The Packard Twelve is one of the most respected and desirable American pre-war classics. Built in two separate series, the earliest “Twin Six” models hail from 1916-1923, though it is the later cars that are seen as the most desirable. As the American luxury car makers battled for supremacy at the very top of the market, the twelve-cylinder Packard returned in 1932 to take on Cadillac’s headline-stealing V-16 and Lincoln’s V-12, among others. 1939 marked the final year for Packard V-12 production, with only 446 leaving the famous Detroit plant. The big, 67-degree V-12 displaced 473 cubic inches and produced a very healthy 175 horsepower, far superior to the Lincoln and just ten shy of Cadillac’s V-16. It is often said that the configuration and sublime smoothness of the Packard V-12 is what inspired Enzo Ferrari to use V-12s in his cars… while this anecdote may never be proven it is certainly believable once you experience the silken nature of the great Packard engine. For 1939, no fewer than fourteen body styles were offered in the factory catalog, and the chassis offered in two wheelbase lengths, the 1707 (134 inches) and the 1708 (139 inches). Vacuum assisted brakes and even a vacuum assisted clutch made for easy, light operation. So while the Packard Twelve is a big, grand car, it is surprisingly pleasant and easy to drive.
Of all the bodies offered in the catalog, the most expensive was style 1253 on a 1708 long-wheelbase chassis, as our featured example is equipped. This body, a 5-passenger convertible sedan, was opulently equipped with burl walnut door caps and dash fascia, and even a roll up divider window for privacy when the top is up, or wind protection with it down. A very fine luxury motor, indeed. Also notable is the fact is that this is the only body style for the 1708 chassis that was sold in 5-passenger configuration as all others were equipped with 7-passenger seating.
This gorgeous 1939 1708 Convertible Sedan is finished in striking metallic silver with a lush red leather interior. It has been comprehensively restored to a high standard and remains in excellent, usable condition while still remaining quite attractive enough to show. It features the rare, very expensive ($240 in 1939!) column shift option. Paint work is beautifully executed and the silver color is perfectly judged for this elegant body style. The body is equipped with dual enclosed side-mount spares, fog lamps, a reversing lamp and folding trunk rack. The radiator is topped with an elegant Packard swan mascot, a symbol befitting such a grand and striking automobile.
Mechanically it is very well sorted and very sound. The big V12 engine is well detailed and finished properly in Packard green with black accessories and largely correct wiring, fittings and details. It has seen light-to-moderate use since its restoration, though that hardly shows in the wonderful engine bay.
Gorgeous red leather lines the seats and door panels, while black carpets piped in red provide a degree of contrast to the leather as well as a compliment to the black canvas top, also piped in red. The wood work on the door caps, windshield surround, and divider window trim is excellent and very attractive against the red leather. Nice original instruments and controls reside in a beautiful wood-grain dash panel.
Late 12-cylinder Packards are highly sought-after for their outstanding combination of luxury, style and usability. This is a very fine example that is ideally suited to CCCA touring thanks to its sound nature and full-classic status. It is rare, beautiful, impressively restored and ready to be fully enjoyed.