Waiting For 57 Years: 1941 Packard Super-8 180

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It’s funny, the second that I spied this 1941 Packard Super-8 Custom 180 I thought, “Looks like a mob staff car!” and then the opening line of the listing proclaims, “This model is often called the “Godfather Packard” as it is the same type as featured in the film“. I had to do some research as I couldn’t recall a Packard in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1972 epic, “The Godfather” but apparently it’s from this wedding scene. OK, so it has my attention, let’s look closer at this big Seattle, Washington domiciled sedan. It is available, here on Barn Finds Classifieds for $10,000.

Being a model 180 opens this Packard up to one of several different sub-models. Research suggests that this Packard is a Super-8 Custom One-Eighty, as it is defined by Packard, with a 138-inch wheelbase. Input from any Packard experts that can weigh in with a more precise identification would be appreciated. Packard introduced the Super-8 Custom One-Eighty in 1940, replacing the Packard Twelve, and offered it in various body styles including a four-door tourer, limousine, convertible and town car, along with a two-door convertible. Production ended in February 1942 as domestic auto production ceased due to WWII.

The seller states that this sedan has been parked since 1964 and it is one of only 930 produced. The exterior still shows pretty well though there is mention of minor body damage and small rust spots. Fortunately, that magnificent and distinctive Packard grille appears to be unmarred. The finish looks to be suffering from typical oxidization but all-in-all, is still pretty fair.

Stock Photo of Super-8 Custom 180 Engine – Not the Actual Motor

Unfortunately, there are no images of the 165 HP, 356 CI, in-line eight-cylinder engine. There is no discussion of its status either and it’s a pretty sure bet that it’s not operational – hopefully, it’s not seized. A three-speed manual transmission, the sole offering, is employed to handle gear changes.

Inside is looking shaky! The seller advises, “Time has not treated the interior very well, moths have taken their toll on the wool interior and carpet. It is still complete and portions show the original color“. Yes, there is some serious nibbling that has occurred. Also notable is the condition of the wooden window frames as we are told, “All but one of the wood frames around a windows have some damage due to the shrinkage of the wood, they have broken along the major glue seam, they can certainly be restored“. That’s not a condition that I would have ever anticipated. The dash and instrument panel have gone dingy too, the gauges are still legible but have grown a bit cloudy. There is a radio in place but the two main knobs are missing and probably lost to the ages.

The good thing is that this 70K mile example is intact, not missing major components or showing signs of significant damage or rot. The concerning item is its long period of stationary inactivity and what that may mean mechanically. Packards, especially pre-war models, are significant and substantial automobiles, hopefully, someone in our readership, who has familiarity with this great marque, will give this Custom Super-8 One-Eighty due consideration. It seems like a sound candidate for refurbishment and probably still has some bada bing to it, right?

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  1. RayT

    Jim, the first thing I thought of when seeing the photos was “ZIS 110,” which was of course Uncle Joe Stalin’s staff car…. Apparently, the Soviets built more of these than Packard did, with over 2,000 coming off the assembly line back in the USSR.

    I’ve seen a One-Eighty or two, and they seem to survive years and miles very well. This one doesn’t appear to need much, though I’d say it richly deserves a fresh interior and, perhaps, paint.

    I’ve seen a ZIS, too, here in the States, as well as one in Germany. I have no idea who originally owned either, or how they got out of the East Bloc. I wonder if Packard parts fit them? the counter guy at Auto Zone might roll his eyes if you asked for, say, a Packard One-Eighty head gasket, but would probably keel over in a dead faint if you wanted the same for a 1951 ZIS….

    Either way, a nice-looking and elegant car!

    Like 6
    • Jim ODonnellAuthor


      I had the Auto Zone guy completely confused over a taillight bulb for my 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee, I can’t imagine anything much more challenging.


      Like 15
    • Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskeyMember


      back in the late 1990s I did a serious comparison of a 1942 180 series 2008 limousine and a couple ZIS 110 & 115 [armored] limousines.

      What I found on the ZIS was various small items like instrument parts, gauges, and other small mechanical & trim pieces matched parts on the Packards.

      It’s clear that the drive train basics [engine, transmission, rear axle] were Soviet made, as they have Metric hardware. That said, all 3 had a set of intake/exhaust manifolds that not only had grinding marks where the Packard casting number would be found, but al 3 intake manifolds had a drilled & tapped [sae threads] hole with a plug in place. On Packards this was the vacuum port for the automatic clutch system, and a source for additional vacuum for Packard’s post-war vacuum wipers. The ZIS cars didn’t have the automatic clutch, and they had electric wipers. So who actually manufactured the manifolds? My guess it was Packard.

