Monterey | Lot 260
1940 Packard Super Eight One-Eighty Darrin Convertible Sedan by Howard "Dutch" Darrin
$341,000 USD | Sold
| Monterey, California
18 August 2012
Model 1807. 160 bhp, 356 cu in L-head inline eight-cylinder engine, three-speed synchromesh manual transmission with electric overdrive, independent front suspension with coil springs, live rear axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs, and four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 138"
• An unqualified “Dutch” Darrin design masterpiece; CCCA Full Classic status
• Approximately 11 or 12 originally built, with 9 known survivors
• Enduring concours-quality restoration; highly drivable with overdrive transmission
With the demise of Packard's Twelve in 1939, the 180 now took pride of place as the company's top-line car for 1940. Despite the fact that its high-volume, medium-price “Junior” cars saved the company during the 1930s, Packard’s “Senior” models, especially the 180, still set the standard, both within the company and for the American fine-car industry. However, in several ways, 1940 and 1941 marked the curtain call for Packard's “Senior” models, and similarly, the glorious coachbuilt era was drawing to a close. Most of the greatest names in the field had ceased to exist by the late-1930s, but one of the few exceptions was Howard “Dutch” Darrin, whose European-influenced design sensibilities begat some of the Classic Era’s finest automobiles.
In particular, Darrin’s favorite body style was the Convertible Victoria, and he excelled in its execution with an uncanny blend of elegance, formality, and sportiness. Soon after returning to America in 1937 and logically settling in Hollywood, Darrin worked his magic on a European-themed 1937 Ford Phaeton for Warner Brothers’ actor Dick Powell, followed by a similar design on a Packard 120 chassis for RKO actor Chester Morris. A few more cars followed in 1937, as Darrin established himself in Hollywood, and approximately 22 custom Darrins were built in 1938 and 1939 for such “A-List” actors and musicians as Errol Flynn, Gene Krupa, Al Jolson, and Carole Lombard for Clark Gable.
For 1940, 30 cars were produced in all by Darrin, mostly comprising two-door convertibles, plus a number of convertible sedans, with estimates placing build numbers of the latter body style at just 11 or 12. While the two-door cars were indeed handsome, the rare four-door convertible sedans were particularly attractive, with their bodylines perfectly proportioned by virtue of an additional 11-inches of wheelbase, which also made possible a longer hood. Priced from $6,300, the Darrin Convertible Sedan was the most expensive Packard offered for 1940.
Eventually, by mid-1940, Darrin’s custom work on Packard chassis caught the attention of Packard President Alvan Macauley via dealer Earle C. Anthony. A deal was struck for Packard to market the cars as part of its model line, and a factory was established in Connersville, Indiana to build them in 1941 and 1942, just prior to the cessation of civilian automobile production with the onset of America’s full-scale entry into WWII.
Stunning in presentation, with its pewter exterior finish complemented by a silver-grey top and interior, this Style 710 Packard Super Eight Darrin Convertible Sedan from 1940 carries serial number 2015, and it is the last in the series of Darrin four-door convertible sedans commissioned by Packard. According to the best information available among marque experts, it is one of the nine documented examples remaining today.
When new, it was delivered to the Packard Saint Louis region for sale to the original owner. In 1980, it was acquired by Gene Tareshawty, the Darrin collector and authority from Youngstown, Ohio, who had acquired it from the widow of a Mr. Gordon Morris. In 1999, Mr. Tareshawty sold the car to Mr. Dale Fowler, under whom the car was restored and completed in 2005. In 2006, the current owner saw the Darrin at the showroom of Tom Crook in Seattle. It was only the second Darrin Convertible Sedan he had ever seen, and he immediately fell in love and purchased it.
On the show field during the past two years, this Darrin received four perfect scores from judges, never scoring less than 99.5 points. In addition, several Best of Show designations have been garnered, and in 2006, it was invited to compete at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. More recently, in September 2011, it was shown at the Palos Verdes Concours, where “Dutch” Darrin’s designs were honored, and the special Packard Darrin class was a featured attraction. There, 2015 was judged the best of this prestigious group of approximately 10 Darrins, which included another Convertible Sedan with a more recent restoration. In print, the April 2009 edition of Collectible Automobile notably featured this Darrin both as the cover subject and within the photo feature inside.
Notably, the current owner has driven the Darrin to all the shows it has entered, except Pebble Beach, during his stewardship of this historic car over the past six years. He reports that it has never failed him on the road, even while caught in several of Southern California’s infamous freeway traffic snarls. It prefers, however, to cruise at 65 to 75 mph, with the car’s electric overdrive providing major benefits on the highway. Under the current owner, the clutch was replaced, the flywheel was resurfaced, and the transmission was rebuilt. The car’s most recent showing was at the CCCA Grand Classic at Rancho Santa Fe in late-April, where it received a nearly-perfect score of 99.75 points, in testament to the enduring quality of its restoration and current presentation. As such, it is an exceedingly rare and beautifully presented example of the inimitable style of Howard “Dutch” Darrin, the enduring quality of its “Senior” Packard Super Eight One-Eighty chassis, and its proven and highly capable mechanicals.