Full Classic For Peanuts: 1938 Packard Super Eight

Oh, how the mighty have fallen.  Twenty years ago, classic car enthusiasts were hunting down mere rumors of classics like this 1938 Packard Super Eight for sale on eBay.  A full Classic Car Club of America eligible automobile, this handsome and stately Packard is languishing at a $4,600 bid with less than four days to go in the auction.  This Charlotte, North Carolina barn find has not, however, made reserve yet.  Given its condition and the exorbitant costs of restoration that await the new owner, will this high end luxury car sell for a respectable number or is the lack of interest a sign that the market has moved on from full classics?

While Packard died a painful and humiliating death at the hands of Studebaker, the marque was one of America’s premier luxury automakers before World War II.  Often the preferred ride for royalty, heads of state, businessmen, and celebrities, Packard was well respected for their engineering and the elegance of their automobiles.  As the Depression wore on, the practice of purchasing a chassis from a luxury automaker and having a body constructed by one of the many custom builders waned.  By the late thirties, most luxury automakers produced completed cars as rule.

Packard survived the Depression by building a lower line of cars to sell in volume, while their larger eight and twelve cylinder models continued the high end tradition that had made their name synonymous with quality.  The car you see here is a Super Eight.  These models shared bodies with the twelve cylinder models, which would disappear by 1939.  Mostly hand built, Packard Super Eights are considered full classics by the Classic Car Club of America.  This list contains many of the prewar cars you might see on display at Pebble Beach and Amelia Island.  The acknowledged best of the best, in other words.

The Packard you see here is definitely in rough shape.  Who knows how long this car has been sitting and just decaying.  Still, my guess is that it was stored inside.  The place it was stored in likely had major humidity, insect, and vermin problems, but the vast majority of the car is solid.  The seller tells us that the car ran in the seventies, and that they have the headlights and bumpers.  The condition of those bumpers is important.  High level chrome plating is ridiculously expensive.  If they are a rusty mess, then that adds thousands to the project.  It would be nice if we were provided more details.  Even the location of the metal covers for the tires that sit in those dual side mounts would be greatly appreciated.

Inside we see the promised headlights and a few more small parts in boxes.  We also see that the plastic on the steering wheel has completely crumbled off.  The seat springs are also missing, as are the plastic knobs for the window cranks.  Knobs such as these are now being reproduced using 3-D printing technology.  This makes replacement far cheaper, as molds and decent sized production runs aren’t needed anymore.  We are also told the car has a straight eight engine, which I am assuming to mean that the engine is intact and goes with the car.  A picture would have been nice.

To get an idea of what a Packard Super Eight looks like fully restored, and the effort it takes to do it right, take a look at this ad for a similar car from Vaultcars.com.  As you can see, bringing this car back from its current condition will be frightfully expensive.  You could do a garage restoration on it and make it very presentable.  However, it just doesn’t seem like the right thing to do.  Hopefully a savior with deep pockets will be along to rescue this car.  It deserves to be restored and used, even if that savior turns out to be someone who isn’t so well heeled.


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  1. Dairyman

    Sad to see this hard to find model to end up as a street rod. You will sink $100k into a $40k car. Take a good look at this, cause you’ll likely not see another 1938 5 passenger coupe super eight any time soon. Probably not more than 5 left

    Like 22
  2. bobhess bobhess Member

    As a savior of many cars of our motoring history I’d say a general lack of interest for this generation of automobile will probably result in this being a restomod if nothing else. With a solid frame and body you could extend this car’s life with a modern drive train without losing the shear beauty of the original design.

    Like 18
    • canadainmarkseh Member

      That’s so true and if your careful and do the restomod right your be able to return it to original if you wanted. I’d build a running stand for the engine and trans to display with the car. Of course that would come later. That said you can always go back if you keep all the parts. Side note to all you guys in the drop south up here in Calgary Alberta Canada we have had our first taste of winter with about 10” of wet heavy snow over the last 48 hours. It will all be gone in a week.

      Like 3
  3. PatrickM

    As you two have said, “Sad” to see this happen to such a former beauty. Sourcing as much of the original, or even close to original, parts would become a lifelong work out of love. But, I am envisioning a high gloss black paint job with a grey mohair interior. Also sporting a rebuilt, updated, close to original power train. If I could get this back on the road, I would be the envy of everyone I know. but, that’s my ego getting out of joint. (He says as he drools)

    Like 8
  4. Kevin Harper

    Gorgeous car.
    I like cars such as this one, but I think one of the problems is that to many people expect a pebble beach concours build as the home garage restoration is looked down upon.
    I think this is a shame. I would like to restore something like this at home. Sure you couldn’t swim in my paint, and the chrome would not be 100 point perfect and the concours judge would probably frown since my interior was not stitch perfect, but hey I did it on my 200 dollar industrial sewing machine and only the snobbish would care.
    I would go fairly close to factory original with the driveline, as putting in a modern driveline totally ruins the character of these cars. But I would sneak in electronic ignition, and change the dynamo to a generator. Depending on how it drove I might also install a hidden electronic power steering and maybe an upgrade on the brakes, but I would keep it drums. Then just drive in it, it would be fun and 99% of the people who saw it would think it is a neat old car.
    These also work Well as transport for B&B’s and wineries who want to promote the vintage feel. They don’t need to be perfect just good.

    Like 25
  5. Del

    Wow !

    That is a rare beast

    Like 5
  6. Martin Horrocks

    Lets crowdfund this for Kevin Harper

    Like 7
  7. Andrew Franks

    The restoration, which it deserves, with modifications to make it safe to drive in current conditions would make for real magic. I don’t have the time nor the room to do it; but someone should adopt this and give it what it needs.

    Like 2
  8. TimM

    Car has such a evil look to it!! Cars like this should be restored but I’m sure it will get hot rodded!!! I just hope it’s not another lame rat rod!!

    Like 1
  9. Dennis J

    Jay Leno needs to buy this.

    Like 1

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