Good First Restoration? 1937 Packard 115 Sedan

One of the things that hold car lovers back from taking on a restoration is the fear of messing something up.  We are, sadly, no longer a hands on nation.  Still, there is more information out there to help you figure out how to restore a car than ever before thanks to the internet.  So, why not take on a project car that would likely otherwise not be restored unless someone new to the game steps up?  Take a careful look at this 1937 Packard 115 sedan for sale on eBay out of Oakham, Massachusetts.  An unwanted inheritance, this six cylinder “economy” Packard looks rough at first glance.  However, it is all there and the body is actually in good shape.  Is it worth more than the $2,576 current bid?  Could you see this Packard in your new garage workshop?

Packard had a strong reputation as being one of America’s premier motor car companies.  The Depression, unfortunately, helped to whittle down that exclusive list of makers through bankruptcy and attrition.  Packard itself also was looking financial death in the face.  In a controversial move, Packard introduced a six cylinder lower priced line in 1937.  By 1939, these lower priced Packards were renamed the 110 line.  Some were offended by the move downmarket and felt like the once regal Packard name had been watered down to its eternal detriment.  Practical observers realized that the company had no choice.

Still, Packard’s lower priced model was a fine car.  As you can see from the pictures of this Packard, the styling was handsome and the build quality was the equal or better of competing makes.  The story on this car is that it was purchased 40 years ago by the seller’s grandfather for the grandmother.  She must not have been a Packard fan.  The car was unceremoniously stored in a barn until the grandmother’s recent death.  While that is definitely a sad story, it looks like the inside storage preserved the car fairly well.  At least there are no obvious rust problems.  The hideous grey primer bath seems to have protected the body to some degree.

The interior condition is another story.  All that is left is a poorly recovered set of seats and panels in old school brown vinyl.  Still, all the parts and pieces are there and ready for another shot at refurbishment.  The window trim is present, and the parts and pieces of the dash are in very restorable shape.  Even the faux wood graining looks like it could be cleaned up and used as is.

There is more good news in the trunk.  From trim rings to a bevy of spotlights, there are a number of spare parts to be refurbished and used.  The sad news is that the missing headlight we saw in the first picture has turned up in the trunk.  Too bad it is in two pieces.

There is more good news under the hood.  The main components that make up the six cylinder engine appear to be there and in fairly good shape.  The seller seems to not be someone who is into cars, so there is no word if the engine even rotates.  We are only told that it doesn’t run.  At the price it seems like it will sell for, you won’t be taking a huge chance.  My guess is that it will probably rotate, especially with a little Marvel Mystery Oil persuasion.  We have seen many sellers on Barn Finds report that rougher engines were free.

If the car sold for around $3,000, then that leaves the buyer with a lot of car for a little money.  If you have never restored a car, then what are you going to mess up?  It doesn’t have to be restored to perfection.  NAPA carries relatively inexpensive paint and primer for the body.  Rustoleum makes an acceptable line of paints for the frame and other chassis parts.  Harbor Freight sells affordable tools.  The list goes on and on.  Why not jump in and learn on a car like this?

Would you take this car on as a project?

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Comments

  1. Stang1968

    I don’t think this is a highly sought after vehicle but I would at least make it run and drive, and go through all the systems to make it reliable.

    Like 9
  2. Dairyman

    Why not buy a 1937 packard 115 that runs, drives and brakes for instant enjoyment? They’re available for under $20k left & right.

    Like 5
    • ken tillyUK Member

      That may be but there is a big difference between the current bid and $20.000. Not all of us have that kind of scratch lying around.

      Like 12
      • Dairyman

        You will pour more than $20k into this car not counting labor.

        Like 4
    • Kent

      For many people (including myself) it’s more about the journey of fixing up a car, getting to know its quirks, and making it mine. You will no doubt spend more, but you get to make it all yours. I never go into fixing up an old car assuming I’ll come out ahead. I know better.

