Auctions and Brokerage
Coachwork by Packard Custom Bodyworks
From the Glenn Mounger CollectionDavid R. Williams, Tulsa, Oklahoma (acquired new in 1930)Roy M. Brooks, West Palm Beach, Florida (acquired from the above in 1940)Mills B. Lane, Atlanta, Georgia (acquired from the above in 1960)Al Rodway, Cleveland, Ohio (acquired from the above in 1968)M.H. “Tiny” Gould, Trucksville, Pennsylvania (acquired from the above in 1969)Craven Foundation, Toronto, Ontario, Canada (acquired from the above in 1972)Glenn Mounger, Bainbridge Island, Washington (acquired from the above in 1986)Ken McBride, Seattle, Washington (acquired from the above in 1989)Glenn Mounger, Bainbridge Island, Washington (re-acquired from the above in 2000)
AACA Fall Meet, Hershey, Pennsylvania, October 1969 (First Prize)CCCA Annual Meeting, Buck Hill Falls, Pennsylvania, January 1971 (Best of Show Junior)CCCA Pacific Northwest CARavan, June-July 2002 (Crosset Award)Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance®, Pebble Beach, California, August 2002CCCA Pacific Northwest Grand Classic, July 2004 (100 points)Pebble Beach® Motoring Classic, August 2006Forest Grove Concours d’Elegance, Portland, Oregon, July 2013 (Toast of the Concours Trophy)
In 1930, as Detroit was in the midst of an escalating horsepower race, Packard unveiled the 734 Speedster, an understated high-performance model that is perhaps the finest sporting machine built by an American manufacturer during the Classic Era.
The brainchild of Col. Jesse Vincent, Packard’s vice president of engineering, the 734 Speedster was the prototypical factory hot rod, built atop a shortened and narrowed Deluxe Eight chassis equipped with 19" wheels, a high-speed rear axle, finned three-leading-shoe brake drums, and a highly tuned 385 CID straight eight. With nine main bearings, a two-barrel Detroit Lubricator carburetor, hemispherical combustion chambers, ribbed exhaust manifold, and optional high-compression head, the Speedster produced a stout 145 hp. Aside from the Model J Duesenberg, it was the most powerful American automobile offered to the public in 1930.
Despite its limited production, the 734 Speedster was offered in five distinct body styles: Runabout, Phaeton, Victoria, Sedan, and Roadster. Custom tailored to the dimensions of the high-performance chassis, the Speedster’s coachwork was built in Packard’s own coachworks, where standard bodies were narrowed, sectioned, and trimmed to more striking proportions. While most body styles were conservative, the two-passenger Runabout, with its exotic boattail, minimal top, and dramatic, staggered seating arrangement, was overtlysporting. The design recalled the experimental Speedster prototypes built for Col. Vincent in 1927 and 1928.
The lightweight, high-performance 734 Speedster was capable of 60 mph in second gear and a top speed in excess of 100 mph. These figures were virtually unheard of for a production automobile in 1930, much less from a well-appointed luxury car.
The 734 Speedsters were a match for any automobile of the era and possessed a particularly European character unique among domestic offerings. Not only were they developed by one of the best engineering departments in Detroit, the Speedsters were a pleasure to drive at speed, modestly scaled, and elegantly styled. When new, these exclusive cars commanded a list price of more than $5,000 – at a time when a new Ford Roadster cost just $460.
The Model 734 Speedster presented here is among the finest in existence and one of very few whose history can be traced back to new.
A letter from H.W. Potter, manager of Packard’s Custom Car Department, details the original specification for sales order number 25977, which corresponds to this Runabout, carrying Packard Vehicle Number 184100 and body number 442-31. As documented by this correspondence, the coachwork was originally painted Plymouth and Pilgrim Gray, with Ivory Drop Black moldings and a French Gray Double Deep pinstripe.
