Lot 32: 1931 PACKARD 833 DUAL COWL PHAETON
brown leather interior
Engine: L-head, straight eight, 319.2ci, 100bhp at 3,200rpm; Gearbox: four speed selective transmission; Suspension: front and rear, semi-elliptic leaf springs; Brakes: four wheel mechanical brakes. Left hand drive.
The eight cylinder engine that Packard had revealed in 1923 as a successor to the V12 provided the backbone of Packard's future production, lasting to the end of the 1930s. The design was a simple side valve (L-head) of the highest quality with a light alloy crankcase with the crankshaft running in nine bearings. It gave smooth and effortless performance, on a par with the larger engine.
Although the Packard Motor Car Company ended the 1920s with record sales, the near future would bring rather different results. As the Depression took hold, Packard looked to creative design and refined engineering to pull the company through harder times.
Packard released their Eighth Series cars, for the 1931 model year, on August 14, 1930. In that group were included the 826, 833, 840 and the 845. Mechanically there were important developments in this series. Disc wheels were standard with a wire or wood option, hubcaps were larger and the steering wheel went from four spokes to three. The horsepower was up to 100 from the 90bhp of the previous year as the entire 1931 Packard line benefited from the new cylinder block of the 734 Speedster from the previous year. A direct, mechanical Stewart Warner fuel pump replaced the vacuum tank leaving only the windshield wiper and the new Bijur chassis lubrication system to be vacuum operated.
While Packard moved ahead with technological improvements in their 1930s models comfort was not overlooked, with adjustable driver's seats and steering wheels now standard as well as sun visors and map lights. They also looked to give their cars, especially those delivered with factory bodies, an added dash of style. Longer, lower and more interestingly detailed, they had the look of bespoke custom coachwork. The Standard Eight 833s, the middle of the Packard line, were available from the factory in eleven different body styles all carried on a ½ in wheelbase. One of the loveliest was the Dual Cowl Phaeton, offered at an original price of $2,500 in 1931.
The Packard 833 Dual Cowl Phaeton which Christie's is offering is one of the best known Packards in the country. "The Birthday Packard" , as it was named by Gregory Wells in a 1978 article written for Car Collector magazine, has been celebrated for years as one of the most extraordinarily original vintage cars ever seen. Josiah Edwards of Lewiston, Maine was one of the most fortunate young men in a country falling into the Great Depression. His 17th birthday gift in 1931 was a new Packard 833 Dual Cowl Phaeton. He recognized how special this grand car was and retained ownership of it for more than 40 years. For this entire length of time, the car was carefully maintained- never being driven in the winter months, as it was stored each year from November until April, in anticipation of another summer's touring. And that touring never took Edwards very far, as the mileage could not have been much higher than the mid 20,000s by the time he finally sold it to a friend in 1973.
The subsequent owners of this very special car have all been keenly aware of the treasure in their hands and have sympathetically used the Packard, vowing, in an unofficial "gentlemen's agreement" not to subject it to a restoration. That attention to this goal can be clearly seen in the car today. We are told that after 15 years in the ownership of the vendor, the 833 shows a mere 29,664 miles on the odometer and its condition accurately reflects that extremely low mileage. The paint is entirely original, including the striping. The interior has the patina only care and time can provide and the condition of the original weather equipment, including the top must be seen to be believed. The only aspect of the car which is not as it was on the spring day in 1931 when Jonas Edwards took delivery are the wheels. Originally equipped with chrome plated wires, he soon had them replaced with a painted set, as the originals quickly suffered spoke failures. The owner's manual, key fob, tool kit and the fitted luggage- down to the wax paper filling- all remain with the car and in remarkable condition.
With the rapidly increasing interest in "preservation" cars, there can be few unrestored cars as well known and documented as "The Birthday Packard". The fortunate purchaser of this automobile will join with the previous owners, going back to that lucky 17 year old, in being the energetic and devoted conservator of this extraordinary automotive artifact.
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