19-20 January 2017
1931 Packard Deluxe Eight Convertible Victoria by Dietrich
- Chassis no. 188700
- Engine no. 188680
- Vehicle no. 840-129
$250,000 - $300,000
To be auctioned on Thursday, January 19, 2017
- The 1931 New York Automobile Show car
- Originally delivered to legendary steel magnate Charles Schwab
- Long-term ownership by Packard historian Edward J. Blend
- Original body, chassis, and engine
- A superb Individual Custom Packard with exceptional provenance
THE HISTORIAN’S CAR
The late Edward J. Blend was among the most devout of Packard aficionados, in particular of the twelve-cylinder Eleventh Series models of 1934, on which he wrote a landmark book that is still referenced by enthusiasts. In addition to “Cyrano,” his prized 1107 Twelve coupe roadster, his fleet included “the ol’ veteran” or “Charley’s Packard,” as he dubbed this 840 Deluxe Eight Convertible Victoria. No second fiddle, “Charley’s Packard” was scrupulously researched and documented by its owner in a comprehensive cover feature for Antique Automobile magazine’s May/June 1982 issue.
According to Mr. Blend, his car, one of 11 Individual Custom Convertible Victorias built by Dietrich for Packard in 1931, had been exhibited at both the 1930 New York Salon, at the Commodore Hotel, and at the 1931 New York National Automobile Show at the Grand Central Palace. Confirming his belief, two coats of paint were found on the car during restoration: grey (the Commodore color) and then black (the New York show color). The car was reportedly the only one of the 11 cars to have been built with rear-mounted spares, giving it an especially long, low, and attractive appearance. Furthermore, according to Mr. Blend, a later re-upholstery job discovered “1879/1931 SHOW CAR,” hand-written in Raymond Dietrich’s distinctive handwriting, under each seat panel, although this is no longer present.
The car was subsequently acquired by Charles Schwab, renowned leader of Bethlehem Steel and, at the time, chairman of Stutz Motors. One wonders what the Stutz employees in Indianapolis said every time they saw a Packard carry the boss up to the factory! Perhaps for that reason, the Packard was eventually relegated to Immergrun, the Schwab country estate in Loretto, Pennsylvania. Mrs. Rena Schwab used the car for riding around the estate and for local errand-running. Locals recalled to Mr. Blend that during the worst days of the Great Depression, Mrs. Schwab rode around in the car, driven by a chauffeur and surrounded by baskets of food, which she would distribute to the needy.
The Schwab Packard was subsequently acquired by Doyal Ervin, also of Pennsylvania, who sold it to Mr. Blend in 1952 for less than $1,000. Mr. Blend and his father proceeded to drive the car in the 1953 Glidden Tour, where it was admired—and pursued for purchase—by early collector James Melton. Well over 99,000 miles had been traveled in the Packard by 1965, attending shows and driving on tours.
After Mr. Blend’s father passed in the mid-1960s, the Packard was given a complete restoration, which took nearly 14 years to complete to its perfectionist owner’s standards. While the work obviously now has a fine patina throughout, it remains thoroughly beautiful, including wonderful rich black leather upholstery, and a wonderful tuxedo-like color scheme. Numerous correct accessories are found throughout, including the “Toro” horn (which Mr. Blend described as producing “sounds like an agitated bull”), a pair of accessory mirrors (which took eight years to source), and a correct “new old-stock” Packard heater. Even the onyx dashboard knobs, a correct original option, were painstakingly sourced.
“Charley’s Packard” was a deserved prizewinner in both AACA and CCCA judging, and it remained beloved by Mr. Blend for well over another decade before finally passing from his ownership. It has had only a handful of further caretakers and has been continuously and conscientiously well-maintained to the same high standards. It would make an ideal basis for minor freshening and further show appearances, or as the most distinctive and illustrious automobile for a CCCA CARavan.
Very few genuine Dietrich “semi-custom” bodies from this era survive today. The car offered here undoubtedly has one of the finest histories, as a show car originally owned by an American business legend, and subsequently owned, enjoyed, and restored by one of the foremost Packard historians of modern times.
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