Here we have another stunner spotted at a Packard show. She’s all-original, even the paint—impressive for an automobile that’s nearing her 100th birthday. The ’32 Packard 900-Series is a very rare automobile; despite its flashy design (note the “shovelnose” grille) and its accounting for nearly half of Packard’s sales that year, the nearly-astronomical average price of $1,800 combined with the high cost of manufacturing the beautiful body resulted in the design’s being dropped by ’33.
Packard sold just over 6,700 of these in its attempt to survive the Great Depression, which killed many great nameplates (including fellow “royal” luxury automobile marques Pierce-Arrow and Peerless). I’m not sure how many remain, though one did sell for over $100,000 in 2013. This particular Packard Eight 900-Series is a gem indeed—not only is she glamourous from nose to tail, the car has only logged 64,000 miles since her first owner in Connecticut to her fourth and present owner (so far as I know). Of the mere twenty-two coupe roadsters in the world’s Packard Club, this is the only one ‘living’ in Ohio.
It’s safe to say the man or woman who bought this 900 would go on to buy another Packard—while Packard led all luxury manufacturers with 33.6% of all car sales, Packard could really boast when it came to its returning customers; ninety percent of Packard buyers came back for more. As the old Packard slogan went: Ask the man who owns one.
Perhaps the first owner of this car listened to Jack Benny’s radio program, which had its debut in 1932—or perhaps, stopping along some quiet country road, the owners heard from a restaurant waitress or farmstand owner that the Lindbergh’s baby had been kidnapped, mourning for the American hero and his family even as they prayed Charles, Jr. would be safely recovered (alas, it was not to be).
They would return home to read in the papers that the atom had been split and something called a positron had been discovered (well before the postwar “Atomic Age”!); they’d read about the Nazi Party, headed by a man named Adolf Hitler, being elected to power in a Germany still staggering after WWI (a man named Benito Mussolini was simultaneously the Prime Minister of Italy). These filled the columns alongside stories of Amelia Earhart’s being the world’s first female to fly the Atlantic on her own. Perhaps their daughter scrapped together a “plane” of her own in the yard, inspired by Earhart’s bravery, her parents carefully watching with the horrible Lindbergh story so fresh in their minds.
Franklin D. Roosevelt trounced Herbert Hoover in the American Presidential election, the British jailed Mahatma Gandhi, Al Capone was convicted for evading the Income Tax (of all things!), Dust Bowls began to affect Canada as terribly as in the United States, and the BBC began a regular television service. Some soon-to-be famous babies arrived the same year this car rolled off the line in Detroit—Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, Casey Kasem, Little Richard, Loretta Lynn, Jacques Chirac, John Updike, Donald Rumsfeld, Omar Sharif, and Elizabeth Taylor (interesting how many of these depended upon radio, isn’t it?).
The Packard’s owners would not have read, however, of the widespread famine of 1932 and Ukranian genocide in the USSR, both instigated by Josef Stalin; the New York Times’ Walter Duranty, with free access and travel throughout the Ukraine, wrote nothing about it for his storied paper, winning a Pulitzer Prize for his glowing reports of life in Soviet Ukraine even as he privately confessed he estimated as many as 10 million people died in the intentional famine. (This certainly adds more depth to the world’s perception of the current fight between Ukraine and Russia, though I suspect many are unaware of this aspect of the past.)
Considering so much news of gravity, both good and bad—to say nothing of the continuing Great Depression—had the car’s owners lived in New York, they may have driven this gorgeous Packard to the opening of Radio City Music Hall for an escape—but wherever they lived, its seems fair conjecture that they stepped out to catch one of my own favourite films, the star-studded Best Picture Grand Hotel (and as Packard owners, they surely looked as if they could step right into the film, don’t you think?). On the way home, they’d lean against these quilted leather seats and laugh over the jokes, talk about the actors, and savour the memory of an evening out together.
We should all be so blessed by our hard work some day!