      Looking under the dash I checked the radios carefully, all 3 of the ZIS were missing the Philco Co.IDplate ZIS cars were made on a very limited basis, rarely exceeding 2 dozen a year, or 2 a month! It would be insane to set up manufacturing industries to make parts for a dozen or so vehicle per year. It made sense for the ZIS people to arrange for purchases of the needed parts, using various Packard dealerships all over the world. None of the records survive to prove my theory, but it simply makes sense ZIS would make discrete parts purchases when needed.

      ZIS 110 limousine bodies and chassis, along with the drive train, are 100% Soviet manufactured, but were clearly copied from the Packard, with the pre-war Cadillac limo rear body, and enclosed running boards, per Stalin’s request.

      Like 2
      • HCMember

        Bill, probably the Soviets doing some reverse engineering on the Packards. Doesn’t surprise me they copied every other piece of machinery, militarily or otherwise that we shared with them. Everyone knew Packard was the best engineering at the time.

        Like 2
  2. bobhess bobhessMember

    Ray T… Tried to get this picture of Dave Gibb and Ole Yeller 2 to you last week but couldn’t get any help. We saw the car when we bought a race car from him in ’89. David Wallens of Classic Motorsports took the picture while at a meet in California but I don’t have a date. Thought I’d drop it here hoping you catch it.


    Like 1
    • RayT

      Thanks, Bob! I grew up watching OY II race at Riverside, Santa Barbara, Pomona, etc., and seeing Max and his wife Ina driving it to a race or two. I can also remember Dan Gurney — who I was interviewing for another story — telling me how easy and comfortable OY II was to race….

      What a great machine!

      Like 0
  3. Vance

    This piece of automotive history should be restored with the loving care it warrants. Words cannot give it the acclaim.it deserves, sadly, it’s getting harder every year to ” Ask the Mam who Owns One”, Thank God to the men who designed, built, and sold these gems. They are in a better place, and don’t see the wreck this world has become. Some day I will ride in a Packard, and check one off the bucket list. It was a better time.

    Like 9
    • Fred Glazer

      To be fair, the state of the world when this car was built was pretty bad. The most horrific was in history was in progress and, in 1941, the bad guys were winning and genocide was well underway in Europe. Sure, we know how it turned out, but we shouldn’t forget how terrible it was.

      Like 7
  4. HoA Howard AMember

    The Godfather,,”Leave the gun, take the cannoli”,,,

    Like 7
  5. On and On On and OnMember

    I’m looking forward to Bill McCoskeys’ evaluation, he’s the Packard go to for me……personally I think this is a lot of car, and not trashed too much.

    Like 6
    • Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskeyMember

      On and On,
      Thanks for the compliment. I’ve owned a 1940 Packard 1808 Custom Super 8 series 180 limousine as well as a shorter wheelbase 180 Formal Sedan. And I’ve worked on quite a few similar pre-war senior Packards too.

      If this car had been offered 30 years ago, it would have quickly found itself in my garage. But I’m simply too old to do it justice today. If the interior wasn’t so moth eaten, I would suggest to the new owner that they keep it as original as possible.

      Things like the missing radio knobs are available as beautifully reproduced pieces, you can even get the entire set of plastic dash pieces.

      I’ve had other 356 straight eight engines that had sat unused and “locked-up”, that with some judicial use of the right mixes of lubricants and solvents, I had the cars running, with a nickle balanced on the cylinder head of each motor.

      In 1978 I bought a 1948 Packard Custom 8 with basically the same drive train as in this car. It had been bought as a used car in 1957, and painted up to use as a “Diamond Cab Co.” vehicle in Washington DC, but the owner got ill, and it was parked, unused, from 1957 to 1978. It took me only a few hours of work to unstick the engine. By the end of the day I had inflated the tires, bled the brakes, put new gas in the tank [It had been well-sucked out by gas thieves], filled the radiator with 50/50 mix, slapped on a set of historic license plates, and drove it from Hyattsville, MD, to a Packard club meet in York, PA, in 100f heat, and the car performed great! [Disclaimer – I had to rebuild the brake system and do a whole lot more to the limo after the trip!]

      Like 3
      • On and On On and OnMember

        Thank you Sir! …….I too am getting past the “major project” age…….always loved Packards for good reason. I have a super 1965 Corvair Convertible I’ve just finished refurbishing. Runs and looks great….. I’m planning on selling it, I sell ALL my projects in time, and I think my next and possible last endeavor will be a fancy 60s Olds, Pontiac, Buick convertible with all the bells and whistles…………not getting lazy per se but getting realistic with livable classic rides. Unfortunately I only have room for one car and want a nice one. Maybe like an Olds Starfire, Buick Wildcat, or Pontiac Grand Prix. Would take me back to High School times for a moment! Might just take my Sweetie Pie to a Drive In……….Or Super Dog!

