1932 Packard 900 Sedan - $39,900
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  • Overview & History
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It has had just two owners from new and spent the period between about 1950 and 1970 in protected storage.

Survivors are special and they require equally special owners to appreciate them. In today’s world of shiny perfection and over-restored cars, the guy with a survivor that’s a little rough around the edges may feel like an outcast. But don’t worry, that’s changing in a big way, with untouched cars becoming the sweethearts of the collector car world—after all, they’re only original once. The people who understand survivors realize that no shop, no matter how good, can put a car together the way the factory did. They accept a few bumps and bruises to preserve the markings of time and experience. And they are now reaping the benefits of being ahead of the curve. Go ahead and visit any car show—you will undoubtedly see people walking past shiny, restored cars with nary a glance, but there is always a crowd around the survivors. It’s hard to break the familiar mindset that perfect is better, but in today’s collector car world, an original car truly stands out.

Which brings us to this understated 1932 Packard 900. It has had just two owners from new and spent the period between about 1950 and 1970 in protected storage. It still wears its original paint, chrome, and most of its original interior. It shows just 57,377 original miles and has never been disassembled. As a result, it still drives and feels very much like it would have in, say, 1934 when it was just a few years old. It’s tight, smooth, quiet, and very competent. And yes, there’s plenty of wear and age on the paint, and you’ll have to be tough enough to withstand all the ignoramuses who will ask you repeatedly, “When are you going to paint that thing?” Are you that guy? If so, this car will reward you. There’s no rust, no rot in the wood structure, and all four doors close with that heavy kerCHUNK sound that only the big cars of the ‘30s can manage. The rear-mounted spare makes this sedan look long and sleek and the hood looks ten feet long from behind the wheel. The rubber on the runningboards is original, the pinstripe is original, and, well, you get the picture. The top insert was replaced a few years ago to make it weather-tight for touring, but otherwise it hasn’t been apart. The chrome is showing some age, of course, with pitting on the distinctive “shovelnose” grille shell, but if you’re smart, you’ll leave it alone—it’ll never get any worse and you’ll never be lured into an unnecessary six-figure restoration. Only the “lady with donut” hood ornament adds flash to this understated Packard, a traditional look that’s very welcome here.

As I mentioned, the interior is almost entirely original save for the seat covers, which were replaced a few years ago when a careless mechanic climbed in with a screwdriver in his pocket. Correct fabric to match the ancient original stuff couldn’t be sourced, so replacing the seat covers was the next best solution. It looks appropriate and replicates the original patterns exactly, and with fresh padding underneath it’s probably a lot more comfortable today. The rest, however, is all vintage 1932, including the door panels, carpets, and the lovely wool headliner. Even the woodgrained dash is original and it’s fully of fully functional gauges with the most lovely little pointers. You’ll spot the radio control unit to the left of the steering column, a later Motorola radio that was likely installed in the 1940s prior to it going into storage. There are rumors that it’s fully operational, but we haven’t tested it and don’t intend to—who knows what it takes to repair such a thing? The car starts rapidly with a little choke and quickly settles into a near-silent 400 RPM idle. In fact, this car runs so quietly that our photographer started shooting the car in the studio without knowing it was still running. Impressive. An electric fuel pump with a small toggle switch under the dash is useful for priming, although the mechanical pump has been recently rebuilt and works just fine by itself.

Packard called the 900 the “Light Eight” but the truth is, it uses the same 320 cubic inch straight-8 that was found in the Eight. With about 110 horsepower on tap and a mountain of that famous Packard torque, the smallest Packard feels quick and nimble, not heavy and ponderous. With just over 57,000 original miles, it has never been out of the car and has never needed to be rebuilt, so it looks well-traveled under the hood but certainly not neglected. It has received proper maintenance throughout its life, and there’s evidence everywhere you look: a new voltage regulator, fresh (and correct) spark plugs, a recent coil and distributor cap, recent hoses, and things like that. Experts will be drawn to the car’s authenticity, which is why survivors are so valuable to the hobby. We’ll wager that even most Packard owners have never seen that hot air duct on the front of the manifold and feeding the air cleaner—they were often removed by early mechanics and never reinstalled (you’ll also note that the forward door on the right side of the hood opens forward for the specific purpose of feeding fresh air into this duct). The car runs ice cold at about 160 degrees most of the time and as I said, it’s almost silent in operation. There’s plenty of oil pressure, throttle response is excellent, and it cruises serenely at 55 MPH without any drama. This is exactly why survivors are cherished—few shops can make them work this well, no matter how much you pay them.

As you’d expect, the chassis is a little greasy and grimy, the there’s no notable rust or damage. The frame looks strong enough to support three Packards and the rear end is canted for better ground clearance (remember, this is before hypoid axles were common). The leaf springs sill wear their factory gaiters for that luxury-smooth ride and the shocks were rebuilt a few years ago. Braking is surprisingly powerful, particularly since 1932 Packards still used mechanical brakes, and you’ll have no worries about the safety of this car on the road. The exhaust system was replaced decades ago, with a newer tail pipe out back, and it has a great 8-cylinder grumble under load but drops to inaudible at cruise, so the 900 just whispers along with wind noise being the most prominent sound. The 3-speed manual transmission is synchronized, so it’s easy to manage and even the unassisted steering is reasonable for a car of this era and better than most. Cream-colored wheels with black pinstripes add just enough contrast to make the car look formal but not stodgy and they carry recent 7.00-17 Lester blackwalls, which are absolutely the right choice.

Are you the special person who can continue this car’s remarkable history? You would only be the third owner in 75 years, so there’s a lot of responsibility here. But once you slide behind the wheel, hit the starter button, and feel that effortless wave of torque, you’ll realize that shiny paint is over-rated and that cars that work this well are a joy forever. Call today!

Vehicle: 1932 Packard 900 Sedan
Price: $39,900
Stock Number: 115087
Mileage: 57,377
VIN: 5533962
Engine: 320 cubic inch straight-8
Transmission: 3-speed manual
Gear Ratio: 4.6900000000000004
Wheelbase: 127.5 inches
Wheels: 17-inch steel disc
Tires: 7.00-17 Lester blackwall
Exterior Color: Black
Interior Color: Tan cloth
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