124: 1934 Packard Twelve Dual Cowl Sport Phaeton
446 cid 67 degree L head V12 engine producing 160 HP, full synchromesh three-speed manual transmission, four-wheel mechanical drum brakes, front solid axle with semi- elliptical leaf springs and hydraulic lever shock absorbers; wheelbase: 147” The first 12-cylinder Packard was introduced in 1916 as the Twin Six. This, the world’s first V12, had its two-cylinder banks at a 60-degree angle. With a displacement of 424.1 cubic inches, it produced a rated 88 brake horsepower and enough torque to comfortably transport a fully loaded vehicle weighing around 6,000 pounds at speeds in excess of 50 miles per hour, with a top speed of 70. Packard’s Twin Six was built until 1923, and only seven years later Cadillac opened the cylinder wars with the introduction of its V16 in 1930. It was closely followed by the Cadillac V12 in 1931. Packard responded in 1932 with the introduction of another V12, again called the Twin Six. Although it shared the name of its predecessor, this was an entirely new design with a 67-degree vee angle and a 445.5 cubic inch displacement that put out a whopping 160 horsepower. In the nine years since the last Twin Six rolled off the line, Packard added just 24.4 cubic inches to the displacement and increased horsepower by 82%. Packard soon realized that it would be appropriate to recognize this leap in engineering, and the Twin Six was from then on known simply as the Twelve. Under the long, sleek hood of this wonderful Sport Phaeton lives one of the most refined, powerful, and smooth powerplants of the entire Classic Era. The magic of the extra cylinders is not found in the prestige bestowed upon the owner, but rather the increase in the performance of the car. The new Twelve was silent from the start and operated so quietly in all gears that it was, and still is, hard to hear evidence of an internal combustion engine at all. One owner of a Twelve recently stated that while showing his car at a Concours event, the judges came to his circle and asked for all participants to start their cars. Several minutes later, a somewhat perturbed looking judge came to him again and politely asked him to start his vehicle. The owner simply replied, “The car is already running.” The Packard Twelve was produced from 1933 to 1939, and is considered by many to be one of the finest automobiles produced by Packard and one of the most significant creations of the Classic Era. Owning any Packard Twelve was exceptional, and Packard certainly offered many options themselves, yet many owners chose to express their individual style and have custom bodies created and fitted to their chassis. LeBaron, Inc. was founded by Tom Hibbard and Ray Dietrich, who were unexpectedly fired from Brewster when the management got wind of their plan to set up their own shop. They settled on the French-sounding name and set up shop at 2 Columbus Circle in New York City. Hibbard left the firm in 1923 after meeting Howard “Dutch” Darrin while on a trip to Paris, and Dietrich left a few years later after being wooed to Detroit by Murray. Despite the departure of its founders, the company prospered and was eventually acquired by Briggs in 1927. Briggs’ clients included Chrysler, Ford, Overland, and Hudson. LeBaron continued to operate within Briggs, whose strong Detroit connections soon lead to prestigious custom work for Lincoln, Cadillac, and Pierce Arrow, becoming, in effect, Briggs’ in-house design label. LeBaron was ideally positioned to take advantage of the burgeoning demand for coachbuilt bodies that developed heading into the ‘30s. With the aid of its larger parent company, LeBaron survived the Depression and produced some of its greatest work in the ‘30s. Just three examples of the 1934 Twelve were originally fitted with this style of Dual Cowl Sport Phaeton coachwork by LeBaron, which sold for a princely $7,065 when new against $4,185 for a factory edan and about $6,000 for a large private home. One of the three cars was owned by the renowned restorer, Fran Roxas, who has not only prepared many cars to Pebble Beach-winning standards but is also known for his incredible fabrication skills when it comes to properly recreating period bodies. Like many of the most elegant cars of the era, many Packards were fitted with custom bodies, but only a select few received particularly notable coachwork. Mr. Roxas began with a complete but less glamorous Packard Twelve, and he expertly rebodied it to emulate the legendary Sport Phaeton coachwork. The 1934 Packards by LeBaron are especially prized for their graceful concession to the trend towards streamlining while still retaining the classic Packard upright body style. The long hood and body, coupled to redesigned pontoon fenders and a short, streamlined rear deck give this car a sporty look while still providing the ride and amenities of the best senior Packards of the day. The interior of the car is stunning and fresh, with high quality light grey leather and superlative detailing throughout. Both the seating surfaces and the carpets are excellent and all of the components have been restored, from the pedals to the instruments to the burled dash, and even the shift knob and steering wheel. The rear compartment is equally crisp, and seatbelts have been fitted throughout. Outside, every detail has been addressed at a high Concours level, with exquisite Packard Blue paint, flawless chrome, and exceptional brightwork. The body is straight, the gaps are true, and the grille and Solar headlamps are nothing short of stunning. The Packard Blue cloth top is likewise in excellent condition, showing off the long lines of the LeBaron coachwork nicely. The car runs and drives beautifully, and is completely ready for either the show circuit or long distance touring. The engine compartment retains its correct hardware, fasteners, and finishes, and is presented in impressive condition. In 1934, Packard adopted a new advertising slogan, “The Yardstick with Which to Measure All Fine Car Values.” They challenged prospective buyers to inspect their products thoroughly and to compare against all others. Quality in presentation and performance was the essence of Packard, and the company confidently invited comparison to the finest vehicles in the world. Today, the open 1934 Twelve remains one of the most sought after Classic Era automobiles. It is a fully usable and visually stunning example of one of Packard’s greatest motorcars.