Throngs of wide-eyed visitors at the 1934 World’s Fair gazed admiringly at the “car in the dome,” a specially built Packard radiating the perfect blend of art and science.
Celebrating a “Century of Progress,” the World’s Fair that year in Chicago bestowed the Sun Glow Pearl four door sports sedan with more awards than Cadillac’s V16 aerodynamic coupe, Lincoln’s prototype rear-engined Zephyr, Duesenberg’s Twenty Grand, and Pierce-Arrow’s Silver Arrow.
At the end of the fair, the car toured Packard’s distributors around the nation; after the tour it was driven by Packard President and former patent attorney Alvan Macauley.
The World’s Fair Packard, as special as it was then and still is today in a private collection, was representative of Packard’s nearly four decades of continuous engineering and styling progress.
Another example of Packard’s Eleventh Series of that year is the 1104 Dietrich convertible sedan from the Tom Crook Collection (Lot #5003.1) offered at No Reserve at Barrett-Jackson’s 2012 Scottsdale auction. It was the 12th car of that model to be produced.
The Eleventh Series has all the innovations of the Tenth Series ― power-assisted brakes with three levels of braking strength adjustable with an instrument panel-mounted selector, improved clutch and shifting mechanism, downdraft carburetor with automatic choke, headlights with three levels of brightness, vacuum-operated windshield wipers, an electric engine oil-level gauge and most notably, Packard’s X-member frame that greatly increased rigidity.
These improvements made the Tenth and Eleventh Series Packards easier to drive than any previous series.
To solve the era’s oil-heating issues, Packard engineers developed an oil cooling system that incorporated an oil temperature regulator, an oil pressure regulator and a larger oil pump allowing for longer engine life. Addressing the increased electrical load, they developed an air-cooled heavy-duty generator.
With radio broadcasting in the era gaining immense popularity, the Eleventh Series offered a radio as standard equipment with a dashboard-mounted radio dial. The large radio and its speaker were mounted under the dashboard on the firewall. The configuration improved the Tenth Series radio configuration, which amounted to strapping the radio dial on the steering column.
Packard’s innovations in styling from the pen of noted coach designer Raymond Dietrich helped launch the aerodynamic advances that steadily improved appearance and lessened drag throughout the later 1930s decade.
The Eleventh Series updated the previous series with bumper caps and extended the front fenders forward and down, with a leading edge that prevented water from being thrown off the fenders. The rear fenders contoured the rear wheels for a more aggressive and longer look.
The 1934 Packard 1104 Dietrich convertible sedan is powered by the 384cid L-head Super 8 Inline eight cylinder engine producing massive torque and an impressive 145 horsepower for great performance. The engine is mated to a three-speed, floor-shifted synchromesh transmission.
Packard did not produce cars in regimented colors. The buyer was allowed to choose any color combination, determined by personal taste. The car at the Scottsdale auction is finished in an elegant dark Bruce Blue accented with gray pin-striping, and the interior is done in sporty gray leather. The car has glove boxes on both sides of the dashboard.
Options include painted window casings and chassis with six chrome wire wheels — a $192 option, side mount mirrors, a deluxe radiator ornament and desirable Trippe driving lights.
Tom Crook purchased the restored car from the estate of a respected collector. The restoration earned the maximum 100 points in the Classic Car Club of America’s “Nation First” award, CCCA’s 100-point “Senior Award” and the Meadow Brook Concours’ “First” award.
Priced new at a base of $4,233 — a significant amount in 1934 dollars, the Eleventh Series convertible sits on a 142” wheelbase and was produced at the height of Packard’s styling. The car at auction is a rare, premium classic in impeccable condition.
— By Richard Gray