1932 Packard Twin Six Coupe Roadster
Sold For $1,210,000Inclusive of applicable buyer's fee.
Lot Location: Amelia Island, Florida
- Long regarded as the Clark Gable Twin Six
- Formerly owned by Jack Passey, C.A. Leslie, and Tom Moretti
- Best in Class at Pebble Beach, Amelia Island, and Meadow Brook
- An outstanding 12-cylinder Packard of quality and rich provenance
- Indisputably pure, authentic, and correct
Series 905. 160 bhp, 445.5 cu. in. modified L-head V-12 engine with a single Stromberg downdraft carburetor, three-speed manual transmission with finger control Free-Wheeling, live front and rear axles with semi-elliptic front and rear leaf-spring suspension, and four-wheel mechanical drum brakes. Wheelbase: 142.5 in.
More than just “The King of Hollywood,” Clark Gable was a passionate motorhead who in the 1930s occupied the same position in California socialite automotive circles that Steve McQueen would hold three decades later. Like McQueen, Gable owned the best that money could buy and also enjoyed working on the cars himself. His preference before the war was clearly for the top-of-the-line offerings by Packard, with the occasional distractions by Duesenberg.
Vehicle number 579-64 was the 54th Twin Six coupe roadster built during 1932’s Ninth Series, the first year of the second-generation Packard V-12, and may well have been the last example of this body style made. Originally dispatched to Los Angeles, it was sold new on November 14, 1932, by the famous distributor there, Earle C. Anthony, Inc., long the largest-volume dealer of new Packards in the world, with Mr. Gable believed to be the original owner.
Gable was photographed in the early 1930s with his Twin Six Coupe Roadster, which had been accessorized with wheel discs, Pilot-Ray driving lights (made in Los Angeles), and a rear-mounted trunk, all of which are present in the famous publicity photograph. It is believed that Gable sold the car in 1934 to make way for a new 1106 Twelve Runabout Speedster, which would receive similar Bohman & Schwartz touches.
This car’s known ownership history picks up with another Los Angeles owner, C. Jewell. By 1949, it was owned by D.H. Korntved of Cambria, California, later making its way to the town of Greenfield, where, in the late 1950s, it was discovered in a local backyard by renowned enthusiast Jack Passey. After tracking down the owner, Mr. Passey paid $75 for the Packard and towed it home, becoming its first enthusiast owner, at a time when the Passey stable was one of the largest and finest on the West Coast, known for its vast collection of superb unrestored original cars.
In the early 1960s, the Twin Six was bought from Mr. Passey by early West Coast Packard V-12 enthusiast George Petrusich, who owned it several years before selling it to C.A. Leslie Jr. of Oklahoma City. The foremost expert of his time on this model, Mr. Leslie kept extensive records, as well as his own collection of Twin Sixes and their associated parts, with which he aided numerous fellow owners over the years through articles in magazines and books. The coupe roadster was the pride of his collection for most of the rest of his life.
In 1989, the car was acquired from Mrs. Leslie by Don Wohlwend of Camano Island, Washington, a longtime CCCA member and active restorer and enthusiast. Mr. Wohlwend kept the car for eight years before passing it to its next notable owner, the late Tom Moretti. One of the most respected of modern Packard connoisseurs, Mr. Moretti was noteworthy in many ways. He collected only the best of the best, selecting solid original cars with good, well-known histories, and proceeded to restore them himself in a fully equipped home shop, with painstaking attention to accuracy and detail. A Moretti Packard was, in its finished form, authentic, well researched, and second to none. In his lifetime, Mr. Moretti restored seven Packard Twelves. All of them won Best in Class at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance—an unprecedented and virtually unmatched achievement by a private owner-restorer.
Most special of all, this Twin Six not only won its class at Pebble Beach in 2009 but also matched the honor the following year at Amelia Island and Meadow Brook, making it a rare winner of the “triple crown” of great American concours d’elegance. It was also awarded its First Primary award, with a perfect score of 100 points its first time out, in CCCA judging, and it was Best of Show at the 2010 CCCA Museum Experience at Hickory Corners. The judges had spoken, and clearly: this was one of the best Packards in the world.
That this Twin Six coupe roadster was Clark Gable’s is strongly backed both by the opinions of Packard historians and by first-hand recollections.
Among these was Major Conrad Clough, a Leslie contemporary and fellow Packard collector in Oklahoma City, who had earlier resided in Santa Monica in the 1930s. Major Clough recalled to Mr. Leslie that he had known Clark Gable, that he recalled seeing this car at Earle C. Anthony’s when it was in for service, and that it was painted a very dark Packard Blue, the same color found on the car when it was stripped by Mr. Wohlwend at the beginning of restoration. The Major was convinced that the car he eventually came to know in the Leslie stable had been Gable’s. Similarly, Ted Davis, a roster keeper for Ninth Series Twin Sixes, regards this as being the Gable car, as did the late collector Jim Weston and, most certainly, Tom Moretti, a man who did his research and knew his facts when it came to Packards.
Its history aside, the car is almost unrivaled in its purity and accuracy. It retains the original body, engine number 900481, frame number 900471, front axle number 900473, and steering box number 900479, all of which, being numbered within 10 digits of one another, confirms their originality to this car; the firewall data tag is also original. Exhaustive research by Mr. Moretti at the Detroit Public Library allowed the recreation of the original finish, down to the proper width and pattern of pinstriping! With its whitewall tires, Goddess of Speed radiator mascot, and beautifully tailored interior, the result is still fresh, stunning, and show ready in all regards, a credit to the long-lived integrity of a Moretti restoration.
It is often said that the best car is one restored by a knowledgeable owner for him to keep, and indeed, that was true of this Twin Six, which, after completing, Mr. Moretti owned until his untimely passing. For the past several years, it has been part of a renowned collection, continuing to enjoy the best of possible care and maintenance, which has left it very much the same today, with 604 miles traveled, as when Mr. Moretti completed it. The current owner notes the Finger Control Free-Wheeling feature is fully functional.
Indisputably rich in history, exquisitely and authentically restored, and recognized as one of the best by historians and judges alike, this is a Packard that rings all the bells and remains firmly in the ranks of the greatest extant. It is as much a legend as Clark Gable himself.