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No Reserve Beauty: 1937 Packard Business Coupe

When I was a boy, I knew an older gentleman who lived near me and he was a study in antiquity. I never knew exactly what he did for a living, I think he had several different avenues, but selling new Buick’s was one of his life-lines. He owned an 1880’s American gothic-styled house and on the south end of his property was an old stable that had been converted into a five-car garage. In one of those garage bays was a 1937 Packard 120 Touring sedan. While not the same body style as today’s 1937 Packard Business Coupe subject, they both share(d) that fabulous Packard grille with automatic shutter control. Even then I was surprised that such “technology” existed as far back as 1937. That functioning grille made an indelible impression on my young mind so when I spied this Packard Business Coupe, I just had to take a closer look. This Business Coupe is located in Fernley, Nevada and is available here on eBay for a current bid of $11,201, twenty-five bids tendered so far.

The gray Packard of my youth had roll up shades for the rearmost side windows and the original owner’s initials stenciled in small, discreet, contrasting colored letters on the rear doors. It was a stablemate to a black 1924 Dodge four-door sedan, a 1932 Chrysler touring sedan (dark blue with black fenders – the owner’s favorite), a 1927 Dodge mail truck finished in a two-tone tan and black arrangement (his second favorite), and a medium blue 1929 Chrysler coupe, replete with a rumble seat that had had the lid turned around and attached like a normal trunk lid so a previous owner could sell eggs from the rear compartment. The Packard usually got pulled out of its slot and basked in the warm sunshine for a bit before being returned to its dark, questionable lair – I don’t recall it ever going on a road trip. It and the ’32 Chrysler vied for the most impressive automobiles in this modest collection. The difference was that the Chrysler looked like a lot of other similar cars of the era, the Packard looked like a Packard – both were in magnificent condition.

This ’37 Packard is a curious body style, a business coupe. It’s great for those with thoughts of hot-rodding dancing in their brains, but what kind of “business” got conducted in a car that was known for no backseat? My thoughts drift to aluminum siding salesmen though I don’t think that home improvement(?) was in vogue in ’37. But I did once find a siding sample case in the attic of an old house that I purchased and it was sizeable so I suppose a business coupe, with its cavernous trunk, would come in handy in that case. Anyway, the exterior appears to be in excellent condition, (and it’s green!) though the seller describes it as such: “the paint has cracks, the car looks real good the way it is”. The cracks aren’t evident in the images so they are probably modest in nature. The sheet metal, however, looks perfect, no dents, rust or misalignment. The chrome, and that very memorable grille, are strong and true, it would be great to know if the “shutters” still operate. Can’t get all of those siding display cases in the trunk? No worries, there’s a nicely chromed, luggage rack attached above the rear bumper so you can pile on the additional samples as needed. I will say, regardless of the vintage, I’m not a fan of wide-whites, subjective of course, but I don’t think they do anything to improve the appearance of this Packard.

The interior, what little of it there is, would seem to have been redone with the bench seat reupholstered in either high-quality vinyl or leather. From what can be spied, the refurbishment treatment continues with the door cards, headliner, instrument panel and steering wheel. Speaking of the instrument panel, it is painted in an unusual shade of what looks like satin primer, it doesn’t really go with the interior theme or the exterior hue. Nevertheless, it works well.

The biggest disappointment is under the hood. This Packard is a non-runner, the seller claims, “the car does not run, the lifters were stuck, got it fix, now it just needs to get put back together to get it running” – this is going to be a finish it yourself project. The engine, assuming that it is original as there are no images, should be a 100 H.P., 237 CI, in-line, six eight-cylinder arrangement attached to a three-speed manual transmission.  The stuck lifters issue is understandable but I guess I’m wondering what else got “stuck” and why the seller hasn’t put the engine back together since it is “fix” now. So much for the grille shutters, at least for now.

There are twenty-five bids chasing this Packard – it’s a fantastic car; the engine problem, however, is concerning. My hope is that the next owner actually gets the original engine up and running and doesn’t succumb to the temptation to slip in a Chevy small-block or a GM LS series motor. A Packard is a Packard, there is no other car like one. Just ask the man who owns one, right?


  1. Avatar photo Skorzeny

    I was wondering why this was such a good deal, And then there it was, the motor… Still, with a gorgeous body, the engine work, assuming everything is there and usable, this seems like a great deal. I had a similar situation with a ‘59 Jaguar and that worked out alright.