      Like 23
      • canadainmarkseh Member

        I couldn’t agree more Kent. Its to bad that working with your hands is a dieing art I get great satisfaction from hands in work and I think the next generation is missing out on that experience. It also make them more dependant on the few that do work with there hands. As for the old Packard this is a bargain for someone that wants to take the journey. As for spending more than $20k on the restoration a good scrounger with basic skill could make that happen. For example the engines in this car is simplistic compared to today’s car, Sort if like an oversized lawnmower engine. Everything about this car is simpler. I think more young people should take the plunge and get there hands dirty. JMO.

        Like 11
      • grant

        Well put. For most of us, this is the only way to have an old car. Yes, ultimately you’ll spend more than you would have on a finished one, but if you don’t have 20k that you can drop on a toy, you can probably justify 3k and a few hundred a month without risking divorce or homelessness.

        Like 8
    • Andy

      I think the idea is to not count labor. This car is so much simpler than anything made in the last 30 years, it would be like working on a lawnmower. It really is all there, and I’d say, if you can do the work, this would be roadworthy and great looking at about 20 feet for the sale price plus about $5,000. And it would come with the added accessory of knowing you did it yourself.

      Like 8
  3. TimM

    I like the simplicity of the dash!! I like the style of the car!! Appears to be solid!!! The one thing I don’t like is the price tag!!!!! Does it come with some gold bars under the seat?????

    Like 3
    • Andy

      I don’t know, a solid and all-there prewar Packard for 20% of the cheapest new car you can buy doesn’t sound like a lot to me.

      Like 6
  4. JRHaelig

    You know what……the star on the trunk lid suggests that you could apply a “can’t scew it up too badly” coat of olive drab paint, get yourself a corn cob pipe, sunglasses and a saucer cap and play Douglas McArthur.

    Could be a hoot until someone else wants to really restore it.

    Like 9
  5. Bruce Jackson

    Not sure about the price tag being an issue here, if it indeed sells for around $3K…If that price range is problematic, then auto restoration or classic car ownership is probably not your thing (at least, for now—30 year’s ago, I would have felt the same way). The issue is the restoration cost, and that is where things can really bog-down.
    I am not a big fan of this vehicle, but what car are you going to “restore” (I use that term loosely) and not spend several thousands of dollars? A good paint job, especially if it has to be taken down to the metal, and have any minor flaws fixed, can easily run you $8-10K….and other than you could have a non-running driveway trophy, you are still a long way from having a drivable vehicle…now if you do the prep work yourself, yes, that substantially reduces the paint job cost—but the paint itself is also not cheap.
    My point is, you can encounter this kind of expense on ANY unrestored classic car, so if you want to save money, let someone else do the work, and then they can sell at a loss to you.

    Like 3
    • Andy

      If I had the money and the space, I can do about anything this car needs short of a cylinder bore; and Kanter Auto has almost everything a 110 or 120 could need. As a Packard fan, I couldn’t justify paying for a Super Eight/Twelve paint job on a 110, but I do know there’s still an Earl Scheib in the Bronx. Reupholstering would probably be the biggest expense. If you’re not taking it to Pebble Beach (where they wouldn’t let a 110 past the parking lot anyway), I honestly don’t see a need to break ten grand all in on a car like this. That’s allowing you can and will do the mechanical work yourself, of course.

      Like 11
    • canadainmarkseh Member

      First of all Bruce you don’t need a concours paint job. Back in the 30’s there was no base/clear coat paint. These were all single stage paint jobs so unless your looking to over restore this car, and many are I just don’t see the $8k to $10k for paint. A good DIY guy could do it for a fraction of your estimation. Its time to stop looking at old cars as some sort of potential investment. There not unless your some rich guy collecting exotic’s. let’s face it most of us are NOT that guy. And this not an investment car.

      Like 6
  6. Frank Armstrong

    Finished restorations get passed around as “investments” after they are done. The person doing the restoration seldom gets their money back unless the car is well preserved, and they have solid skills with mechanical repairs and paint and body. Very, very few restorers can also do complete reupholstery and headliner on a pre-war classic. Even more modern car are an upholstery challenge, unless it’s a vehicle that has a complete kit available, like a Camaro, Mustangs, etc..

