| Coral Gables, Florida
- Among the most beautiful vee-windshield Dietrich Individual Custom Packards
- One of just four surviving examples on the 904 Deluxe Eight platform
- Retains its original chassis, engine, and coachwork
- Formerly owned by the renowned enthusiasts John Mozart, Otis Chandler, and John Groendyke
- Superbly maintained concours restoration, with recent freshening
- Award-winner at numerous prestigious events, including the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance
The most prestigious Packards of the Classic Era were the so-called Dietrich Individual Customs, factory-catalogued bodies produced by the factory’s own custom shop on “Senior” chassis from 1932 through 1934. Each car was built and finished largely to the customer’s individual taste, but each was distinguished by lithe and sporty lines created by a vee’d windshield, a beltline that curved down and away from that windshield, and an extraordinary long beltline, all of which emphasized both the power of the car’s engine and the length of the chassis. It was an automobile with smooth power that matched its peerless style, and as in all of Raymond Dietrich’s designs, a beautiful machine the equal of anything else on the American road.
The example offered here is one of four surviving Dietrich Individual Custom Convertible Victorias on the Ninth Series Deluxe Eight chassis of 1932. Originally delivered by the Packard dealership on Park Avenue in New York City on 13 April 1932, it evidently remained on the East Coast with its earliest owners. By 1950 it was titled to Russell Lewis of Washington, New Jersey, a great Packard enthusiast; according to Mr. Lewis’s son, this was his father’s favorite automobile, and was maintained in his ownership still in largely original condition. Mr. Lewis owned the car when he became one of the charter members of the Classic Car Club of America, and he listed it in the Club’s earliest rosters. He maintained the Packard until 1968, when it was long to a longtime admirer and fellow aficionado Richard Cantwell, also of New Jersey.
Graham Rowley of Goffstown, New Hampshire acquired the car from Mr. Cantwell two years later, and in 1975 sold it to James Tharp of Palos Park, Illinois. Mr. Tharp in turn passed the Packard to renowned collector and enthusiast, John Mozart, an avid connoisseur of the Dietrich vee-windshield Packards, in whose ownership it would be kept for several years.
In 1986 the Packard was purchased from Mr. Mozart by Otis Chandler, a name that also requires no introduction to the serious student of Full Classics. Shortly after beginning its restoration, Mr. Chandler was convinced to sell the car to Charles Wallace of Massachusetts; Wallace, in turn, passed the Packard to the Imperial Palace of Las Vegas, in whose hands the work was completed. Imperial Palace curator Richie Clyne well remembers insisting upon a test drive of the completed Packard, with the restorer at his side, on the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. After driving the Packard to its limit and finding it to be without fault, Clyne happily took delivery for the Imperial Palace, and the restorer—somewhat green around the gills for the experience—accepted payment for his work.
The Convertible Victoria remained with the Imperial Palace until 1998. At the collection’s dissolution that year, it was bought back by an overjoyed Otis Chandler, who had always considered it something of “the one that got away.” It was acquired at a time when Chandler was building his second important collection of Full Classics, having transitioned to muscle cars during the 1980s before returning to his roots. A not-insignificant part of the reborn Chandler stable at the Vintage Museum of Transportation and Wildlife in Oxnard, California, was a row of Dietrich Individual Custom Packards. While other vehicles came and went from the collection over the years, the Packard now remained, indicative of the esteem in which it was held, until Mr. Chandler’s passing in 2006.
Happily, the car would remain with the family; it was acquired from the Chandler Estate by his cousin, Franklin Otis Booth, Jr., also a prominent Los Angeles businessman and philanthropist. Mr. Booth would also keep the Packard for the rest of his life, at which point it was acquired for a prominent collection in the American West. In this ownership, in 2016–2017, the car received a full, 22-month-long concours restoration in the owner’s personal shop. Testament to the excellent love and care given its presentation, it went on to earn Best of Show at the Morgan Adams Concours d’Elegance in 2016, followed by 2nd in Class at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in 2018—an honor achieved, needless to say, amidst very strong competition!
The current owners acquired the Packard for their diverse but well-chosen collection in 2022, not long after a new top and boot had been fitted by the craftsmen at RM Auto Restoration in Blenheim, Ontario. Since then, the car has remained on display. Today it remains extraordinarily beautiful, which is credit both to the care of its owners over the years and to the craftsmanship of its restoration. It retains its original chassis, engine, and coachwork, as-delivered in 1932.
Any Dietrich vee-windshield Packard is an exceptional car worthy of admiration, but this particular Individual Custom Convertible Victoria is something truly special. It has been much adored and treasured by enthusiasts literally since the invention of the term “classic car,” and has been meticulously restored and carefully maintained by a who’s who of people who knew their subject. It is an automobile that inspires dedication in its caretakers—as Otis Chandler, who owned it twice, would have been the first to offer.