1930 PACKARD 734 "BOATTAIL" SPEEDSTER RUNABOUT
CUSTOM COACHWORK BY PACKARD
Chassis No. 184011
Engine No. 184067
Body No. 442-11
Silver with burgundy belting and fenders with burgundy leather interior Engine: straight eight, 384 ci., water cooled side valves, 145bhp at 3,400rpm with high compression head 6.0:1 compression; Gearbox: manual four speed; Suspension: front and rear semi-elliptic leaf springs; Brakes: finned drums all around. Left hand drive.
In 1930 the Packard 734 'Boattail' Speedster Runabout was introduced to the American public. Within a short time, the car had become an ultimate classic and is heralded by enthusiasts as one of the most valuable and special Packards ever built - a true classic American hot rod. It is believed that a mere thirty-nine of these high performance Runabouts were built. Today only eleven genuine examples remain. Coveted by their current owners for their stylish design, remarkable performance and limited number, they are well documented cars with clearly traced individual histories. A total of 113 Speedster chassis' were built, ranging in style from the sublime Phaetons, Sedans and Victorias to the racy Roadsters and Runabouts. The Speedster on offer here, as identified by its chassis and engine numbers, is one of the few genuine examples of the 734 Runabout production line.
Created by the head of Packard engineering, Colonel Jesse Vincent, the Packard 734 was developed based on its predecessor, the 626. The Packard 626 was piloted to fame by 1923 Indy winner, Tommy Milton. Milton drove from Miami to Los Angeles at an impressive average speed of 50mph. The short wheelbase 626 featured a highly modified Super Eight engine and a one-off body devoid of fenders, wings, a windshield and lights. On the oval, the 626 recorded multiple lap speeds of over 110mph and on a straightaway, the 626 was recorded as having a top speed of 125mph. Despite the 626's awesome speed capabilities, it was far from becoming a public production car. It lacked the characteristic styling that embodied Packard design.
Unhampered by any of this, Colonel Vincent, who was already known for his desire to propel his cars at almost ridiculous speeds, set out to put this car on the road any way he could. His uphill battle grew steeper with the introduction of the Cadillac V16 in 1930 because he knew he needed to introduce something as dynamic as the V16 to the buying public. With good perception and marketing savvy, he managed to convince the Packard executives that there was only one way to answer - with speed, and a whole lot of it. Satisfied with Vincent's proposal, the executives gave him the go-ahead and in 1930 the new 734 model line-up was introduced to the American public.
Vincent created the 734 by utilizing both pre-existing technology and new engineering developments as well. The entire motor in fact, had been redesigned. The first change occurred with the cylinder block; the inlet and exhaust manifold had been altered from the standard vertical plane to a more practical hemispherical shaped design set at a 45 degree angle. It was practical because it utilized and maximized the larger openings to the manifolds while also separating the exhaust and inlet manifolds to create a faster, larger capacity and free flowing system. A Detroit Lubricator dual throat updraft carburetor was also installed, as was a foot controlled muffler cut-out. Together with a piston designed vacuum pump and the buyers choice of compression ratios, the new Packard Speedster Runabout was a virtual powerhouse, tailored and engineered to the owner's personal driving style. The asking price for the Packard 734 line ranged from $5,500 to 6,000.
The limited production Packard was destined to be a classic, yet somehow only eleven managed to survive. Judging by the body number on the car (442-11), the example on offer here appears to have been the eleventh car built out of the thirty-nine total Runabouts.
It is believed that the original owner of this car was a Mr. Paul N. Sahlstram who sold the car in 1941 to Paul Nicholas. Mr. Nicholas coveted it until his death in the mid 1970s when Mr. W. Gayle Dunivant of Maryland was able to purchase the car from the Nicholas Estate. While owned by Mr. Dunivant, the Packard was given a frame off restoration, including a bare metal respray and engine rebuild in July of 1980. The restoration photo pictured here depicts the boattail section of the Packard after it was stripped to bare metal, clearly showing the weathered and original rear coachwork.
Mr. Lassiter chose not to restore the car on account of the fine restoration carried out by the former owner. This Packard is equipped with dual steering operated Pilot Ray driving lights, beveled side wind windows and the distinctive off-set seating designed to give the driver ample space in the cockpit. The engine compartment and motor appear in clean, well-kept condition. The underbody, finished in vermillion, also appears extremely clean, indicating very limited road usage. The Packard is also reported to have the correct sidescreens to complete its racy look for all-weather driving. William Lassiter's 734 has been well maintained since its initial restoration. It should be noted that this car has never been shown in competition since the completion of the restoration several years ago, and would certainly be a welcome candidate in competition. It is, however, currently fitted with a dual throat downdraft Zenith carburetor, rather than the correct Detroit Lubricator it was originally equipped with.
This particular 734 has been authenticated by the Packard Club of America and 734 specialist, R. Bruce Grinager, as a genuine Speedster Runabout. It is considered a full classic by the Classic Car Club of America and is eligible for all tours, events and shows.