Flamboyant Packard Set To Star At Villa d’Este

Images: Makarand Baokar

One of the three ‘Ps’ of royal American motordom (the other two being Pierce-Arrow and Peerless), Packard had relatively humble beginnings, starting off with a small single-cylinder runabout.

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Even if the two-tone red and chrome makes the Packard flamboyant, there is yet a certain element of elegance to the design 

Founded by brothers James Ward Packard and William Doud Packard and their partner George L. Weiss as the Ohio Automobile Company in Warren, Ohio, in 1899, the name was later changed to Packard Motor Car Company in 1902 and the factory was relocated to Detroit in 1904.

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With the recent restoration by Super Car Club Garage in Mumbai, the Packard is all set to impress at Ville d'Este

The series of single-cylinder models was soon replaced by twins and four-cylindered cars, and by 1912 Packard introduced its first six-cylinder model, the Six or Dominant Six, which was very luxurious and was one of the most expensive American cars of the time.

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The subtle two-toning of the two reds and the fine coachlining all add up to a very beautiful car

In addition to automobiles, the company built engines for aviation and marine use during the First World War. Based on the experience gained with the Liberty V aero engine, Packard developed the world’s first V12 engine for automotive application.

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One of the most striking aspects of this car is the fully chromed bonnet. A few other Packards seem to have been delivered in India with this unusual feature.

Called the Twin Six, and unveiled in 1916, it was a great success, and the model that acted as the flagship for Packard as the American marque became the world’s leading luxury car manufacturer into the second half of the Roaring Twenties.

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With the top up the car manages to look fairly sinister. Here seen posing at Super Car Club Garage, where the Packard was recently re-restored

But the stock market crash of 1929 also impacted Packard badly, so much so that the carmaker lost $2.9 million in 1931, followed by another $6.8 million in 1932.
In 1933, the beginnings of a turnaround could be glimpsed with the launch of the Eleventh Series, on 21st August 1933.

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The double folding raked windscreen is another distinctive feature of this Packard—also seen in another Indian provenance car from the same period

Three basic model line-ups—the eight-cylindered Eight and Super Eight, and the V12-engined Twelve—on nine wheelbases and a variety of body styles, gave customers an extraordinarily wide palette of 40 models to choose from!

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Disc wheel covers were popular options for India

The magnificent Twelve remained the flagship but with sky high prices, found only 960 very wealthy customers. The Super Eight didn’t fare very much better either, as 1,920 markedly wealthy customers opted for it. And, despite the fact that the cheapest variant of the Eight was as much as five times the price of Ford’s V8, the Eight remained Packard’s mainstay as it chalked up sales of 5,120 cars over the next one year.

Several of them must have found their way to India, as the Indian princes and the wealthier set took to Packard in a fairly big way, so much so that Packard was one of the better selling luxury marques in India too.

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Hand-painted Nawalgarh coat of arms, executed at Super Car Club Garage

One survivor from then is this magnificent example on these pages, a beautifully restored 1101 Eight 7-passenger Tourer model, which is expected to be one of the stars in the Incredible India section of Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este this weekend.

This Packard 1101, from 1934, was bought by Madan Singhji, the Thakursaheb of Nawalgarh, which was one of the smaller princely states in the province of Rajasthan. It was an export model, specifically for India perhaps, as it came in a right-hand drive configuration, with the accelerator pedal sandwiched between the clutch and the brake pedals.

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Powering the car is that sublime straight eight of 5231cc

It also featured twin spare wheels, as well as disc wheels instead of spoked, which was not an uncommon option for Indian road conditions then, and an unusually rakish windscreen that tilts and folds differently.

With the Indian princes’ penchant for the polished aluminium look as seen in several Rolls-Royces (including the purdah Twenty which we featured recently), a few Packards sent to India seem to have featured chromed steel bonnets, like the one seen on this car. With bright two-tone red, combined with the chrome bonnet and other brightworks, this Packard is a strikingly handsome car.

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The famous Goddess of Speed mascot adorns the prow of Rajiv Kehr's Packard

The Packard remained with the Nawalgarh family until around 1965, when it was bought by a well-known Calcutta-based collector Shashi Kanoria (Shrivardhan Kanoria’s father).

Charles Puttkamer, an American diplomat based in New Delhi acquired the car from Kanoria and requested for permission from the Indian government to export the car, but he was refused.

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See ya at Villa d'Este

Puttkamer eventually sold the Packard to current owner Rajiv Kehr, who has had this sublime Packard as part of his delectable collection since 2007.

Rajiv Kehr will be presenting the Packard (freshly restored  by the Super Car Club Garage, in Mumbai) at Villa d’Este this weekend, and this will be followed by other presentations at various concours d’elegance events in Europe for this marvellous car.

Gautam Sen

Serial concours judge, author, founder-editor of several Indian auto mags, as well as co-conspirator with design greats Marcello Gandini, Tom Tjaarda, and Gérard Godfroy on a few vehicle projects


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