While the 6-cylinder One-Ten and 8-cylinder One-Twenty Packards were the core of Packard’s 1941 product, there remained a loyal clientele who appreciated the quiet, authoritative power of the Senior line and assured Packard’s presence among the most successful of America’s luxury marques.
Packard built only 3,525 One-Sixties and fewer than 1,000 custom One-Eighties, under 10 percent of its combined One-Ten and One-Twenty production. These few quiet, powerful, luxurious automobiles defined Packard’s last full-production year before it turned all its attention to supporting “The Arsenal of Democracy” in the days after Pearl Harbor.
The One-Sixty Super Eight was tastefully revised in 1941. Its headlights were fully recessed in the front fenders, and the proud Packard grille was taller with vertical slats matched by waterfall grilles flanking it in the fender catwalks. All Packards now rode on 16” wheels, lowering the chassis and body to the point where Packard eliminated running boards except on special order. The rounded front fenders were accented by four small chrome spears.
With 356cid the well-proven Packard straight-eight with hydraulic valve lifters delivered a confident 160 horsepower at 3,500 rpm without fuss or bother.
The One-Sixty was cataloged only with factory coachwork ranging from a business coupe to an impressive seven-passenger touring limousine. Semi-custom and custom coachwork was offered only on the One-Eighty: four from Packard, two from Darrin, three from LeBaron and two from Rollson.
Rollson was founded in 1938 by Harold Lonschein, designer Rudy Creteur and two others after their former company, Rollston, succumbed to the Depression’s decline in custom body work. After its startup in 1921, Rollston, one of several New York City coachbuilders, quickly established a reputation for building high-quality, rugged, beautifully trimmed and finished coachwork. Its work included the Duesenberg “Twenty Grand” and Clark Gable’s Duesenberg JN convertible coupe, among many others.
Among the many coachbuilders, the quality, workmanship and design finesse of Rollston and its successor Rollson inspired unusual customer loyalty that led to repeat orders and re-bodying new chassis with older bodies. One of Rollson’s most important clients was shipbuilder Clarence Gibbs, whose company helped Rollson transition to ship and aircraft work in the war years. Remarkably, the company still exists today as a metal fabrication company in Plainview, New York.
That loyalty may help explain the unusual configuration of this 1941 Packard One-Sixty Super Eight Town Car.
It is one of only two full custom bodies believed to have been built on the 138” wheelbase One-Sixty chassis, both with similar razor-edge coachwork, titled a “Panel Brougham” by Rollson. Although the first owner of this example is not known, one of the two was built for famed opera singer Lily Pons.
Its design is nothing if not unusual, combining Packard’s up-to-the-minute 1941 body with its raked flat windshield, faired-in headlights and tall, thin waterfall grilles with the tall, elegant, razor-edged, open front passenger compartment of an earlier age, even to the cubical opera lanterns on the center post. It was similar to a style that Rollson also built on the longer One-Eighty chassis but is particularly appropriate to the One-Sixty for the tight quarters of town use. The absence of a trunk, or even of a rack for one, reinforces its intent to be used only for brief trips to the opera, symphony or a night on the town, as does its provision of only a cloth tendelet and rollup windows for the chauffeur’s protection.
It is discretely painted black with dual sidemount spare enclosures with mirrors. The wheels have hubcaps, chrome trim rings and white wall tires. Black leather upholstery in the driver’s compartment and soft, inviting brown broadcloth in the rear are accented by elaborately figured wood moldings, bud vases, a vanity mirror, silk window shades, a folding center armrest, jump seats and a separate rear compartment heater. An electric intercom transmits the rear compartment’s occupants’ instructions to the chauffeur.
A Classic Car Club of America Full Classic, it is the height of elegance — a distinctive and rare example of Rollson’s quality mated with the competent, quiet, reliable Packard One-Sixty chassis and drivetrain — one of the highest quality in construction, preservation and restoration.
— By Rick Carey