1934 Packard Twelve Individual Custom Convertible Sedan by Dietrich
- Delivered new to legendary adventurer Louise Arner Boyd
- Driven 6,300 miles on a research trip through Poland in 1935
- Ownership by two private collections in the last half century
- Prominently featured in J.M. Fenster’s Packard: The Pride
- The basis for the popular model produced by the Franklin Mint
- A well-known Dietrich Individual Custom with a fabulous history
In 1920 gold-mine owner John Franklin Boyd died and left his entire estate—$3 million and a manse in San Rafael, California—to his only living daughter, Louise. One might have expected a society lady of the time to spend the rest of her days idly spending the principal, but Louise Arner Boyd, it would soon be proven, was different. She loved adventure—not merely funding the expeditions of others, but being in the thick of it, visiting new and different nations and exploring their rugged terrain. She traveled the world in search of new ideas and new discoveries, most prominently to the Arctic Circle, an area in which she became a respected expert after seven painstakingly planned research junkets and the publication of two well-received books. Today an area in Greenland adjacent to a glacier she studied is known as Louise Boyd Land.
She was still a lady, of course; she loved to attend balls, often wearing on her gown the Légion d’Honneur medal that France awarded her for searching for the lost explorer Roald Amundsen. She traveled widely, doing so in style, staying at the best hotels she could find and usually traversing new-torn paths in her own chauffeured automobile. According to J.M. Fenster’s Packard: The Pride, in 1934 Miss Boyd’s automobile was this Packard Twelve, an individual custom convertible sedan by Dietrich, one of the most lush and expensive models available. It was built to her order, with a division window twixt the front and rear seats and reading lights to allow her to make notes during the journey.
In 1935 Boyd traveled with the car and her family’s longtime chauffeur, Percy Cameron, to Poland as a delegate of the United States government to the International Geographic Congress in Warsaw. The American Geographical Society asked her to extend her stay and undertake a photographic study of rural Poland’s various cultures and ethnic groups, and she did so. Driven by Cameron, the Individual Custom Packard carried Boyd alongside horse-drawn carts on roads that had likely never seen an automobile, much less one so grand. It fit into few garages, but that was no matter, because there were few garages. At the monastery at Ławra Poczajowska, the Packard spent the night in the courtyard, with one of the bearded, hooded monks slumbering inside to prevent its theft.
At the end of the journey, Boyd, Cameron, and the Packard returned triumphantly to the U.S., and her meticulously detailed report and over 500 photographs were published in 1937 as Polish Countrysides, many including this car.
Louise Boyd eventually moved on to other adventures and other automobiles, but remained true to Packards, as well as to Dietrich; Raymond Dietrich later customized a 1952 sedan for her. The Individual Custom Twelve that had served faithfully in Europe remained in the United States. According to Edward J. Blend’s The Magnificent Packard Twelve of Nineteen Thirty-Four, later owners were Richard Jenkins of New Jersey and Phillip Goddard of Iowa.
The car was then acquired by the late Bill Hirsch of Newark, New Jersey, who beautifully restored it to original condition. Hirsch was very proud of the Packard, which he showed extensively; to this day, the logo of his automotive finish and upholstery supply company is the unmistakable profile of this Packard. In his ownership the car was photographed by Roy Querry and appeared as one of twenty special automobiles described at length in J.M. Fenster’s Packard: The Pride, published in 1992. It was also used as the basis for the highly regarded model of the individual custom convertible sedan produced by the Franklin Mint.
In 1999 the car was acquired by the present owner, in whose superb collection it has resided for twenty years. He notes that it was used on at least four CCCA CARavans, while remaining in fine enough condition to achieve its AACA Senior First Prize in 2000, followed by, in 2001, its CCCA Premier First and the AACA’s Joseph Parkin Award, recognizing it as the most outstanding Packard in its division.
The car was freshened in 2015, receiving a cosmetic restoration by Colour Restoration of Longmont, Colorado, in time for exhibition at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, where it was an award winner in the legendarily rigorous American Classic Open Packard class. The following year it received the Don Sommer Award as Most Significant Classic at the Concours d’Elegance of America at St. John’s, an impressive achievement in a year that saw the attendance of numerous other significant Dietrich designs.
Simply put, today Louise Boyd’s Packard remains an automobile worthy of its original owner—the sleek embodiment of adventurous spirit, meticulous preparation, and faultless good taste.