1941 Packard 180 Darrin Victoria

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.

1941 Packard 180 Darrin Victoria

1941 Packard 180 Darrin Victoria

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.

1941 Packard interior

1941 Packard interior

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.

1941 Packard Darrin front end ornamentation

1941 Packard Darrin front end ornamentation

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.

Two additional photo article links on AutoMuseumOnline are the 1942 Chevrolet Town Sedan and the very rare (less than 60 built) Tucker Automobile.

Darrin Packard. Notice the very low sleek door line

Darrin Packard. Notice the very low sleek door line

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)

Packard Motor Car

The Packard Motor Car Company was one of America’s luxury automobile manufacturers. Packard, as an independent automaker, stayed in business much longer than many of it’s peers. To give you an idea of just how old this car company was, the first Packard car was produced in 1899.

1935 packard 12

1935 Packard E-12 Coupe Convertible engine compartment

The Packard Motor Car Company, headquartered in Detroit Michigan, was founded by two brothers and their partner.  James Ward Packard, William Doud Packard and George Weiss. These were the original three partners. The name of the company at first was the Ohio Automobile Company but was soon changed to the Packard Motor Car Company. The partners received an infusion of cash from a wealthy Detroit investor thus the move to Detroit Michigan. The investor was Henry Bourne Joy who today has a busy Detroit road named after him, Joy Road on the city’s west side.

The Packard Motor Car Company plant on East Grand Blvd in Detroit in 1903 was huge. The plant measured some 3,500,000 square feet. At that time it was considered the largest and most modernized plant in the world.

Selling Luxury Automobiles During the Great Depression

packard twelve cylinder 1935

1935 Packard 12 Coupe with Jumpseat

The Packard car featured in this article was built during the Great Depression. The 1935 Packard 12 Convertible was a luxury automobile. Packard found itself, like several other automakers, selling luxury automobiles in the midst of the Depression. Packard was an independent car company and didn’t have the ability of a larger parent company like Ford or General Motors to absorb losses. Many independent automakers did indeed go out of business during the Great Depression years. This included names such as Stutz, Pierce-Arrow and Dusenberg among others.

How did Packard Motors survive? The Packard Motor Car Company was set up with one production line which could produce more than one model of car. This was important. Most automakers couldn’t do that and it saved Packard a lot of money. Packard also didn’t change models as often as many other automakers and introduced cars in series instead. This also kept costs under control. Like many of it’s competitors, the Packard Motor Car Company did have to address the realities of the Depression and offered cars at lower prices than prior to the economic turmoil. In 1935, the same year as the car in this article, Packard unveiled the 120 Model which sold for under $1,000.

1935 packard e12 convertible coupe

Front view of the 1935 Packard E-12 Coupe Convertible

This particular Packard Motors car was given it’s model name because it’s wheelbase was 120 inches. Sales of the Packard 120 was such a success, the company built it’s second factory. The  Packard 120 was a small, eight-cylinder car whose sale hit 24,995. It proved to be the most popular Packard series available for 1935.

The lower priced Packard Motor Car Model 120′s sold so well during the Depression that they outsold the more costly Packard Senior Models like the one shown here by some ten to one. Most think it was highly doubtful that the Packard Motor Car Company could have survived the 1930′s without the stellar sales of the 120 Model. In fact, the sales figures of the Packard 120 helped the company into the 1940′s and later during the first half of the 1950′s.

Also on AutoMuseumOnline see photos and history of the

1939 Chevy Master Deluxe

Convertible Rolls Royce Phantom

1952 Packard Patrician Convertible

The 1935 Packard Twelve

The 1935 Packard 12 was a twelve cylinder luxury car. Interestingly enough, Packard was known to call their twelve cylinder car engine the “Twin Six” during the 1920′s. This was prior to the V-8. During the 1930′s the engine was referred to as the “Packard Twelve“. The Packard 12 had excellent power displacing 445 cubic inches and designed with hydraulic valve lifters. The car was big and so was the engine. The adding of aluminum heads and increased stroke (4.25-inches), helped the engine achieve it’s 175 HP.

Packard championed the V-12 engine and produced it up until 1939. Unfortunately for Packard, when the V-12 engine was discontinued in it’s auto line, the company lost a bit of it’s well earned prestige. As a side note, the Packard 12 cylinder engine, although removed from auto manufacture, was used for military boats and aircraft during World War Two.

1935 packard 12 luxury car

Another front view of the 1935 Packard 12

Specifications for the 1935 Packard Twelve

Specifications for this car included a powerful 445 cubic inch, 175 HP engine. The car’s weight was about 6,000 lbs. The transmission was 3 speed Manual Selective Synchromesh. The car’s price in 1935 ranged from about $3,800 to $6,400 depending on options, etc.


 Packard Reaches the End of the Road

Packard bought Studebaker in 1954 in a hope to increase market share. At the time Packard was competing directly with Ford, General Motors and Chrysler. The merger didn’t achieve the results hoped for and Packard remained in production until the summer of 1956.

Exhibits of Packard automobiles can be enjoyed at the National Packard Museum located at 1899 Mahoning Ave N.W., Warren, Ohio. The 1935 packard shown in this article was on display at the Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum in Hood River Washington. Hood River is about 64 miles east of Portland Oregon along the scenic Columbia River Gorge.

(Photos are from author’s private collection)