1938 Packard Super Eight
Year of manufacture1938
Eau Claire Fire Department, Eau Claire, Wisconsin (acquired new in 1938)
Fall Creek Fire Department, Fall Creek, Wisconsin (acquired from the above in 1954)
Current Owner (acquired from the above in 1999)
This melding of two well-known vehicle manufacturers results in a one-of-a-kind conveyance from a bygone era. By the late 1930s, Packard and the General Fire Truck Corporation of Detroit had each established a solid reputation in their respective fields of luxury automobile and fire equipment production. The manufacturers’ joint effort yielded a scant four examples of Packard fire trucks, this one being the only Super Eight model.
From the dashboard forward, the sheet metal and most of the mechanicals are derived from a 1938 Packard Super Eight, including the smooth, inline, eightcylinder engine with nine main bearings. One mechanical change incorporated for work duty was the use of a seven-speed Saginaw manual gearbox which allowed for operation under a variety of conditions. The rear portion of the vehicle comes from Detroit-General with upgrades including 20" wheels.
Originally purchased by the fire chief of the Eau Claire, Wisconsin, Fire Department, it served Engine Company No. 5, Station No. 5, on Water Street. In 1954, it passed to another fire station, this one in nearby Fall Creek. Housed indoors at both of these fire stations, the truck was driven on a limited basis and at the time of cataloguing displayed less than 9,000 miles. After more than 60 years, it passed to private ownership for the first time in 1999. Restoration ensued, including new paint, chrome, and an engine rebuild. The traditional fire engine red paintwork contrasts with green flooring and trim in the truck bed. Gold leaftrim and lettering was completed recently, finished to original appearance and proudly stating its prior service as No. 5 for Fall Creek and Eau Claire.
The driver’s compartment features the traditional Packard dashboard layout with seats finished in red leather upholstery. The cab has an open design, without side doors, to facilitate quick entry and exit during emergency maneuvers.
Dimensions are impressive at 24 feet long and 7 1/2 feet tall, yet it is remarkably manageable due to the fine Packard mechanicals. Designed as a pumper truck, the tag from the Northern Pump Company states a pumping capacity of 500 gallons per minute. It comes fully equipped with all the traditional fire truck accoutrements including siren, flashing lights, ladders, nozzles, and hoses.
With the passage of time, its utilitarian focus has evolved to a broader nostalgic appeal, making it the ideal complement to any fine motorcar collection or as a stand-alone piece of Americana. Mechanically sound, it would be welcome in parades or on the show field, where it would undoubtedly be a strong candidate for a People’s Choice award. Regardless of the occasion, it is sure to be a crowd-pleaser and the center of attention. Its known history, limited ownership, and careful restoration only add to its desirability.