The year 1941 was significant in the automotive world. Beginning in 1942 all manufacturing for public passenger vehicles ceased due to the United States entering World War Two. Effective February 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt ordered all factories to begin producing war materials including jeeps, tanks and troop transports.
The Designs of Howard Darrin
The 1941 Packard 180 Darrin Victoria shown in this article is a very special car. About 150 Darrins were built with most of them being Convertible Victorias. Legend has it that there were only thirty-five Packard Convertible Victorias built in 1941 and only fifty the year prior.
Aside from the fact that this automobile looks terrific, this vintage car design was the work of Howard "Dutch" Darrin and Tom Hibbard who formed a successful designing partnership in Paris in 1927. This team invented a process in 1929 called Stylentlyte . The process allowed for the forming of extremely thin, light aluminum panels from a Hibbard & Darrin-created aluminum alloy it called Alpax. One of the first cars employing this process was a custom-bodied 1930 Duesenberg J Town Car.
Howard 'Dutch' Darrin began designing his radical coachwork known for its chrome frame windshield and cut-down doors. Darrin also designed a new arrow-shaped hood molding which Packard had used several times.
Car Designer to the Celebrities
After Darrin split with Hibbard he moved to Los Angeles and set up shop on Sunset Boulevard. Howard "Dutch" Darrin of began designing his unique coachwork known for its chrome frame windshield and cut-down doors. The coachwork was so snazzy that they were ordered up by Hollywood celebrities such as Clark Gable and Tyrone Power just to name a few. Darrin transformed Packard coupes into stunning Convertible Victorias with their cut-down doors, a low hood line, and a padded dash. It's estimated that Darrin built fourteen of these in Hollywood up to 1939. Howard "Dutch" Darrin designed coachwork known for its chrome frame windshield and cut-down doors which was adored by many celebrities of the era. The tale is that Darrin had befriended future studio executive Darryl F. Zanuck years earlier in Paris and when he relocated to Los Angeles in the 1930's Zanuck was able to introduce him to several top celebrities.
Packard and Howard "Dutch" Darrin
One of his first jobs in America was work on the 1937 Packard. In 1939 Packard had Darrin join the company and soon after there was the car called the 1940 Packard Darrin.
The war wasn't too far off and during those years Darrin returned to the service as a contract flight instructor. He served the Army Air Corps at flight schools first in Colorado and then near Las Vegas Nevada.
When the war ended, Howard Darrin purchased some surplus aircraft and began a crop dusting service in California. He never abandoned the automotive coach design business and began working on plans for submission to Joseph Frazer, Powell Crosley and the French automaker Mathis. His plans also included forming the Darrin Motor Car Company in Los Angeles. Although plans and a prototype were built, the car company never went into production. Some of the plans for the proposed automobile ended up in the late 1940's and early 1950's Kaiser and Frazer.
Through the 1960's Howard "Dutch" Darrin stayed connected with the automotive industry proposing coach plans for the Rolls-Royce Silver Shadows. He passed away in California in 1992.
1941 Packard Darrin Victoria Specs
The 1941 Packard Darrin has a side valve straight eight 160 horsepower, 356 cubic-inch engine and dual-down draft carburetors. The car features a 20 gallon fuel tank, 5-gallon radiator capacity and 7.00 x 16 white wall tires. These were not everyone's kind of car. The prices started at $4,550 when they came on the market in September of 1940 and went up to $4,595 in June of 1941. Depending on options, the prices could be well above this amount.
Car Collectors Dream
The Darrin Convertible Victorias are the most sought after Packard. The two problems are that, as mentioned above, not many were built and finding one is not an easy job. Also, those which ended up at exclusive auctions garnered over $200,000. Arguably, the second most popular vintage Packard for collectors appears to be the 1940 Packard Custom Super 8 which could bring in about $150,000.
(Photos from author's collection)