1940 Packard One Twenty Convertible Victoria by Darrin
- One of approximately 24 genuine One Twenty “Darrins” built by Packard
- Formerly owned by Robert Kellner
- Authentic restoration; Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance award-winner
- Classic Car Club of America (CCCA) Full Classic
The Packard “Darrin” was a remarkable blending of all the glory that was Packard in the Classic Era with all the impudence that was the stock in trade of Howard “Dutch” Darrin. The result was glamour with lots of pizzazz—a perfect fit in the luxury maker’s lineup for an exclusive, halo automobile.
Without Darrin’s insistence, the car likely would never have been built. Following his days in Paris, the inimitable Darrin settled in Hollywood, where he immediately established himself as the purveyor of custom coachwork to the stars. The polo-playing Darrin was quickly accepted by the Hollywood crowd; his well-cultivated French accent fit in perfectly. He named his shop “Darrin of Paris,” and his first client was Dick Powell, for whom he fashioned a two-passenger Ford roadster in 1937. Shortly thereafter, he built a two-seat convertible victoria roadster on a 1937 Packard One Twenty chassis for actor Chester Morris. It led to the idea of building a five-passenger version and selling Packard on the idea of including it as part of its lineup. The initial word from Detroit was no, but that didn’t stop him.
Darrin began with a standard Packard Eight Business Coupe, little of which remained when the transformation was completed. Most memorable were the sweeping cut-down curves of the doors, the car’s signature styling feature commonly referred to as the “Darrin Dip.” The rakish body looked downright racy when compared to competitor Lincoln’s Zephyr Continental, yet the car remained unquestionably and distinctly, a Packard.
Darrin arranged to have the car parked outside the Packard Proving Grounds at the time of the annual dealer’s meeting, precisely where the dealers could not help but see it. That, as they say, was that! Under pressure from its dealers, Packard included the “Darrin” as part of its catalogue for 1940 with three models: Sport Sedan, Convertible Sedan, and Convertible Victoria. It is estimated that 100 were built through 1942 when production was halted prior to World War II. “Darrins” were real celebrity cars—Tyrone Power, Errol Flynn, Al Jolson, Ruby Keeler, Preston Foster, and Gene Krupa all had one.
The One Twenty Convertible Victoria cost $3,820. Virtually every item on the car except for the headlight pods was either modified or handcrafted by the Central Manufacturing Company of Connersville, Indiana, one of the last remnants of the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg empire. By the end of the model year, however, Auburn had signed contracts with both Ford and Willys to build Jeep bodies, so production of the 1941 Darrins was moved to the Sayers & Scoville plant in Cincinnati, Ohio. Despite the beauty of the design, extensive advertisements, and the wide press coverage given by automotive writers, sales never reached the goals of both Darrin and Packard.
Though most “Darrins” were built on the senior One Eighty chassis, it is universally agreed that a limited number were built on the One Twenty chassis. James Hollingsworth, in his book Packard 1940: A Pivotal Year, notes that at least 15 were produced with five known to exist, as well as 44 on the One Eighty chassis. Packard expert Don Figone states that 24 of the One Twenties were produced, along with another 48 One Eighties for the model year. Regardless, they were built in limited numbers, which only adds to their desirability today among collectors.
According to Mr. Figone, this particular car was acquired many years ago by Robert Kellner of California in the Southern United States and stored for many decades awaiting restoration. The car was finally completed in the mid-1990s, with mechanical work by Just Packards in Northern California. It was then shown at Pebble Beach in 1996 and 1997, receiving a class award in the latter year. Subsequently, it was owned by the Blackhawk Collection, and was displayed at the Imperial Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada. Unfortunately, little is known of its earliest history, though this Convertible Victoria is regarded as an authentic and beautifully presented example. The car is finished in a classic combination of Packard Maroon over tan leather—a handsome combination on any vintage Packard.
The offering of a genuine “Packard Darrin” is rare, indeed, and this example is one of the most attractive recently made available for sale. It is a spectacular Packard with all the Hollywood glitz and glamour one could wish for!