- Stunning French custom coachwork by Maurice Proux
- Well-known example, featured in J.M. Fenster’s Packard: The Pride
- Nicely preserved restoration in striking colors
- A Classic Car Club of America (CCCA) Full Classic
Packard enjoyed an international reputation that, with the possible exception of Rolls-Royce, few automakers have enjoyed before or since. Not only the height of superbly engineered elegance in America, it held the same prestige in other nations; wherever one traveled, the wealthiest person there likely owned a Packard. It was often fitted with attractive custom coachwork by a local shop. Indeed, some of the finest European coachbuilders of the Classic Era created for Packards, and thanks to the supreme length of these chassis, the result was often strikingly beautiful.
No exception is the car offered here, a 145 1/2-inch-wheelbase 745 Deluxe Eight that is one of the few surviving works of the Parisian coachbuilder Maurice Proux. Like his American counterparts at Waterhouse, Proux ran a small shop and for only a few years, 1928 to 1932, but enjoyed tremendous success within that short period for the finely tailored, conservative trim of his work. Proux bodies were devoid of extraneous doo-dads and crisply styled, with a prominent straight-through beltline molding inspired by competitor Hibbard & Darrin.
The car is featured prominently in J.M. Fenster’s 1989 book, Packard: The Pride, a highly regarded work in which the social and technological history of the company is shared through discussions of 30 individual cars and those who owned them. Fenster notes that this particular 745 was discovered in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in the 1960s, and provides a photograph of it as-found, in overall intact condition but obviously in need of restoration. Owner Frank R. Miller, Jr., of California in 1980 undertook a complete restoration with Hill & Vaughn, the renowned Santa Monica shop owned by collector Ken Vaughn and legendary racing driver, Phil Hill, himself an avid Packard connoisseur.
To author Fenster, Hill recalled that the car’s restoration was a magnificent challenge, as Proux began with a factory closed body and, essentially, reworked and changed every panel, much as Brunn would do with convertible sedan body shells for Packard cabriolets later in the 1930s. The level of fine detail extended to reshaping the doors, which were given curved “carriage sills” that drop in the center, easing entry and exit for the passengers. Fenster noted that Proux shaped new front and rear fenders, both with a pronounced beading edge, as well as a new cowl and hoodline. Typical of a coachbuilt body in this period, much of the hardware was custom-made by the shop itself, including the geared window lifts that fit grooves in the window frames, for truly smooth and seamless operation. Proux retained use of the striking 745 headlights and single taillight, with creases that subtly echo the design of the radiator shell.
The completed restoration was debuted at the 1984 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, winning First in Class and being named Most Elegant Open Car. It went on to be judged at a perfect 100 points at the CCCA Far West Grand Classic in 1985, then at 99 points achieved its Senior First at the following year’s Annual Meeting. Not only was it featured in Packard: The Pride, but it appeared as a feature article in the December 1986 issue of Car Collector magazine.
After some years of successful competition, the Proux Packard was sold to an owner in Japan at the height of the worldwide collector car “boom.” It subsequently returned to the States and was acquired in 1998 by collector T.J. Day of Reno, Nevada. Mr. Day undertook a fresh restoration of the car in the present striking color scheme of Siena and Indian Yellow, with beige leather interior, accented by fine inlaid woodwork, and complementary trunk and tire covers. He then went on to show it several times over his ownership, which continued for nearly two decades, until the end of his life. At that point, in 2017, it was purchased by the present owner, a longtime admirer of the convertible victoria body style in all its forms. In this collection it has remained well-preserved, and is still in wonderful overall condition throughout. It should be noted that the engine crankcase number is from a 1928 Fourth Series Packard, which is similar to the original 745 unit and not surprising for a car of this period with South American heritage.
The Proux Packard is a superb cross-Atlantic blend of fine European craftsmanship and outstanding American engineering, a true feast for the eyes.