    All this being said, buying a car like this one at, or near, $3,000 is a good deal if you want learn “on the job”, so to speak. What does it matter if your first paint job is just OK? Clean it up, degrease it, get it running and see what you’ve got. Sure, Eastwood is going to take your credit card to the limit, but you’re going to have a lot of fun, and a real satisfaction when you put it back on the road for the first time. It’s cheap because the folks that loved these cars in their youth are mostly gone, and those that are still with us are past the physical capabilities of strapping on a restoration. If the buyer is someone who wants to dive in and get it done, they are going to have a ball.

    Like 9
    • Robert L Roberge

      To paraphrase Packard, “Ask the man who’s done it.” The exhilaration one gets the first time that ’55 hemi clattered to life in your old Cst. Royal Lancer or when you first started the engine in your ’65 Electra convert. is right up to the top of any chart. and the pride associated with the completed project is the cherry on top.

      Like 6
  7. Dairyman

    Andy, you hit the nail right on the head!

    Like 5
  8. Bob McK Member

    You know you want it… Go ahead treat yourself.

    Like 1
  9. Andy B

    Sold for $3,550. I think someone got themselves a good deal!

    Had to put my last initial, cause I see there’s another andy posting on here😆

    Like 1
  10. James Shaw

    First car I restored was a 1946 Plymouth Deluxe, the car was stored in a pole barn here in FLA. The neighbors drove it from Gary Indiana and left the car here as their winter car. It sat in the barn for 20 years before I was able to get their son to part with it, beside some minor rust the body was in pretty good shape, the flat head six was frozen up solid but a little Marvel Mystery oil soon had it running freely ( but smoking like a fog machine ) the cause was all the rings and 2 pistons had deteriated away. Finding original motor parts was easy thanks to Haggarty’s, not being a Mechanic or Body man, the car after the rebuild and a lot of cleaning was a show stopper at a few local shows. Ended up selling it years later but was the one that gave me the restoration bug ( my next was a 1969 GTO Judge but that’s another story.)

    Like 2
  11. charlie Member

    And McArthur had a Studebaker President during WWII when he was in Australia. He could have graduated to a Packard later on, but it would not have been this old.

    Like 2
    • Sunshine

      Gen. Douglas MacArthur had a ’42 Packard during the war. It was a gift from the Employees at Packard, and had the new option of AC.
      http://budwells.com/2014/11/229/

      • onree Member

        Unlikely that MacArthur had his Packard in the Philippines since Packard records show it delivered at the factory in March of 1942. MacArthur quit Corregidor on March 12, 1942. It may have caught up with him in Australia.

      • chrlsful

        like this 1 better, Thnx for da link !

  12. John S

    If I wasn’t 3,000 miles away, I’d have grabbed this ol’ diamond in the rough… Yeah, it’d be a lot of work, but a labor of love. Good luck to the new owner!

    Like 1
  13. Marty Member

    I like this car and appreciate it for what it is, but I don’t think it would be the wisest choice for someone’s “first” restoration project. There are so many cars that would be far easier and cheaper to do than this one. Not the easiest for a first-timer.

    • chrlsful

      yes, so few straight (not round) body panels…

  14. Fred W

    In the early 2000’s I purchased an identical car for about 10K (except for a slightly different, very elegant roofline in the rear, maybe a Packard guy can tell me the model) that I judged strictly by photos on Ebay. When it arrived I was pleasantly surprised to have bought my first “Concours worthy” classic totally by accident. As fate would have it, a year later I bought a ’38 Packard sight unseen, and the owner conveniently neglected to mention it smoked like a chimney.

  15. Willard Pereira

    This car is a one year only Model 115, which stands for the wheelbase being 115 inches. Following years referred to the 6 cyl. models as 110’s. I hope whoever bought this car did a 180 with the bumperettes. They’re on upside down. I’ve had a flatback model 115 for over 48 years. I kept it original for the first twenty years, and then I installed a SBC engine, and all the bells and whistles, to modernize it. It still makes me smile every time I open the garage door and see that wonderful vertical Packard grill. I also have a touring sedan just like this one; all original. Good luck to the new owner.

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