1934 Packard Eight 4-Door Sedan
This Packard represents not only motoring at its finest, but a remarkable history filled with appreciation, dedication, and friendship.
Packard throughout the Classic Era tended to ignore model years and went with series designations instead. Nevertheless, today the 11th Series Packards are typically referred to as 1934s, and they hold a very special place in many enthusiasts’ hearts. Silky smooth engines, elegant coachwork, and that dramatic V-shaped grille helped cement the 1934 Packard’s place among the very best cars of the Classic Era. This particular 1934 Packard Eight 5-passenger sedan is a remarkable survivor with a documented ownership history and still in outstanding condition throughout. Recently serviced, it’s a running, driving tribute to some of the finest automobiles of the period.
According to the car’s original order confirmation sheet (it’s not quite a build sheet, but not an invoice, either), it was purchased as a demonstrator model by Liberty Motor Sales through Packard Motor Company of Pittsburg [sic]. Being a demonstrator may also explain why the original cowl plate shows the body number but no dealership name or delivery date, another curious footnote in the car’s interesting history. The order was issued 7-27-33, likely making this one of the earliest 11th Series Packards built. It was highly optioned, including a high compression cylinder head, AM radio, sidemounts with metal covers, trim rings, sidemount mirrors, and a neat little item called the Handy Kit, which is still with the car to this day. On November 27, 1933, it was purchased from Liberty Motor Sales by Mr. Theodore E. Frey of Pittsburgh, at which point it showed a fairly remarkable 5160 miles, which suggests quite a few test drives in the latest, greatest Packard. Its status as a demonstrator model would also explain the lengthy options list, most notably the AM radio, which was an exciting new feature in 1934. Mr. Frey owned the car until November of 1987 (an ownership span where he drove the car less than 1200 miles a year), whereupon he sold it to his mechanic and friend, Frank Humble for just “$1.00 and mutual automotive interest and friendship.” Mr. Humble maintained the Packard for another decade, and after brief ownership by another Packard aficionado, it has been in the current owner’s possession since 1999. It currently shows 72,062 original miles.
Today the car remains in well-preserved original condition, with obvious signs that all the previous owners understood the value of an untouched car. The factory-applied Abington Blue (code FF) is presentable, albeit thin in the usual spots, but that is most certainly a big part of this car’s charm. It appears that the front fenders have been repainted, and judging by the unusual front bumper guards, it’s possible they may have been damaged in the distant past, as the repaint is almost as old as the car. A big part of the charm of a car like this is the fit of the doors, which is precise and a joy in its mechanical simplicity, closing with a gentle push and a sound like the proverbial bank vault. There is no rust to note anywhere on the body, despite its life in Pittsburgh, PA, so it’s obvious that it has always been a cherished machine and not mere transportation. All of the chrome save for the horn domes is original, including the factory-optional hood ornament, grille shell (which could be painted body color at no extra cost), and the headlight buckets. There is some light pitting on the cast pieces like the taillight stands, but given its age and the overall patina of the car, it is entirely appropriate and acceptable. Packard experts might have questions about that front bumper, which is the correct size, shape, and design, but does not have cutouts between the bars, which may be attributable to its early production.
Inside, the light gray broadcloth interior is extremely well preserved. Aside from minor wear on the driver’s seat that amounts to some rubbing near the adjuster mechanism and a thin spot on the backrest, it is outstanding. All the woodgrained garnish moldings are beautifully preserved, and the back seat looks virtually untouched by the passing decades. The glass is all original as well, and aside from a crack in the front passenger’s window, shows no signs of age or delamination as is common on cars of the period. The gauges are simply spectacular with lovely ivory-colored faces, crisp markings, and delicate needles that all swing through their range of motion effortlessly, save for the clock, which isn’t surprising. Most remarkably, the original AM radio remains in the center of the dash, powered by a separate high-voltage dynamo in the driver’s side glove box. The recent service also included a new ignition switch. Other fascinating details include the adjustable brake system which varies the amount of assist and the adjustable ride control that manages firmness, both of which are fully functional. Aftermarket turn signals have been fitted, actuating the parking lamps on the front fenders, and the delicate silk shades on the rear windows remain intact.
Although the Eight was the entry-level Packard, it was far from inexpensive or ordinary, and the 320 cubic inch straight-eight engine has proven to be a superior machine in every way. Equipped with the high compression cylinder head (denoted by the HC cast into its surface), it is powerful, smooth, and effortless in everything it does. It has been recently and extensively serviced by David Heinrichs of Heinrichs’ Vintage Car Shop, which included things like a new head gasket, a valve adjustment, rebuilt carburetor, and fresh ignition system components. The fuel system was cleaned, the radiator was flushed, and today it runs extremely well. There is a fully functional Startix self-starter system installed on the firewall, but it has been disconnected simply due to the owner’s preference, and the same is true of the Bijur lubrication system, which is intact but capped. The engine compartment shows outstanding originality with all the original equipment in place, from the air filter to the porcelainized manifolds to the Owen Dyneto generator with correct rear-facing cooling scoop.
Pump the accelerator once, turn the key, and press the starter button and the car starts quickly, settling into a high idle and offering a vintage exhaust note that you’ll recognize from old movies. After a few seconds, blip the throttle and it drops to a smooth 600 RPM idle that’s barely perceptible from behind the wheel. The transmission is fully synchronized, and with 4.69 gears out back, it moves out smartly from rest. Suspension action is smooth and well-controlled, a remarkably sophisticated sensation if you are someone who believes all old cars were crude. And if you’re expecting typical awful 1930s brakes, you are in for a very pleasant surprise, as the binders on this vintage Packard are strong and confidence-inspiring. The optional wire wheels are fitted with polished trim rings per the build sheet, and newer Dayton blackwall tires complete a very authentic look.
Documentation is extensive, including that original build sheet, bill of sale, Owner’s Manual, Packard Owner’s Service Card, and extensive research information from a variety of sources. There’s also considerable documentation and service receipts from Mr. Frey’s ownership as well as all the service records from the current owner’s archives. The car is also known to Bruce Blevins and Jim Pearsall, keepers of the 10th and 11th Series Packard Eight roster, and Mr. Blevins considers this to be perhaps the finest unrestored Packard 1100 in the world. The car also includes a considerable array of spare parts including a replacement oil pan, as well as that original Handy Kit which still has most of its components intact.
This Packard represents not only motoring at its finest, but a remarkable history filled with appreciation, dedication, and friendship. Few cars of this vintage can claim such a detailed account of their lives, and survivors like this remain first-class curiosities for automotive archaeologists and highly-sought collectables at every level. If you are the kind of person wondering what a repaint might cost, then this is not your car. However, if you can see the appeal of the 80-year-old lacquer, the grand feeling of motoring in a car that has never been disassembled, and the sense of dedication a car like this commands, then perhaps it is something you should investigate further. A truly wonderful car and an elegant Full Classic eligible for any show or tour where it will undoubtedly be a star attraction.