1933 Packard Eight Cabriolet by Graber, model 1002
Vehicle no. 719-177
Chassis no. 371681
Engine no. 376978
120 bhp, 319 cu. in. L-head inline eight-cylinder engine, three-speed manual transmission, solid front and rear axles with semi-elliptic leaf springs, and four-wheel mechanical drum brakes. Wheelbase: 136 in.
During the Classic Era, Packard enjoyed a worldwide reputation that is almost unequaled by any luxury marque today, with the possible exception of Rolls-Royce. In almost any country, the wealthiest citizen usually owned at least one Packard, and the cars were shipped as chassis all over the Earth, receiving coachwork by all of the great shops of the Classic Era.
The Packard 1002 Eight offered here has a 136-inch wheelbase and was bodied by the renowned Basel coachbuilder Hermann Graber. This car retains its original 1934 Eight coupe roadster data plate and 1934 engine, indicating that a coupe roadster was acquired by Graber or their client for transformation in combination with a 1933 frame and steering box. Although it is easy to imagine that most coachbuilders started with a new, bare chassis, it was cost-effective and thus common practice for coachbuilders to acquire a lightly-used automobile as the basis for a new custom body.
The result of Graber’s craftsmanship is an elegant and distinctive cabriolet that resembles a downsized Mercedes-Benz 500 K of the era, including its sweeping fenders, blind-quarter top with landau irons, broad chrome beltline molding, and elegant rounded trunk. Typical of Graber, the interior is simple but quite plush, with large armrests on the doors, elegant walnut cappings, and thick leather upholstery, all overseen by a heavily upholstered and beautifully constructed cloth top. The result is a truly striking automobile that belies the “Standard Eight” chassis beneath.
American tenor Sergio Franchi, a popular star of television variety shows, discovered the car in London in 1972. A passionate automobile enthusiast when not performing on stage, Mr. Franchi quickly fell in love with the Packard’s styling, and brought it home to the United States with him; a photograph in the file clearly shows the car’s complete, solid and intact condition upon its arrival in the United States. It was carefully restored in its present two-tone blue color scheme by the late Ted Billing of Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, very respected at the time for his high-quality workmanship.
With its easy driving qualities and reliability, the Graber-bodied Eight became a favorite CARavan automobile for Sergio and Eva Franchi until his untimely passing in 1991. It was sold by his estate in 2006 and acquired from the John O’Quinn Collection by its current owners several years ago. The restoration is older but has a charming patina, and retains its wonderful original touches including the dual sidemounted spares, decorate chrome trim strips, and body-color wire wheels, as well as dual fog lights and dual horns.
This handsome Graber Packard would be the ideal car to freshen and enjoy driving on the road, in the manner so beloved by the charismatic Sergio Franchi, or, with a fresh restoration, as a potential concours competitor, like so many fine European-bodied Packards of its era. It is a truly special example.
Our weekly roundup of car museum news and notes