V12 Project: 1938 Packard 1608 Limousine

American automotive history is littered with the names of manufacturers who have fallen by the wayside for one reason or another. Packard is one such brand, and while it soldiered on gamely into the 1950s, the brand never regained the glory days of when this 1608 Limousine rolled off its production line. Time has not been kind to this Packard, and it will require some significant restoration work if it is to return to its former glory. Given the relative rarity of these cars, it could be a project worth considering. Various sources agree that only around 20 of these Limousines exist today. The Packard is located in Strongsville, Ohio, and has been listed for sale here on eBay. Bidding currently sits at $4,850, but the reserve hasn’t been met.

The Packard is a giant of a car and sits on a wheelbase that is slightly more than 139 inches in length. It is a vehicle with enormous amounts of presence, and the 1608 is considered to be one of the finest vehicles that the company ever produced. That was a long time ago for this car, and it will need a lot of work if it is to recapture that past glory. It appears that the frame is in decent condition. From there, things take a turn for the worse. There is rust in the body and the floors. None of this appears to be structural. However, you can’t pop down to your local supplier and grab a set of running boards for a 1938 Packard. That means that many of the replacement steel pieces will need to be hand-made. That is going to be a time-consuming task. If this work is left to a specialist fabricator, it can be an expensive undertaking. The owner also reveals that the vehicle’s wooden structure is now relatively weak, meaning that this is a project that will require more than just a metal fabricator. On the positive side of the equation, the hubcaps appear to be the only trim pieces that are missing. The twin spare tires and their covers are present, and what can be seen of the glass seems to be in surprisingly good condition.

The Packard would have been a 7-seater because it features a pair of jump seats. These were a benchmark car in terms of luxury, and any journey in a Packard of this era qualified as a special occasion. Once again, those days are a long way in this car’s past, and there will be plenty of work ahead for the new owner. It isn’t clear whether all of the seat frames and hardware are present, but the rest of the interior does appear to be complete. Luxury motoring in this era equated to quiet ride and plush upholstery. Unlike today, these cars didn’t feature power windows or climate control. However, this Packard does retain its factory radio and clock in the Art Deco dash. One nice touch is the original key sticking out of the ignition switch.

Packard introduced their V12 engine in the 1932 “Twin Six.” The original capacity of this engine was 445ci, but by 1938, it had grown to 473ci. This flathead monster pumped out 175hp, which worked its way to the rear wheels via a fully-synchronized 3-speed manual transmission. Not only were these engines producing significant amounts of power, but they were renowned for their smoothness. This was a desirable attribute in what was a premium luxury car. This V12 doesn’t run, and it isn’t clear if it even turns freely. However, it does appear to be complete. The Packard rolls and steers, but I suspect that this is another aspect of this classic that will require a lot of work before the car ever sees the road again.

The 1938 model year wasn’t the best for the 1608 from a sales perspective. There was so much political and financial uncertainty across the globe that it impacted new car sales. This was particularly apparent in the luxury sector, and Packard only managed to sell 566 examples of the 1608 across all body types. Various sources agree that only around 20 examples of the 1608 Limousine are known to exist today. This means that good examples can command values well into the six-digit territory. A beautifully restored car recently sold for $143,000, which gives you some insight into the potential locked away in this classic. Yes, it does represent a significant amount of work. However, there is a good chance that it could be a financially viable project. It would be worth doing some in-depth research on this Packard, because the effort might pay off in the end.

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Comments

  1. BlondeUXB Member

    Less than graceful but it sure is big.
    Makes a good start to a period tow truck…

    Like 2
  2. OddBallCars

    The engine alone, if it’s free, is worth the current asking price. But the body… that’s a LOT of work!

    Like 5
    • Charles Sawka

      Exactly ! I’d like to just restore the engine and transmission and put it on display !

  3. Dual Jetfire

    20 on the planet? Still not as rare as a 54 Nash Ambassador Country Club Lemans, with Continental styling!