        Like 1
  6. Bellingham Fred

    The license plate is from Jefferson County. Port Townsend is the county seat. That is where I was born and raised, before moving to Bellingham.

    Like 2
  7. Pete Madsen

    The 1963-issue Washington license plate on that Packard is from Jefferson County (Port Townsend).

    Like 1
  8. HCMember

    OMG what a Packard prewar beauty! Very fair price and hopefully it goes to a new owner who will do right by her. What a great find! Just stunning.

    Like 2
  9. Willowen

    Thirty years ago I was trying to figure out how I could score a ’41 Packard as a 50th birthday present to myself. We were in Nashville at the time, and knew a couple of Packard collectors … who mostly agreed with me that the separate-fender 1941 cars were the best versions of the Darrin-designed models. The obstacle of course was MONEY, of which I had almost enough for a down-payment on a shabby 120. I was forced to conclude that this dream needed to stay in the pipe …

    Maybe 15 years ago I was delivering flowers for a Pasadena florist, and encountered a gorgeous ’41 in the middle of the street, stuck with a case of vapor lock. I complimented the guy on his car, but his reply was so arrogantly dismissive I decided against telling him about the trick of putting an electric fuel pump onto a frame rail back below the tank and leaving the stock pump gutted as a dummy … which I had learned about in Nashville.

    Like 4
  10. Mark

    If you want to see a Godfather movie Packard, there’s one sitting in the Citizens Motorcar Packard museum in Dayton. If you’re ever in the area make it a point to visit and you have never been into Packards you will be hooked by the time you leave.

    Like 2
  11. HCMember

    I had an old school mechanic friend years ago who told me you could set a Nickle on end on a Packard head while idling and it wouldn’t move. And I believe that.. American engineering at its finest especially during WW11 in aircraft engines.

    Like 4
    • HoA Howard AMember

      Hi HC, that’s true. I never tried that on our 1950 Packard, but it did idle so smooth, you couldn’t hear it run. I hope we never lose sight of the fact, Packard, under license of Rolls Royce, made the “Packard Merlin” V12 aircraft motor. With supercharging, it put out an amazing 1250 hp or more, most common in P51 Mustangs. Before jets( and the Germans were this ” close) it clearly helped win the war.

      Like 3
      • Willowen

        Re: “So smooth you couldn’t hear it run” – I was saying to my wife the other day, after a barrage of roaring engines from the main street a block away, “I remember when really expensive cars were valued for being inaudible!” She is a mere ten years younger than I, and refused to believe me …

        At the last L.A. Concours by the Rose Bowl some years ago, we were enthralled at the very large Pre-War prizewinner as it pulled into the rewards area, and the only sound it made was the crunch of the tires on the dry grass. Yes, it was a Packard.

        Like 2
    • Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskeyMember


      Your friend was quite correct, I’ve been showing people this trick for over 50 years now, It’s quite easy to balance a nickle on it’s edge on top of the Packard straight eight, not just the 9 main bearing models, but even the 5 main eights. Packard designed these motors to be a well-balanced machine.

      Like 3
  12. Capt RD

    I drove my 1937 Packard to highschool in 65-67 — big car to drive and park.
    The parts to completely rebuild this straight 8 are available and it will run FOREVER. At $10K —a steal for a project to be proud of.

    Like 2
  13. Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskeyMember


    I had a 1950 Packard Custom Eight sedan with 11,000 miles, that big 9-main bearing engine was so super quiet that if one was standing next to the front fender, you could not hear any engine noise. Nothing! The only sound eminating from the car was a slight chuffing noise from the exhaust tip.

    It was equipped with the Ultramatic Drive transmission. When driving the car, as I came to a stop at a traffic light, I used to find myself checking the oil pressure and amp gauges to see if it was still running! It always was!

    I regret selling that car to this day!

    Like 3
  14. Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskeyMember

    There is another situation to consider. I took a closer look at the photos, and realized that the car’s door windows were now manual cranked versions. In 1941-42, the Custom Super Eight 180 came with electro-hydraulic windows as standard equipment. It’s gonna be a challenge to find the original window raise/lower mechanisms for inside the doors. The cylinders themselves are available as brand new reproductions. Hopefully the hydraulic pump/motor parts in the engine compartment were not removed.

    Like 2

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