auctions and Brokerage
Coachwork by Packard Custom Bodyworks
Formerly the Property of McClure Halley, Ralph Stein, and Otis ChandlerA. McClure Halley, Brooklyn, New York (acquired new in 1930)Leo Pavelle, Mount Vernon, New York (acquired from the above circa 1934)Ralph Stein, Westbrook, Connecticut (acquired from the above in 1942)John Putch, Shreveport, Louisiana (acquired by 1948)William Carney, Shawnee, Kansas (acquired from the above in 1967)William Dale, Pewaukee, Wisconsin (acquired from the above circa 1971)Barry Hon, Laguna Beach, California (acquired in 1977)David Clark, Laguna Hills, California (acquired from the above circa 1980)Peter Bogren, Paxton, Massachusetts (acquired by 1981)Vincent Barletta, Glen, New Hampshire (acquired from the above in 1987)Tom Hollfelder, Tustin, California (acquired from the above in 1989)Otis Chandler, Los Angeles, California (acquired from the above in 2001)Current Owner (acquired from the above in 2004)
Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance®, 1977 (Second in Class)Packards International Grand Salon, 1990 (Circle of Champions) California Mille, 1994Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance®, 2006 (First in Class)Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, 2007 (Breitling Award for Timeless Beauty)Kirkland Concours d’Elegance, 2009 (First in Class)
In 1930, Packard unveiled the 734 Speedster, an understated high-performance model that has since earned a reputation as one of the finest sporting automobiles built by an American manufacturer prior to WWII. The brainchild of Col. Jesse Vincent, Packard’s vice president of engineering, the 734 Speedster was the prototypical factory hot rod, built on a shortened and narrowed DeLuxe Eight chassis, and equipped with 19" wheels, high-speed rear end, finned brake drums, and a tuned 385 cid straight eight. Featuring a Detroit Lubricator carburetor, hemispherical combustion chambers, ribbed exhaust manifold, and optional high-compression head, the Speedster produced a stout 145 hp. After the Duesenberg Model J, it was the most powerful American car available to the public in 1930.
Although it was built in limited numbers, the Speedster was offered in five distinct body styles: Runabout, Phaeton, Victoria, Sedan, and Roadster. Custom tailored to the dimensions of the 734 chassis, the bodies were built in Packard’s own coachworks, where standard bodies were narrowed and sectioned to more striking proportions. While most body styles were conservative, the Runabout – with its boattail rear end, minimal top, and dramatic, staggered seating arrangement – was overtly sporting.
The 734 Speedsters could reach 60 mph in second gear and had a top speed in excess of 100 mph – figures that were virtually unheard of for any production car in 1930, let alone a well-appointed luxury model. Not only did these Packards offer impressive performance, these well-engineered, high-quality cars were pleasant to drive and elegantly designed. When new, they commanded more than $5,000 – at a time when a new Ford roadster cost just $460.
The 734 Speedster presented here is among the finest surviving examples, with a rich, fascinating history that can be traced to 1930.
Identified by body no. 442-23, this Runabout was sold new to A. McClure “Mac” Halley of Brooklyn, New York. A fascinating character, Mr. Halley was described by The New York Times as “an exhibitor and judge of dog shows and a sportsman of varied interests” – an accurate, albeit understated, assessment.
Mac Halley was born in Albany and trained bird dogs and working dogs before becoming a judge. After serving as an Army artillery captain in France during WWI, he returned to New York and was hired to manage Giralda Farms, the Madison, New Jersey, estate owned by Geraldine Rockefeller and Marcellus Hartley Dodge, one of America’s wealthiest couples. Mr. Halley helped organize the prestigious Morris & Essex Kennel Club Shows and handled the family’s dogs, including their famous Doberman pinscher, Ferry von Rauhfelsen, who won Best in Show at the 1939 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.
Mr. Halley was also an accomplished fisherman and big-game hunter, and a collector of Frederic Remington paintings. Above all, though, he was an automobile connoisseur, with a passion for sports and racing cars. Not only did he own some of the finest classic cars, including a Bugatti Type 51 Grand Prix and an Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Touring Spider, he had Zumbach’s, the famed Manhattan garage, build him a custom car known as “Halley’s Comet,” which featured a Mercedes Indy car chassis, a supercharged twin-cam Miller engine, and stainless steel bodywork.
Mr. Halley also entrusted Zumbach’s with the care of his Speedster Runabout and had them personalize the car with some tasteful additions. As documented in period photographs and accounts, the Packard was finished in a single dark color and outfitted with painted wire wheels, chromed spare covers, French-made Marchal headlamps, a radiator cap-mounted tachometer, a clip-on V-shaped radiator grille guard, running board footman loops, a monogram on the door, and a variety of auxiliary lights and horns.
