1938 Packard Twelve

Summary

  • Year of manufacture 
    1938
  • Car type 
    Other
  • Lot number 
    126
  • Drive 
    LHD
  • Condition 
    Used
  • Location
  • Exterior colour 
    Other

Description

EXHIBITED
Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance®, August 2012
Packard Automobile Classics, Williamsburg, Virginia, September 2012 (First in Class)
Celebration of Automobiles Concours, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, May 2013 (First in Class)
Packard Automobile Classics, Rochester, Michigan, June 2013 (First in Class)
Bay Harbor Vintage Car and Boat Festival, Bay Harbor, Michigan, June 2013 (Chairman’s Award)
Celebration of Automobiles Concours, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, May 2014 (First in Class)
Concours d’Elegance of America, Plymouth, Michigan, July 2014 (The Art That Moves Us Award)
Carmel Artomobilia, Carmel, Indiana, August 2014 (First in Class)
CCCA Museum Grand Experience Featuring Packard, Hickory Corners, Michigan, June 2015 (Chairman’s Award)
Milwaukee Concours d’Elegance, August 2015 (Chairman’s Choice)

PROVENANCE
Daniel Bertsch Wentz Jr., Rydal, Pennsylvania (acquired new in 1938)
“Mr. Packard,” Mission Viejo, California (acquired circa 1965)
Private Owner, Orange, California (acquired circa 1970)
Thomas R. Mix, Boston, Massachusetts (acquired in 2004)
Current Owner (acquired from the estate of the above in 2006)

THIS CAR
The 1938 Packard Twelve Convertible Victoria presented here is a magnificent, one-of-a-kind custom – the result of a collaboration between its first owner, Daniel Wentz Jr., and the Derham Custom Body Corp. of Rosemont, Pennsylvania.

Daniel Wentz was born into an elite Philadelphia family that controlled extensive coal-mining operations in Pennsylvania and West Virginia for a century. After attending Harvard University, he joined the family business as an executive with directorships in a number of major coal companies. In short, Mr. Wentz had no trouble affording any car, even in hard times.

In 1937, with the US still reeling from the Great Depression, Packard restyled its entire senior line in an attempt to attract buyers. Mr. Wentz saw one of these new Packards, liked it, and began to formulate a vision for his ideal car. He then contacted Enos Derham of the Derham Custom Body Corp., a firm he had previously worked with on custom projects.

Derham had a reputation for building fine carriages during the horsedrawn era, and the company turned to automobile bodies after the turn of the century. Having attracted an upscale clientele, with body styles including the Tourster, Derham produced a variety of custom designs throughout the 1930s; many of them defined what is referred to today as a “Philadelphia car.”

This distinctive style was a reflection of Philadelphia elites, who preferred subtle designs that would not draw attention to their wealth. These cars were understated and reserved, usually painted black or dark colors and had some or all of the brightwork removed or painted over. Status was downplayed and the brand of the car was not advertised. Some were even blacked out to the extent that they appeared sinister.

As documented in 26 pages of correspondence, Wentz and Derham collaborated to design a Philadelphia-style Convertible Victoria for a new 1608 Series Packard Twelve.

The design retained the standard Packard fenders, hood, and running boards, with minor modifications. From the cowl rearward, the body was completely bespoke, bearing no resemblance to the standard Convertible Victoria. The coachwork was constructed entirely in aluminum over an ash framework, with body and coach lines formed into the metal. The windscreen was dramatically raked and V’d, and the convertible top folded flush with the body. These features, combined with a subtle Empire Maroon and black color scheme, created a sporting, European look.

In typical Philadelphia style, nearly all the exterior chrome was removed, blackwall tires were specified, and the Packard Twelve medallion was removed from the trunk rack. This theme continued to the interior, which featured a custom dashboard treatment, whereby the decorative flutes were ground off, retaining only the chrome rings around the instruments.

Delivered to Mr. Wentz in September 1938, the Derham Convertible Victoria was truly a sight to behold – at once striking and subtle, with a character all its own. Despite its understated appearance, the coachwork alone had cost $4,132.10 making this car twice as expensive as a standard, top-of-the-line Packard.

Following Mr. Wentz’s death in 1940, his custom-bodied Convertible Victoria migrated west. In the early 1960s, Packard historian Dr. Charles Blackman photographed the Derham-bodied Twelve in the McManus Auto Wrecking yard in Gardena, California. In 1970, “Mr. Packard” from Mission Viejo, California, advertised the car for sale. In 2004, collector Tom Mix of Boston, purchased the unrestored Convertible Victoria from a long-term Southern California owner.

The current owner acquired the car from the Mix estate in 2006 and commissioned Packard authority David Mitchell of Geneseo, Illinois, to perform a complete restoration that would do justice to this significant custom-bodied Twelve.

After studying the detailed period photographs and Derham correspondence that document the many bespoke features, the restorer and consignor decided to return the car to the unique configuration as delivered to Mr. Wentz in 1938. Mr. Mitchell reports that “every part that could be removed or disassembled was, and all not just cosmetically restored, but made to function as new. The result is an automobile that not only looks good, but is authentically restored back to its original state and drives like a new Packard Twelve.”

Completed in 2012, the Derham Convertible Victoria debuted at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance®. It has since earned several trophies, including The Art That Moves Us Award at the Concours d’Elegance of America and the Chairman’s Choice at the Milwaukee Concours d’Elegance. Recently, the owner elected to present the Packard in a more conventional fashion, fitting whitewall tires and some chrome trim; however, the car could be returned to its original appearance.

Eight decades ago, Daniel Wentz and Enos Derham created a one-off Packard Twelve that made its mark not with flash, but with quiet elegance and power. Beautifully and lovingly restored, their original creation still resonates today. This Convertible Victoria will surely appeal to the collector with a deep appreciation of bespoke, coachbuilt automobiles.