1941 Packard Custom Super Eight One Eighty All-Weather Town Car
Coachwork by Rollson
Vehicle no. 1450-2125
Motor no. CD503558
Series 1908. 160 hp, 356 cu. in. L-head inline eight-cylinder engine, three-speed manual transmission with overdrive, independent front suspension with coil springs, live rear axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs, and four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 148 in.
While American custom coachbuilding would straggle on into the early postwar years, 1941 and 1942 really marked the end of ‘semi-customs,’ the onetime catalogued offerings built for automakers by the custom body shops. Packard’s final semi-customs were offered by LeBaron and Rollson (formerly Rollston), in a significantly pared-down list of styles.
In fact, Rollson now offered just two styles, including the All-Weather Town Car, a fabulous throwback to the carriage trade with its open driver’s compartment for a chauffeur. For 1941’s Nineteenth Series, three All-Weather Town Cars were produced, all cleverly crafted by Rollson from stock limousine body panels on the robust 148-in. 1908 Custom Super Eight One Eighty chassis. They sold for a remarkable cost of nearly $5,000 each. The more’s the pity, then, that only one example of this final bit of custom grandeur has survived – that offered here.
According to former owner John H. “Jack” Behn, the original owner of this car was A. Maude Shepard of Palm Beach, Florida. Alice Maude Shepard was the widow of John Shepard, Jr., son of the founder of the Shepard Stores, well-known department stores in Boston and Providence, Rhode Island. Mr. Shepard had also served as mayor of Palm Beach, Florida, where the couple were stalwarts of the social season for many years. The Packard’s original vehicle number tag indicates that it was delivered to Providence, seat of the family wealth. It was presumably then driven down to Palm Beach for winter service. Mr. Behn noted in an article in issue no. 45 of the Packard Cormorant that the car had been titled to Mrs. Shepard at her Palm Beach address, and its next owner was Charles Coney of Juno Beach, Florida, “who kept the Rollson for many years.”
The car was sold by Coney on October 29, 1970, to Allen C. Blume of Minneapolis, then passed in October 1975 to Robert Boisson of Reno, Nevada, from whom Mr. Behn acquired it via an advertisement from the December 1977 issue of Hemmings Motor News. A longtime, trusted employee of gunmaker Sturm, Ruger, Mr. Behn was a noted collector of, specifically, 1941 Packards, and accumulated many of the available body styles.
The Packard was eventually sold by Mr. Behn to Robert Skop, from whom it was acquired by the well-known restorer and historian, Bob McKeown. It has more recently resided in a noted private collection on the East Coast alongside other great coachbuilt Packards.
Today the car remains in wonderfully preserved condition. Its older, correct Merola Blue finish and lovely interior bear a handsome and inviting patina, including the sumptuous overstuffed original broadcloth upholstery and rich woodwork of the rear compartment. Befitting a top-of-the-line model, numerous special, rarely seen features abound, including the hydraulically operated windows available for the first time on this season’s Senior Packards, front and rear radios, and the desirable overdrive transmission. Dual sidemounted spares were by now optional on Packards, but it is no surprise to find them on this lavishly appointed car, aft of the classic Cormorant mascot.
In the care of the current collection manager, the car has received basic proper maintenance, including routine starting and driving exercises, and more extensive mechanical sorting as needed; the radiator has recently been recored. Accompanying the car is a company of the aforementioned Cormorant article, a correct original owner’s manual, and an original intercom handset with wiring.
This is still a Packard whose arrival at the party would clearly announce the taste, means and fine breeding of whomever reclines within. That is true whether on CARavan or in Palm Beach.