The spectacular appearance of Mr. Halley’s Packard impressed many New York City-based car lovers. Among them was Smith Hempstone Oliver, who was so enamored with the Runabout that it inspired him to write a definitive essay on the model, “Model 734 Packard Speedster of 1930,” published in the fall 1958 issue of Bulb Horn magazine. In it, Mr. Oliver recalls his initial encounter with this car.
“The first such car that I ever saw was a pointed-tail specimen that was being driven by a blonde down Flushing Avenue in Brooklyn in 1932. This, I later learned, was the car of McClure Halley, an ardent enthusiast who lived practically across the street from the Coney Island Hospital on Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn. The blonde was his wife. I later saw the car parked outside Abercrombie and Fitch’s on Madison Avenue in Manhattan, and had a chance to examine it somewhat. Later I met Halley at his home, and made occasional visits there to see him and his cars.”
At some time prior to WWII, Mr. Halley sold his 734 Speedster to Leo Pavelle of Mount Vernon, New York. Mr. Pavelle, in addition to being a famous photographer and photofinisher, was a great automobile enthusiast – a member of the Veteran Motor Car Club of America who owned fine cars such as a custom-bodied Mercedes-Benz S-Type and Bentley 8 Litre Tourer. He kept this Packard until 1942, when it was sold to Ralph Stein, the legendary automotive author.
Although Mr. Stein owned the Packard for just about a year, it left a lasting impression. He included a picture of the Speedster in his book The World of the Automobile, and in The Great Cars he described the ambivalent nature of parting with his 734.
“The Packard boat-tail is one of the few cars I regret selling. But I had little choice. The garage operator in whose premises lay an Invicta I had bought refused to allow me to remove it unless I sold him the Packard for $300. Although the Packard looked new and ran perfectly, I was so smitten with the Invicta that I allowed him to get away with his extortion.”
The Packard’s next known caretaker was John Putch of Shreveport, Louisiana. Described by a subsequent owner as a “tomato and fruit huckster,” Mr. Putch bought the Speedster around 1948 from his local filling station and kept it for almost 20 years. In 1967, he sold the car to William Carney of Kansas and, the following year, it was pictured in The Classic Car Bulletin. From there, the Speedster was sold to a new owner in Wisconsin and then, in the mid-1970s, made its way to Southern California, where it joined Barry Hon’s collection.
The Speedster returned to the East Coast by 1981, when it was sold to Peter Bogren of Massachusetts, and then resided in the Grand Manor Classic Car Museum in Glen, New Hampshire, in the late 1980s.
Noted collector and vintage racer Tom Hollfelder was the 734’s next caretaker. During his ownership, Mr. Hollfelder presented the car in 1990 at the Packards International Grand Salon, where it was displayed in the Circle of Champions. He also drove it in the 1994 California Mille. Finally, in 2001, Mr. Hollfelder decided to part with the Packard, and it was sold at Christie’s Pebble Beach Auction to Otis Chandler, the famed collector and former publisher of the Los Angeles Times. The Speedster remained a fixture in the incomparable Chandler Vintage Museum of Transportation and Wildlife in Oxnard, California, until 2004, when the consignor persuaded Mr. Chandler to sell him the car. The consignor then entrusted the Packard to the experts at Stone Barn Automobile Restoration in Vienna, New Jersey, for a complete show-quality restoration.
Refinished in a rich dark green, highlighted by tan leather upholstery and equipped with period Woodlite headlamps, the Packard made its post-restoration debut at the 2006 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance®, where it captured First in Class C-1, American Classic Open 1925–1931.
Since its win at Pebble Beach, the Speedster has earned several other prestigious trophies, including the Breitling Award for Timeless Beauty at the 2007 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance and First in Class at the 2009 Kirkland Concours d’Elegance. Maintained in the consignor’s private collection since, the Packard remains in exceptional condition and has been regularly exercised to ensure good mechanical operation.
In total, Packard built just 113 examples of the 734 Speedster. Of these, just 39 were originally sold with the Runabout body – one of the most attractive, sporting, and iconic designs of the era. According to the definitive Model 734 Speedster register – maintained by Bruce Grinager and evolved from Smith Hempstone Oliver’s original 1958 roster – a total of 18 Runabouts are known to survive, of which just eight are believed to exist today with essentially original bodywork and correct Speedster components.
This beautifully restored example is included among this elite group, and is all the more appealing, given its well-known history and exceptional provenance that includes some of the most famous names in car collecting: McClure Halley, Ralph Stein, and Otis Chandler. Offered from a significant California collection, where it has resided for the past 15 years, this is an American classic of unrivaled beauty, rarity, and sophistication – qualities that place it among the top tier of collectible automobiles.
Having known this outstanding Packard for many years and admired its wonderful qualities, Gooding & Company recommends serious consideration of this marvelous 734 Speedster Runabout – truly a car fit for the connoisseur.