1938 PACKARD 1605 SUPER EIGHT SEDANCA DE VILLE
COACHWORK BY BARKER
Chassis No. A500689
Engine: L-head straight eight, 360ci., 135bhp at 3,200rpm; Gearbox: 3-speed; Suspension: safe-t-flex independent front, semi-floating rear axle with semi-elliptical leaf springs; Brakes: Bendix hydraulic four wheel drum. Left hand drive.
Packard records show that more than 20 foreign coachbuilders catered to the cars from the East Grand Boulevard. In Great Britain, where a considerable number of Packard chassis were sold throughout the late 1920s and up until the beginning of World war II, coachwork in the British tradition was furnished by the Carlton Carriage Company, Freestone and Webb, Hooper, H.J. Mulliner, Salmon and Son and Barker and Company. Packard maintained an active export program and was building both left and right hand drive chassis for European delivery. In 1938, Harry C. Hatch, the man behind one of the largest and most successful distilleries in the world, Hiram Walker-Gooderham and Worts Ltd. of Canada purchased this Packard Model 1605 Super Eight chassis and shipped it to build a body in the style of a Rolls Royce Sedanca de Ville.
Hatch could easily have afforded any car in the world, yet he chose Packards. The family had owned at least 25. On his numerous trips to England, Hatch had become well acquainted with the House of Barker, one of England's oldest coachbuilding firms. Established in the 18th Century as a carriage maker to the royal family, in the age of the automobile Barker became the premiere coachbuilder to Rolls-Royce. It was their well known expertise in building luxurious motorcar bodies that brought Hatch to 66 South Audley Street - and none to soon, as it would turn out. With the decline in demand for specialized bodies and the rise in operating costs, Barker found it increasingly difficult to carry on, and shortly after the Packard Sedanca de Ville was delivered the firm went into liquidation, and was taken over by Hooper, ending a centuries old concern that had been established in 1710. This then is one of the last cars to be built by Barker and one of the few Packards ever bodied by the London firm. The styling is purely Rolls-Royce in almost every detail, save for the Packard grille. The very stately Sedanca de Ville body was constructed entirely of aluminum and mated precisely with the super Eight's 139 inch wheelbase chassis. As a chauffeured limousine, the car was simply enormous, especially when viewed from the rear, a perspective from which it could have been easily mistaken for a Rolls-Royce. The chauffeur's compartment was finished in black Connolly leather, sedately retaining all of the 1938 Packard fittings for the instrument panel. The passenger compartment was abundant with special features: a built-in bar, twin lighted vanities, an intercom, divider window and a unique power operated rear window shade that required a rather complicated mechanism that consumed a small portion of the trunk. The trunk itself was a piece of work, fitted with two individual storage compartments, one of which was solid steel, and a double locking floor safe. A further detail is the Lalique falcon radiator mascot.
With all of its embellishments, the Sedanca de Ville weighed well over 2 tons, and even with the Super Eight's 135 horsepower engine, the car seemed underpowered and would take some time to reach speed. That wasn't to say the Super Eight couldn't go fast. A subsequent owner of this Packard was once stopped for speeding at over 85mph!
The car remained in the Hatch family for 23 years and even after Mr. Hatch passed away in 1946, at the age of 63, his wife continued to have the car driven to the family's Florida retreat each winter until the late 1950s. Such was the devotion of Packard owners on both sides of the Atlantic.
In June 1961, George Van Norstrand of Ontario, Canada, purchased the car for the meager sum of $250.00 Canadian. The car was sold in 1968 and then again in 1974, this time to American collector, Arthur J. Russell, Sr. Mr. Russell restored the engine in 1984 and in addition to the engine restoration, a thorough cosmetic refurbishment was performed. Following the restoration, Mr. Russell drove the car until he sold it in 1986 to classic car dealer, Tom Crook. After a brief period of ownership by collector Ed Suddarth, who maintained its flawless concours condition to win its class at Pebble Beach, it changed hands for the last time in 1990. Under its current ownership, this superb vehicle has continued to win awards and medals in competition and show. This one-off custom bodied Packard would be a welcome entrant at any Classic Car Club of America show or caravan.