    Like 2
  4. DON

    Sadly , there are still only 20 examples left ; at best this is a parts car , and even then, how many of the surviving 20 are needing worn and rusted parts ?
    When I see an old luxury car from the depression era it always makes me wonder what its history was – Movie star ? Tycoon ? Gangster ? Politician ? This wasn’t your everyday car , it would be interesting to know its history and how it ended up where it did

    Like 15
  5. karl

    This looks like the automotive version of the Titanic. Once luxurious , but now rusted ,decaying and about to collapse upon itself . Very sad.

    Like 6
  6. Brian

    I haven’t seen one of these since 1980, and even then it was in a junkyard. This Packard is a true piece of history, but my hat is off to the guy with the deep pockets and skill set to make this ride shine.

    Like 8
    • Mountainwoodie

      Absolutely. What a stunning automobile ( visualize it) lol. Maybe someone will take it in the Packard Club . More likely it is a known vehicle and may well have be given up as too far gone. I hope not. Sometimes, if money is not an issue, examples of American ingenuity and design should just be preserved for the future for no other reason than they are magnificent.

      Like 4
    • Hank M Kaczmarek

      It didn’t sell—now relisted with a BIN price of $70,000.00

  7. Kenneth Carney

    What a sad ending for such a grand old
    car. Now before you folks come after
    me with torches and pitchforks, maybe
    in this case, it should be restomodded
    with a 318 or maybe even a hemi for
    power, back that up with a 727 Torqueflite, and an HD rear axle, and you just might have a winner. The rest of the
    car could be put back original using photos as a guide for your restoration
    work. That way, this grand old gal could
    have a new lease on life as either a funeral car or a limo for proms and weddings. Any way you use it, at least
    it’ll be back on the road showing young
    folks today what life was like in the golden age of motoring.

    Like 3
  8. Rodney - GSM

    This so deserves to be rescued. Try to imagine this coming down the road toward you. It will have an interesting history of ownership for sure.There must be a Packard fan out there waiting for that next project worthy of their time and money. This is it.

    Like 7
  9. Mark

    If I were the owner I’d contact the guys at the Packard museum here in Dayton post-haste.

    Like 5
  10. Bob McK Member

    It would be a labor of love to restore this. Even if you did your own work, you would probably have more in it than it is worth. But I someone can afford it. The money really doesn’t matter.

    Like 4
  11. Rick

    just a thought but just doing something as simple as cleaning out all the debris and destroyed interior bits alone would go a long way when presenting this….

    Like 8
    • DON

      Theres probably little to no floor left ; there are piles of what was a Packard all over the ground and the doors don’t even shut anymore.When these old cars get to this point there is little structure left. This car spent a long time exposed to the elements – even the hood has rotted out !

      Like 1
  12. luke arnott Member

    Restoring this is a huge financial risk – it’s a Limmo and who wants them?

    Like 2
    • Johnny

      Me. To be able to work on it and make any headway makes a person feel good about themself. I see a white one at car shows once in awaile and I always have to stop look and take pictures of that beautiful car. These cars is not about the money. Its the passion of make a old car look new again and it makes you feel good and proud your doing or done something really nice. Whoever gets it. I wish them hope and good luck completing it right.

      Like 7
  13. DuesenbergDino

    This is right up my alley. Spent 20 plus years restoring pre WW2 classics. As a member of CCCA I know there are plenty of master craftsmen who will jump at this Packard. Not as popular as their roadsters, but still highly valued and sought out. This is not the vehicle to learn how to fab up metal or build wooden bucks. The right team could have this restored in less than a year. When I think barn finds, I think about this type stuff. Super, Super deal for someone. I am envious.

    Like 8
  14. SamM

    I know it’s rare, but my first thought is to reboot it as a roadster. Maybe shorten the frame some. Like someone said here before, who wants a limo,,,

  15. Bill Hall

    This is a project NOT ABOUT MONEY! This is about restoring and preserving a piece of automotive history that was rare when new and even more rare today. This is about a labor of love not DOLLARS & CENTS!

    Like 7
  16. Bill McCoskey

    I’ve seen way too many cars like this one, left out in the open, allowed to rot under a blanket of vines, undergrowth and trees, that trapped moisture-laden air. Sadly it was discovered and freed from it’s biological prison about 40 years too late.

