In 1931, the Deluxe Eight Convertible Coupe by LeBaron represented the pinnacle of the Packard product line. Its inline eight-cylinder engine was the most powerful offered by the company that year, and its semi-custom bodywork by LeBaron gave it an air of style and exclusivity atop its 145-inch wheelbase, the longer of the two factory options for the Model 845.
This model’s distinctive coachwork features an innovative convertible top that folds flush with the rear deck, a sophisticated feature in an era when convertible tops usually sat atop the rear bodywork and one especially welcome to occupants of the rear rumble seat.
Of the more than one thousand Deluxe Eights built, fewer than 100 are said to have received custom coachwork. Of those, perhaps 50 were bodied by LeBaron as convertible coupes. Today, only three are known to survive . . . and this car is one of them.
Beyond its LeBaron coachwork, this exceptional Deluxe Eight is noteworthy for its 385 cubic inch engine. Featuring Packard's aluminum side-valve cylinder head (the L-head) and with fuel supplied to a carburetor manufactured for Packard by the Detroit Lubricator company, the engine puts out 120 horsepower at 3,200 rpm. Fuel is delivered by a mechanical fuel pump, which replaced the vacuum tank for the 1931 model year. An electric fuel pump was later added.
The three-speed manual transmission delivers power to a live rear axle. The front axle is solid, with semi-elliptical leaf spring suspension at both ends and four-wheel mechanical drum brakes. When new, this car commanded in excess of $5,000 with good reason.
As the Great Depression wore on through the 1930s, even a stately convertible like this LeBaron was forced to abandon its life of leisure for one of manual labor. By the early 1940s, it was being used as a tow truck at Walter Paine's Chevrolet garage in King City, California. It was then purchased by tomato farmer Leo Meyer and also used to tow until Mr. Meyer began to appreciate its design and decided to retire it from farm duty. He traded the tow crane that had been mounted on its rear to Mr. Paine in exchange for the original body panels and returned the Packard to its original form as a LeBaron Convertible Coupe.
In 1965, Leo Meyer gave the car he called "the ol' Packard" to his son Robert as a birthday present. Robert kept it in storage for more than a decade before he contacted Los Angeles-area Packard experts Hill & Vaughn, operated by Phil Hill and Ken Vaughn. Hill, of course, was the first American to win the title of Formula One World Champion in 1961 for Ferrari. Hill was also a longtime Packard enthusiast, and he was delighted to tell Robert Meyer that "the ol' Packard" was a coachbuilt semi-custom convertible coupe . . . and a very rare car.
In November 1977, Meyer engaged Hill & Vaughan to perform a 100-point restoration, with the work completed in May 1980. In 1986, it received a fresh coat of updated Burnt Orange and Russet Brown paint as well as mechanical maintenance.
In 1991 this striking Packard achieved Senior Premier honors from the Classic Car Club of America (badge number 0951SP). It was displayed at many concours d'elegance throughout the West Coast, winning some 20 consecutive awards. Many of these awards included First in Class and Best in Show honors by 1989, as noted in a letter of that year from Hill & Vaughn. In 1991, it was featured in The Classic Car, authored by noted historian Beverly Rae Kimes for the Classic Car Club of America.
The car remained in California with the Meyer family for seven decades before being sold into a well-known East Coast collection, where it remained for several years. The car has been well-maintained during the tenure of its most recent owner, and its condition remains superlative.
In the summer of 2022 a new matching custom brown Haartz cloth top and boot were added as well as 6 new Firestone blackwall tires.
Accessories include a single Pilot Ray light which moves in the direction of the front wheels and a custom trunk rack. A Sliding Boy mascot graces the front of the long hood, and the chrome stone guard is beautiful, as is all of the chrome. The paint presents very well for an older restoration.
This magnificent example is a testament to the legacy of the Packard Motor Car Company, as it performs as good as it looks cruising down the road at 65 mph. Just “Ask the man who owns one.”