The Andrews Collection | Lot 234
1938 Packard Eight Cabriolet by Graber
$1,760,000 USD | Sold
| Fort Worth, Texas
2 May 2015
- The 1938 Geneva Auto Salon car
- Stunning one-off Swiss coachwork
- Exceptional Steve Babinsky restoration
- A Best in Class winner at the 2011 Pebble Beach Concours
- The most beautiful “junior” Packard ever built
Series 1601. 110 bhp, 282 cu. in. inline eight-cylinder engine, three-speed selective synchromesh manual transmission, independent front suspension, solid axle rear suspension with semi-elliptical leaf springs, and four-wheel hydraulic brakes. Wheelbase: 127 in.
Packard had a roaring export business for much of its history, as it was one of the few American automobiles that enjoyed the same prestige in Europe as in its home country. Much of the Packards exported were sold as rolling chassis and then custom-bodied once they reached their destinations. Some of the most beautiful of these were crafted by Hermann Graber, the renowned carrossier of Bern, who is perhaps the most famous and highly regarded of all Swiss coachbuilders. Graber was renowned for the beautiful, solid construction of his bodies, as well as for a surprising range that ran from elegant formal cars to one-off curvaceous showstoppers.
THE GRABER CABRIOLET
This 1938 Packard, a 127-inch wheelbase “junior” Eight, is among the latter. It was bodied by Graber for the 1938 Geneva Auto Salon, and its body virtually duplicates, albeit to a smaller scale, one built for a Model J Duesenberg, number J-246. The body was ahead of its time, as the lines include sweeping French-inspired pontoon fenders with fully skirted rear wheels and a single tailfin dropping down the rear deck lid. The hood is covered in dozens of small louvers, and beautiful hints of chrome trim appear everywhere.
For many years, the spectacular Packard was lost to most authorities; that is, until it was miraculously uncovered in the early 21st century. The car had been plucked by well-known Swiss enthusiast Erich Traber from an old cinderblock garage, where it had resided for decades. Traber had reportedly spent 20 years pursuing the Packard before finally succeeding in purchasing it.
This Cabriolet, still in unrestored condition, down to the years of dust, was taken to the 2010 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, where it was shown in the Prewar Preservation class. Steve Babinsky, the respected Lebanon, New Jersey-based restorer who has long been involved in that class, described it as being in “good original condition, including its original interior; a car that was just ‘on the edge’ of being too original to restore. The paint was a little tired but the interior not so bad.”
Following Pebble Beach, Mr. Traber sold the Packard to Paul and Chris Andrews, who took it to Mr. Babinsky’s shop for restoration. The car had originally been white, as it was shown at Geneva, but it had worn the present shade of dark green for many years. The decision to restore the car in green was made after the restorers began to take it apart and found dark green under all of the upholstery and weatherstripping. This indicated that “the car had been shown white but probably not delivered in white; Graber probably repainted it for the original owner.”
As a solid original car, it took only a year to return this Packard to as near its original condition as possible. The body was repainted in that beautiful, rich, almost black shade of deep green, and it featured chrome wheel covers that were surrounded by blackwall tires and a snug-fitting beige canvas top. The interior, in rich olivine green, is tight, fresh, and stunning.
It is no surprise that this has been one of the Andrews’s favorite automobiles and a much-admired car by judges as well. It won Best in Class at the Pebble Beach Concours in 2011, followed by a 100-point First Primary score at the 2012 CCCA Annual Meeting. It is ready to stun more judges in continued competition as the sleek, sexy automobile that it is—the best-looking and most sensuous junior Packard ever built.