1938 Packard 1603 Super Eight Touring Sedan
Engine No. A501507
130 bhp, 320 cu. in. L-head inline eight-cylinder engine, three-speed manual transmission, independent coil spring front suspension, live rear axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs, four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 127 in.
By 1938, Packard’s “junior” Six and One-Twenty lines accounted for most sales; in fact the One-Twenty name was dropped as the model took up the name “Eight,” previously reserved for the least-expensive “senior” line. A full array of “senior” eight-cylinder cars remained, however, in the Super Eight series, with no fewer than 17 body styles, including four “catalog custom” styles from coachbuilders Brunn and Rollston.
The Series 1603 Super Eight Touring Sedan was unique in the 1938 line. On the 127-inch wheelbase of the junior cars, it had the 320 cubic inch, 130 bhp Super Eight engine. At 4,530 pounds, it was the lightest of the Super Eight offerings and no doubt exhibited the best performance. Priced under $3,000, it was a relative bargain.
This 1603 Packard Touring sedan has been in single-family ownership since the 1970s. Well-known collector Ken Stein had it restored by Eastern Coach Restoration in Sayville, Long Island, New York, winning a first Junior National AACA First prize at Jekyll Island, Georgia, in November 1979. After the Steins moved from North Carolina to Arizona in 1985, the car was kept in climate-controlled storage, but was little used. It has recently been recommissioned for the road. Invoices for this work, which ran to some $10,000, accompany the car, and show parts obtained from Max Merritt Auto in Franklin, Indiana, as well as the work performed. It now runs and drives well. Of Mr. Stein’s collection, which at one time numbered a dozen cars, this was his wife’s favorite, so was never sold.
Even on close inspection it’s difficult to tell that the restoration is nearly forty years old, a testament to the quality of the work. The paint, in two shades of gray, polishes up well, and the matching cloth interior is all but unworn. In addition to a capacious luggage compartment, the car has an external trunk rack. The exterior trunk is included in the sale.
In 1938, Packard used a firewall decal for vehicle numbers. These frequently do not survive, whether or not a car has been restored. This car, like many other 1938s, is titled by its engine number. A cowl-mounted plate shows delivery on August 14, 1938 by John R. Swezey of Patchogue, New York. Subsequent to the car’s AACA award, the electrical system was converted to 12 volts, and remains so today.
Total production of 1938 Packard Super Eights fell short of 2,500 cars. Some years ago the total of Series 1603 Touring Sedans was estimated by Canadian registrar Arthur James at some 55 cars, of which 23 were known to survive. This one is bound to please a new owner with iconic elegance and turn-key performance.