    Like 2
  2. Avatar photo Mark C

    Gone already! Gorgeous body style and color. Sorry Jim, blackwalls would just be wrong on this classy car. But I’m still in agreement on keeping the original engine.

    Like 8
  3. Avatar photo SMS

    The valves and lifters of these can get stuck fairly easily. Usually from lack of or improper care. Have seen a few that got unstuck forcefully which caused some damage. Would want an in person look at this motor to make sure it wasn’t hurt. These are simple motors which can fool you. They were very well machined and assembled by craftsmen who did it day in and day out. Not something I could do well by reading a book. Anyone can rebuild a Packard inline six or eight. Few can assemble one and have it run like it was intended.

    Remember looking at a block with just the crank in it. The fellow was making it just right. He had me spin the crank. Was heavy so it took some effort. Couldn’t feel any resistance other than the rotating mass, I mean none. Once it was spinning it spun for a while. Just like looking at a big watch movement.

    Like 9
  4. Avatar photo Phlathead Phil

    25 bids chasing this “Jewel of Excellence?” IMHO, only one is. The highest one. Gorgeous, beyond words.

    It even has a phlathead.

    Like 2
  5. Avatar photo Bob

    This is what I like about Barnfinds. You and buy an old Harley Davidson for $67,900 or a beautiful old Packard for $15,000!

    Like 5
    • Avatar photo Phlathead Phil

      At $67,900.00 (or 67.9 LARGE,) it better come with a NEW Woman!

      Phlatheads rule cuz thez old skool!!!

      Like 0
      • Avatar photo Oatman

        Enough already. Ha Ha Ha!

        Like 1
  6. Avatar photo Sherminator

    To answer your question, business coupes were “no-frills” hard top two-door cars with no backseat or a removable backseat. Manufacturers designed these models for traveling salesmen who transported product or samples.

    Like 1
  7. Avatar photo Carnut

    80% chance this one went to a low rider.. the reality is that they are taking over the car hobby.. interesting article written earlier this year how they are the fastest growing part of the “car hobby”.. I suppose it’s correct.. Drag strips are closing up.. hot rodders are “aging out”.. pre war guys are dying almost daily.. the low riders are growing in numbers..

    Like 1
  8. Avatar photo Karl

    Such a beautiful car I sure hope whoever got it doesn’t do something stupid with it!

    Like 5
  9. Avatar photo Randy Bitner

    I owned a 1937 Packard business coupe in 1969 straight 8. As someone said, the valves would stick. Also overheating was a problem. The interior should be cloth. It was at a good price.

    Like 2
  10. Avatar photo Captain RD

    My High School driver was a 1937 Packard 120CD – in the mid 60’s — a big car and a huge backseat — it would have been way more sporty to have a coupe but the elegance of the Packard is unmistakable – the grille was operated mechanically as the water temp rose – I would be surprised if this one wasn’t working fine when the engine gets running. The parts to put that straight 8 are widely available and should not force a modern replacement.
    Classy Ride!

    Like 3
  11. Avatar photo charlie Member

    It is more likely that this was a Dr’s car than a salesman’s. Doctors made house calls in the day, many people did not have cars, and a coupe was all a Doc needed. Many had Buicks, the well off, specialists, perhaps, would have an 8 cylinder Packard.

    Like 3
  12. Avatar photo 4501 Safari

    I have a 1954 Pontiac straight eight with the high compression head, coupled to the 4-speed hydramatic sitting in my shop on a stand. It is from an airconditioned Star Chief and has the special bracket for the AC compressor and the power steering pump. It would make a fine donor for this Packard. I also have a floor shift conversion for the hydramatic so no special column needed, unless you wanted the power steering column to go with it. Some critical elements are missing but they have nothing to do with the combination. They are money, time, physical strength and life potential to finish any project in progress or dreaming. I doubt I am alone.

    Consider an eight into four into two fabricated exhaust header and a direct injection intake and coil on plug ignition with appropriate pick up assembly and of course 12 volts. No one will ever do this but the possibilities are for consideration or aforementioned dreams.

    Like 1
  13. Avatar photo Bill McCoskey Member

    As there were no photos of the engine compartment, I’m pretty sure the engine was the 6-cylinder Packard. The hood side panel louvers are painted. If the car was an eight cylinder 120, the side louvers would be different, and chromed. Plus, the length of the hood for the 120 would be longer. I’m 99% sure this is a Packard Six. [I own a 1937 Packard 120 Eight Deluxe touring sedan, original 42,000 mile car.]

    Like 0

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