The 1938 Packard Twelve Convertible Sedan / Photos, Specs, Styling, Model History

Featured is a beautiful 1938 Packard Twelve Convertible. This was the top of the line Packard, an automaker that had a reputation for building quality and luxurious vehicles along with excellent engineering. In addition to it’s great looks the Packard was considered a highly reliable automobile.

Packard automobiles were produced from 1899 to 1956. It was during the 1930’s that real classic styling took hold and it was the decade where Packard cars combined great looks and power. IPackard was one of the finest luxury car makers before World War Two, and was a favorite with European Royalty, celebrities and leaders of Corporate America. The Packard Twelve is a legendary car and most likely the finest car Packard ever produced. Packard surpassed it’s competition by attracting discerning buyers who wanted automobiles with opulent interiors, sophisticated styling, and last but not least a smooth and powerful V-12 engine.


packard twelve
1938 Packard Twelve

The Packard Twelve Engine

Packard produced the twelve cylinder engine from 1933 to 1939. From 1933 until 1934 Packard used a 445 cubic inch V-12 engine. Beginning in 1935 until the end of production in 1939, a 473 cubic inch V-12 was used. The first Packard Twelve delivered 160 HP and the 473 delivered 175 HP. This was plenty of power for the 1930’s and put it right up there with Cadillac’s V-16.

As a side note, Packard did produce a 12 cylinder engine fro  1916-1923 that was called the “Twin Six” which was really unrelated to the engines of the 1930’s.

1938 Packard Twelve Styling

Packard’s Twelves were built for special bodywork by the finest custom coachbuilders of the time, in addition to a wide and versatile list of open and closed, factory catalog body styles designed by the famed automobile stylist, Ray Dietrich.

Packard ushered in a new design for 1938 which included a more upright radiator, higher front fenders that wrapped around the side-mounted spare wheels, and a V-shaped windshield. In 1938 Packard started an overall new design featuring a more upright radiator, higher front fenders that wrapped around the side-mounted spare wheels, and a Dietrich inspired V-shaped windshield. The front fenders are pontoon styled which could support optional side mounted spare tires. The interior consisted of  rich leather with seating that could easily could accommodate five.

The 1938 Packard Twelve now shared a 134.34 inch wheelbase with the Super Eight,  With the 1938 V-12 rated at 175 HP, the 5400 lb Packard Twelve could handle quicker than it’s longer wheelbase predecessors.

As a side note, Plymouth was not satisfied in general with it’s 1938 sales numbers. Some of the blame they placed at the feet of Briggs Body Manufacturing which served as a type of consultant to Plymouth buyers.  As a result, they brought in Ray Dietrich for help in what they called Chrysler’s 1939 styling cleanup.

1938 Twelve Convertible Specifications

As mentioned above, the 1938 Packard Twelve Convertible was built with a 473 cubic inch V-12 that put out 175 HP.

Gearbox is a three speed manual.

packard cars

Brakes are four wheel hydraulic drums.

Dimensions include a 134.34 inch wheelbase, 223.1 inch overall length, 74.8 inch width, 67.4 inch height.

New car price in 1938 was about $4,400.

Total 1938 Packard production was 55,710 vehicles. Total Packard Twelve production was a relatively small 560 vehicles.

Related Auto Museum Online articles are on the links below…

1936 Packard Twelve

1941 Lincoln Continental Club Coupe

Reference material for this article includes….The Fall of the Packard Motor Car Company by James A. Ward…Packard Motor Car Company by Evan P. Ide…Complete Book of Collectible Cars by the Editors of Consumer Guide.

packard automobiles


(Article and photos copyright Auto Museum Online)

The 1938 Packard Collector Automobiles

The Packard Twelve featured in this article is not only a very rare automobile but also represents the classic era of automobile manufacturing. While the  Packard Motor Car Company was building fine cars from 1899 to 1957,  the golden era of Packard cars came to a ran through the very late 1930’s.

Most recent auction sales for the very rare 1938 Packard Twelve Convertible Sedan have ranged in the $150,000 to $200,000 range.