- Originally delivered to legendary performer Al Jolson
- Formerly owned for nearly 40 years by respected collector Robert Friggens
- Meticulously maintained concours restoration in the original color scheme
- Still fitted with its original vehicle number and body number tags
- Two-time Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance 1st in Class winner, spanning half a century
- One of the most famous and respected Dietrich Individual Custom Packards
Paul Andrews was a man who appreciated all manner of automobiles, spanning the entire history of the modern car—and was distinctive in his ability to acquire, maintain, and enjoy the best examples of each generation. He did have his favorites, however, and the Dietrich Individual Customs created for Packard between 1932 and 1934 were certainly among these. Several of these individually crafted, extremely limited-production automobiles, all on 12-cylinder chassis, passed through the Andrews stable over the years. Each was chosen for its exceptional provenance, authenticity, beauty, and driving qualities—and Paul Andrews’ last Dietrich Packard, offered here, is no exception, being without argument among the most famous examples of its kind.
THE JAZZ SINGER’S PACKARD
One of two Dietrich Individual Custom Convertible Sedans produced on the Ninth Series Twin Six chassis, vehicle number 906-8 was bought new by Al Jolson via Earle C. Anthony, the famed Southern California Packard distributor. The original vehicle number tag is dated 19 July 1932, which, as noted below, may well be the date the car arrived at the dealer versus its actual date of delivery.
Today Al Jolson’s name most frequently appears as the answer to a trivia question: “Who starred in the first commercially successful ‘talking picture?’” Yet Jolson was much, much more than just the lead in 1927’s The Jazz Singer. At the time he was one of Hollywood’s brightest and most valuable stars, a man of prodigious talent in multiple mediums, hewn on the boards of New York’s vaudeville stages. He was a masterful singer, one of the original “crooners,” yet had superb comic timing and a wonderfully expressive face. Audiences loved him and in 1932 it could easily be said that few more famous personages existed to buy a Packard.
Thus it was a promotional gold mine for Earle C. Anthony that Jolson’s acquisition of the car was eventually featured in the Sunday edition of the San Francisco Chronicle on October 23, 1932. “Al Jolson of stage and screen fame has just taken delivery of this Packard Twin Six Convertible sedan from the Earle C. Anthony organization,” the caption read. “Is he a proud owner? Just look at this illustration and the question is answered affirmatively you’ll agree.”
As the story is told, the car was subsequently lightly restyled in 1934, with the newly vogue skirted front fenders and a hoodline extended back to the windshield, as seen on that year’s Individual Custom Packards. A typed article on the car, included in the file, attributes that work to Pasadena coachbuilders Bohman & Schwartz. It further notes that the car remained for some 14 years in the care of a single owner in El Monte, California, before being sold in 1959 to
Harold S. Crosby of Tujunga, an acquisition recounted by Robert J. Gottlieb in his “Classic Comments” column in the January 1964 issue of Motor Trend. “The inevitable lead popped up at a local classic car show. Crosby learned where he might find a 1932 Twin Six Packard with a custom Dietrich convertible sedan body and took off a rocket. As soon as the garage door was raised, he knew he had to have this car...”
Harold Crosby is still well-remembered and highly regarded as one of the first major West Coast connoisseurs of Classic Era Packards. He had a very well-trained eye for the finest examples of his favorite marque, and was ahead of his time in restoring them meticulously and to the highest standard. Remarkably he would eventually own no fewer than three “vee-windshield Dietrichs,” among them the ex-Jolson Twin Six Convertible Sedan.
The car received a meticulous restoration using the best of Mr. Crosby’s talents, returning it to the original 1932 styling and wearing a two-tone blue livery. It is significant to note that, in an era when sensitivity to original finishes was not always the case, Mr. Crosby was careful to leave this Packard’s original vehicle number and Dietrich body tags in place—indicators of his light hand and forward-thinking mindset towards originality. At its completion, the Packard was exhibited at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in 1963, winning 1st in Class and Reserve Best of Show. An article from the “Prestige Cars” section of the Los Angeles Times features Crosby’s famous Packard, and suggests it was purchased by Jolson as a gift for actress Ruby Keeler.
The Packard remained a long-term part of the Crosby stable until 1968, when it was sold to Leo Gephart, soon passing to Ben Massell of Atlanta, Georgia. Three years later, in 1972, it was purchased by engineer Robert Friggens of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Mr. Friggens was another avid early enthusiast who, in half a century of collecting, gathered numerous exceptional automobiles, all of them among the very finest of their kind. The Jolson Packard would have its longest-term home within his collection, where it remained for nearly 40 years. It was occasionally shown and continued to lead something of a celebrity lifestyle; in 1974 it was photographed with retired designer Raymond Dietrich, who had become a friend of Mr. Friggens.
Avid longtime Packard devotee David Kane acquired the car from Mr. Friggens via RM Classic Cars in 2011. With the Crosby restoration now several decades old, the car was the ideal basis for a fresh restoration, soon undertaken by Stone Barn Automobile Restoration of Vienna, New Jersey. In this restoration, the original finishes were resurrected, using traces of the factory dark grey paint and matching interior leather located on the car upon disassembly. The original vehicle number and Dietrich body number tags remained intact, as did the firewall with theftproof number 170456 and the front axle, number 900277.
With the restoration completed, the car was returned to the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in 2012, a year shy of half a century from its original appearance there. After successfully completing the Tour d’Elegance, it finished 1st in Class at Pebble Beach—for the second time in its life. It went on to be twice judged at a perfect 100 points in Classic Car Club of America competition, achieving Senior badge number 3085, proudly still worn today, and was twice Best in Class at the Concours d’Elegance of America at St. John’s, in 2013 and 2016.
The car was acquired by Paul Andrews as his final Dietrich Individual Custom Packard in 2017, and has remained in the collection since, regularly exercised and meticulously maintained both mechanically and cosmetically. Thanks to the care of Mr. Andrews and its previous owners—not least among them the prominent names of Crosby, Friggens, and Kane—it is not just one of the most famous Dietrich Packards; it is, in its provenance, presentation, and preparation, one of the very best.