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Coachwork by Dietrich
Please note that this car is titled by its engine number.
One of Two Examples Built on the Twin Six Chassis | Originally Owned by Legendary Entertainer Al JolsonAl Jolson, Los Angeles, California (acquired new from Earle C. Anthony Packard, Los Angeles)Richard and Dorothy Hagen, Riverside, California (acquired circa 1955)Harold S. Crosby, Los Angeles, California (acquired in 1959)Leo Gephart, Scottsdale, Arizona (acquired from the above in 1968)Ben Massell, Atlanta, Georgia (acquired from the above circa 1969)Robert Friggens, Albuquerque, New Mexico (acquired from the above in 1972)David Kane, Bernardsville, New Jersey (acquired in 2011)Current Owner (acquired from the above)
Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance®, Pebble Beach, California, April 1963 (First in Class and Reserve Best of Show)Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance®, Pebble Beach, California, August 2012 (First in Class)CCCA Annual Meeting, Pasadena, California, March 2013 (First Place, 100 Points)The Elegance at Hershey, Hershey, Pennsylvania, June 2013 (Premiere Packard Award)Concours d’Elegance of America, Plymouth, Michigan, July 2013 (First in Class)CCCA Annual Meeting, Cape May, New Jersey, April 2014 (First Place, 100 Points)Concours d’Elegance of America, Plymouth, Michigan, July 2016 (First in Class)
“While the bodies in the standard Packard line are designed to meet practically all body requirements, there are owners who demand a more personal note in their transportation,a more thorough fulfillment of their individual tastes.”
– H.W. Potter, Manager, Individual Custom Car Department, The Packard Motor Car Company
The above introduction of the 1932 Packard Individual Custom Car Program succinctly describes the origins of the car offered here. Packard successfully filled this niche market by pairing its own superior mechanicals with a brilliant artisan’s best design. The result is nothing short of automotive perfection.
By 1932, Packard had solidified its position as the premier US manufacturer of luxury automobiles. In January of that year, Packard entered the multi- cylinder wars of the 1930s with its own 12-cylinder model, the Twin Six. That model name was a subtle reminder that more than a decade and a half earlier, Packard had produced its first 12-cylinder motorcar carrying the original Twin Six moniker.
With bore and stroke dimensions of 3 7/16" x 4" resulting in a displacement of 445.5 cid, the 1932 engine produced a formidable 160 hp at 3,200 rpm. Equally impressive was its torque rating of 322 lbs./ft. at a leisurely 1,400 rpm. Few competitors could match its power; none could match its smoothness.
That prodigious power was transmitted through a four-speed gearbox on early ninth-series examples, such as this car. Ensuring stopping power were vacuum- assisted brakes. No driving comfort detail was left to chance; the new-for-1932 bumpers employed harmonic dampers designed to smooth the ride and maintain composure during cornering.
Atop these mechanicals, the vast majority of Packards carried the elegant but conservative production coachwork. The 906 chassis, which enjoyed a healthy 147" wheelbase, was wisely selected as the platform for a limited run of cars equipped with exquisite custom coachwork by master designer Raymond Dietrich.
Dietrich’s automotive experience began at Brewster and Company and continued through his partnership with Tom Hibbard and their resultant LeBaron Carrossiers, followed by the creation of Dietrich Incorporated. Most enthusiasts would agree that Dietrich’s V- windshield designs were his finest work. The beauty of this example is immediately evident when viewing the car as a whole. Upon closer inspection, it’s apparent that each element of the body was designed to work in harmony, creating a whole that is more than the sum of its parts. The V design is apparent in the angle of the grille and then repeats both in the crease of the headlamp and parking lamp. Most collectors prefer the flowing open fenders, which visually extend the length of an already long car. That elegant and graceful V-windshield is supported on a cowl that blends harmoniously into the body, creating a sporty phaeton appearance with the windows lowered. In reality, the driver and passengers enjoy the comfort of a fully enclosed convertible sedan design.
Just two of these Twin Six Dietrich convertible sedans were produced, and this one’s original owner was Al Jolson, one of Hollywood’s first superstars. Mr. Jolson was a beloved singer, actor, and stage performer like none who had come before him, and his fame places him in the pantheon of legends. Mr. Jolson had this Packard built for him and delivered to Los Angeles via Earle C. Anthony Packard; the original cowl plate is stamped July 19, 1932. The Packard was originally finished in a dark shade of gray, a favorite tone of Dietrich’s. Mr. Jolson was photographed taking delivery of the car, and the photo appeared in the Sunday edition of the San Francisco Chronicle on October 23, 1932. A copy of the photo accompanies the sale.
Following Mr. Jolson’s ownership, this car was enjoyed by a number of significant collectors who appreciated both the Packard and Dietrich names. The Twin Six is believed to have been put into storage around 1940 following engine trouble. Its known history resumes in 1959 when acquired by well-known Packard enthusiast Harold Crosby, who served as chief class judge for American Classics at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance® from 1975 to 1994. During his lifetime, Crosby owned three other Dietrich V-windshield Packards, but he selected this example for restoration and entry in the 1963 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance®. Finished in two-tone blue with blue leather, it won its class and went on to be named Reserve Best of Show.
Robert Friggens of Albuquerque, New Mexico, acquired the Twin Six in 1972, adding it to his impressive collection of classics. He retained the car for 39 years and during this period was able to share his enthusiasm for it with designer Ray Dietrich himself, who lived nearby.
David Kane, another devotee of Dietrich Packards, acquired the Twin Six in July 2011. As the car retained its original coachwork with identifying Dietrich body tags, and was mechanically intact as well, Mr. Kane recognized the importance of returning this Packard to its original splendor, and he employed Stone Barn Automobile Restoration of New Jersey for the task. Both the gray exterior and interior leather were matched to traces of the original materials found in the car upon disassembly. Also of note, Mr. Kane states that the car retained remarkable structural integrity and originality, placing it among the finest Dietrichs extant.
Returning to the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance® almost 50 years after its first appearance there, and competing against a strong field of open Packards, this Twin Six placed First in Class in 2012. Four days prior to that win, the car successfully completed the 70-mile Tour d’Elegance® in stride.
The Packard’s condition was validated on two subsequent occasions involving rigorous CCCA judging. First was the March 2013 CCCA Annual Meeting in Pasadena, California, followed by the April 2014 Grand Classic in Cape May, New Jersey. Not surprisingly, both of these first-place wins were achieved with perfect 100-point scores. It proudly carries CCCA Senior badge no. 3085.
The current owner acquired the Twin Six in 2015, and it continues to gather accolades, most recently in July 2016 at the Concours of America in Plymouth, Michigan. Presented in prime condition, mechanically, cosmetically, and in terms of authenticity, it promises its next owner years of motoring pleasure, to say nothing of its aesthetic allure.
The V-windshield Dietrichs are among the most exquisite of all Packards, and those on the ninth-series chassis of 1932 are the rarest of all, with the precious few genuine examples held in private collections. This Individual Custom Convertible Sedan is even more significant as it retains its original coachwork and mechanicals, and features a well-known and fascinating provenance. A rare blend of forces converged in just the right way to create this automotive masterpiece; the equally rare opportunity to acquire it is now at hand.