When Smith Hempstone Oliver published his article, “Model 734 Packard Speedster of 1930,” in the fall 1958 issue of Bulb Horn magazine, this Runabout was owned by Roy Brooks of West Palm Beach, Florida. According to Oliver, Mr. Brooks “bought his 734 in South Carolina in 1940 from David R. Williams, the original owner, who had taken delivery of the car in Tulsa, Oklahoma.”
In 1960, Atlanta banker Mills B. Lane purchased the 734 Speedster for his growing collection, which he referred to as “The Stable of Thoroughbreds.” Mr. Lane’s impressive collection, curated with the care and discrimination of a true connoisseur, counted among its many highlights the Bugatti Royale Coupe Napoleon, King Zog’s Mercedes-Benz 540 K, L.S. McCormick’s Model J Duesenberg, Preston Tucker’s Pierce-Arrow, and a pair of Spohn-bodied Maybach Zepplins.
In 1961, Mr. Lane commissioned the great automotive stylist Alexis de Sakhnoffsky to render each of his cars in watercolor. As a result, the Packard Speedster, which had by then been repainted white with red wheels, had its dashing profile reproduced in numerous publications, from Automobile Quarterly to the men’s magazine True.
When Mills Lane divested his collection in 1968, Al Rodway purchased the 734 Speedster; a year later he sold the Packard to Tiny Gould of Trucksville, Pennsylvania. During Mr. Gould’s ownership, the Packard was restored and displayed at the 1971 CCCA Annual Meet, where it received 99.75 points and was awarded Best of Show Junior. In 1972, the Packard was the top-selling lot ($51,000) at a Kirk White Automobile Auction held in Radnor, Pennsylvania. The winning bidder was the Craven Foundation, an automotive museum in Ontario, Canada.
In fall 1985, Glenn Mounger learned from his friend Al McEwan that the Craven Foundation collection was being liquidated. Mr. Mounger mentioned that if the 734 Speedster became available, he would have an interest. In early 1986, the Runabout was indeed offered for sale and Mr. Mounger immediately seized the opportunity to acquire what he believed to be the ultimate classic Packard.
In 1989, he sold the Runabout to fellow Washington-state collector Ken McBride. Immediately regretting the decision, Mr. Mounger tried for many years to get the 734 Speedster back, finally re-acquiring it in 2000.
Soon after, Mr. Mounger decided to restore the Packard and commissioned Walt Johnsen of Bainbridge Island to perform a complete concours-quality restoration. Mr. Johnsen, whose restorations have won numerous awards at Pebble Beach, had already restored a Model J Duesenberg for Mr. Mounger, and the two worked closely together on the project.
During the restoration, the Speedster’s various component numbers were confirmed as correct, and an April 1930-dated tag from Jenks & Muir, the original upholstery supplier, was discovered inside the seat structure. Taking the car’s originality and build data into consideration, a great effort was made to return the car to its original color scheme – a tasteful combination of grays well suited to the Runabout’s lines.
Completed in 2002, the Packard made its debut at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance®. As Mr. Mounger was then serving as the event’s chairman, the car was exhibited for display only. The Packard has since been awarded a perfect 100-point score at the 2004 Pacific Northwest Grand Classic and has received major awards at other events. Today, the Runabout remains in outstanding condition and is offered with a proper tool kit, jack, weather equipment, two period-correct mascots, an original owner’s manual with reproduction Model 734 supplement, as well as a reproduction of the original “The Speedsters by Packard” brochure. The Packard is also offered with an impressive file that includes supporting documentation, period photographs, magazine articles, and more.
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 examples are believed to exist today with essentially original bodywork and correct Speedster components. Most are held in important private collections and are not likely to trade hands in the foreseeable future. Offered from the respected Glenn Mounger collection, this is a Packard of unrivaled beauty, rarity, and sophistication – qualities that place it among the top tier of collectible automobiles.
No world-class collection of American classics is complete without a Packard Model 734 Speedster. When the next example might become available is anyone’s guess, but it will almost certainly pale in comparison to this exceptional Runabout.