    Yes it can be brought back to “as new”, but even if most of the work is tackled by the owner, the costs will likely exceed the finished value. I’ve owned and restored many Packards over the last 50 years, 1930s to 1950s.

    Almost ANYTHING having to do with a Packard 12 is going to be difficult to find, with a few exceptions like hubcaps and running boards, most rubber pieces, & a few special pieces of trim that have been reproduced. Replacing the entire wooden body structure and interior will be in excess of $75k if not done by the owner.

    If it was me who was blessed with ownership of this car [and I was 20 years younger], I suspect I would consider creating a long wheelbase open car, as the costs involved will be largely the same.

    Like 2
  17. Larry Member

    I have a totally original 1939 Packard V-12 1708 Limousine in very nice condition with original paint. Of course it is a 3sp and has the radio, clock, divider window, jump seats, dual side mounts, luggage rack, hubcaps and wide whitewall tires. The 1938 mentioned here is a worth while project in my opinion as these are getting more rarer each day. Hopefully someone will purchase it and turn it back to its glory days.

    Like 2
  18. carl

    put it on a newer frame keep the V12 and the dash .. make it a running driving car and leave it looking like it is-ish ….

  19. Phlathead Phil

    If the engine is not a frozen lump it might be worth restoring. If it is welded shut from rust it may not. That’s a lot of sheet metal. Too much work for the average tin soldier of metallurgy, IMHO.

    • karl

      Well, not as much sheetmetal compared to when it left the lot in 1938

      • BlondeUXB Member

        ‘guess that makes it the ultra-rare factory lightweight…

        Like 1
  20. Ward William

    A lot of debate here over restore or parts car. I think this is one of those cars where you have to do the numbers before deciding. If one sold for 143k, I’d work with 150k as a value for this car and ONLY decide after a thorough evaluation. This is not an open or shut yes or no. As a wedding and events car alone, this could start earning the new owner good money while also allowing the him/her to drive it. It’s that sort of car.

  21. Kenn

    Numbers matching? Original mileage? Aren’t those usually the questions uppermost in the minds of the folks on this site?? Can you tell I’m getting tired of the emphasis on that?

    • BONE

      Dont forget ” does it have A/C” ?

      Like 1
  22. Dave

    BONE: Of course it doesn’t have A/C !!!! Learn some car history.

    • bone

      Uh, thats a joke , Dave , Like Kenn said, ,it seems like most people on this site ask the same old questions , original mileage, matching numbers, etc. To me, a lot of people on this site pass on cars because of the lack of A/C or an inop system .I just added it to his post.
      I may not know as much as some of the guys here on this site, but after messing with cars for nearly 50 years I think I’ve learned a thing or two about cars and their history.

      Like 2
      • Smokey Member

        So Well said Bone. I am certainly in your corner. After over 40 years of arranging, working on and also judging concours contests all over the West, I am still learning new classic car information ALL the time. This site, God bless it, has accelerated that process. BTW I spotted your sense of humor in your A/C comment and got a good chuckle from that. In these strange 2020 times, we all need to relax a bit more!

        Like 2
  23. Dave

    The only “positive” comment in the narrative above was that there is a key in the ignition. How sad that any owner of such a Classic would have allowed it to deteriorate so badly. Goes to show that many Americans have no business being allowed to possess anything of quality.

    • karl

      I dont know where it was sitting or why it was parked in the first place , but keep in mind at one time it was just an old car with little to no value . Most cars get used up and scrapped ; its the natural state of things and cars aren’t made to last forever . Can you imagine how worn and antiquated this car would have looked by 1949 ? You probably couldn’t give it away , and many of its sisters probably ended up in the scrap heap because of that. Many early luxury cars ended their days as tow trucks – they were built rugged, but they had no value as a car anymore .
      When I ran demo derbies , The majority of the cars I bought for $50 or less were once top of the line cars. They just got to the point that any repairs exceeded their value and people were happy to see them go. Even though cars are a huge part of all of our lives and more so for guys that are on sites like these , they are really just appliances that aren’t built to be saved.

  24. RH FACTOR

    Jay Leno needs to buy this and send it to Randy Ema with a “Call me when it’s ready.”

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