- Original Packard sheet metal
- Ford 514ci V8 (est. 600hp)
- Ford C6 automatic transmission
- Ford 9-inch rear axle
- Mustang II front suspension
- Power rack-and-pinion steering
- Four-wheel disc brakes
- Vintage Air climate control
- Modern stereo with CD changer
In the automotive world, some lines are rarely crossed. Certain pre-war cars like '32 Fords and '35 Chevrolets have long been hot rod fodder but the higher-end cars of the day, the CCCA Approved Classics, rarely find themselves equipped with anything but factory hardware. This 1938 Packard rumble seat coupe is one of the exceptions – a full blown luxury cruiser reborn with a 514ci Ford V8 and a C6 automatic wrapped in an elegant shell. Further outfitted with amenities like a new leather interior, a 10-disc CD changer, and Vintage Air climate control, the car offers a chance to hit the highway in distinctive prewar styling without having to sacrifice any modern conveniences. If you're ready to drop jaws in a truly one-of-a-kind car, settle in and get to know this 1938 Packard coupe.
Walking up to the car, there's no denying it has presence. The wheelbase is just over 120-inches – about the same as a standard cab Ford F150, and, even in stock form, the coupe weighed over 4,500lbs. These cars were made of significantly heavier gauge steel than today's models, and it is a softer, more malleable material that was made before “high strength” steel was available. As a result, original panels can be restored to new condition as they were on this car. The gaps are excellent, and that mile-long hood fits as well as could be expected for something so large and complex. The body is finished in a deep shade of burgundy accented by a tasteful gold pinstripe that follows the body contours while a hand-striped flourish on the decklid completes the look. Whether stock or modified, these cars deserve the best paintwork possible and, looking around this coupe, it's obvious that absolutely no corners were cut.
Trying to improve the look of a Packard is a challenge and one the builder of this coupe thankfully met with reserve. All the major styling cues remain in place with just a few subtle updates. Up front, the big Packard grille hangs proudly, topped by a classic Goddess of Speed (or lady with donut) hood ornament and flanked by headlights in body-matched housings. Below, the stock bumper was dropped in favor of slim bumperettes that clean up the front end considerably. Stainless mesh replaces the original chrome louvers on the hood while, at either side, two spare 15-inch radials covered in tan leather have taken up residence in the side mounts. The original chrome mirrors have been replaced by compact painted sport mirrors but, interestingly enough, the builder opted to leave the original the fabric insert on the roof instead of filling it. Lockable storage compartments behind both doors are now trimmed in leather with the driver side hosting a CD changer and the passenger side offering access to the battery and fuse block. Out back, the factory taillights and rumble seat are still there, accompanied by a lockable Ford gas cap and a second pair of bumperettes. One thing is for sure – this car won't blend in with the others in the parking lot.
In 1938, this coupe would have come equipped with ether a 356ci straight-8 or a downright massive 473 ci V12, both with long strokes and torque figures that would make a locomotive jealous. Fortunately, the builder understood this and opted for 514 cubic inches of big block Ford. The engine is a Ford Motorsport creation featuring a 2-bolt main block with a nodular iron stroker crank, H-beam connecting rods, forged aluminum dished pistons, and a mechanical roller lifter camshaft. The block is topped with a single-plane Ford Motorsport intake with aluminum SVO 'Cobra-Jet' heads at either side. Other hardware includes a multi-index timing chain, 4130 one-piece pushrods, an HD oil pump and pickup, and a dual sump oil pan. All told, the mill is good for a stated 600hp – more than enough to launch this cruiser with authority and cruise well above the speed limit without visible effort. The big V8 is topped with Ford Racing rocker arm covers along with a re-purposed Buick air cleaner which has been painted to match. Up front, the belt drive spins a Sanden air conditioning compressor and power steering pump while the smoothed firewall offers crisp reflections. At the sides, a set of ceramic coated headers dump into a true dual exhaust system that exhales through Flowmaster mufflers.
The engine is backed by a stout Ford C6 automatic feeding a 9-inch Ford rear that's been incorporated into an original Packard rear suspension which includes leaf springs, a Panhard rod, and even the lever-action shock absorbers that are integral with the rear sway bar. The frame is also the original Packard piece, modified up front with a fabricated K-member that includes Mustang-II style upper and lower A-arms and coil over shock absorbers. Power rack-and-pinion steering has been added, which makes this car a pleasure to wheel around at any speed, and there's a big brake disc at each corner. Look a little closer and see the giant custom-made oil pan that has been painted to match the body, and the accumulator valve for the power brakes. This was not a cut-rate build by any stretch of the imagination - someone spent a lot of time and money figuring out how to make this car safe, reliable, and 100% road-worthy. The chassis rides on a set of Billet Specialties wheels with 235/75R15 radials which offer a great ride and look surprisingly appropriate.
More high-quality work and thoughtful details fill the leather-lined interior. The power-actuated seats are also from a late-model Ford product and are upholstered in a soft tan leather that is used throughout the car. The dashboard is a blend of the original burled wood metal dash and a new insert housing modern gauges from Classic Instruments. There's a lot of pin striping in here and, as part of the overall effect, it's appropriately elegant. The original handles and window cranks have been retained and still actuate the original regulators and latches. Behind the power seats, you'll find a small package shelf that houses the entertainment system controls as well as the HVAC system and vents - no unsightly modern vents on the dash, all your climate-controlled air comes from behind. That area also houses the amplifiers for the stereo, the guts of the HVAC system, and the battery, which is accessible through the passenger-side golf bag door. The rumble seat has been upholstered in matching leather and features a remote latch and a pair of leather flaps that fold out to protect the paint from passengers' elbows while they ride out back.
These aren't easy cars to find in stock form. Click over to Google, image search “1938 Packard rumble seat coupe” and this car will account for about 1/3 of the first 20 results. To find a car like this and take the hot rod route seems unthinkable but, looking at the finished product, the risk definitely paid off. No matter what show you go to, this car will always be one-of-one, attracting slack-jawed stares from Packard fans and novices alike. Best of all, the car is pleasant to drive, hits highway speed effortlessly, and offers all the comforts that the modern set expects from an automobile. If you're ready to put a unique and captivating prewar car in your garage, this Packard is an excellent choice!