When You Wish Upon a Car

Just about everybody who loves cars has that dream car, the one car to end all cars. For many people, this dream car is unattainable. It remains just that. A dream. However, for the lucky few who get to own or even just drive their dream car once, it sometimes turns into an example of why you don’t meet your heroes. Craig is a part of a very small club of enthusiasts who have managed to buy their lofty dream car and have loved every minute of owning it. His 1934 Packard 1104 Convertible Sedan, also known by its trim name, Super Eight, has been a realization of a dream that he has held onto since he was in high school in the 1970s.


While attending high school, Craig was known by many as the car enthusiast kid whose first car was a Ford Model A. He loved being able to work on and learn from such a simple, older car at a young age. Soon though, the Model A would simply not be enough. Young Craig would have much loftier car goals. He met a girl through a friend from school, and upon learning that Craig was a car enthusiast, she introduced him to her father. This older gentleman had just restored a 1937 Packard V-12 sedan. It was shrouded in a striking black paint job, had a strong smell of freshness coming from the newly upholstered leather seats, and, as the name suggests, was powered by a smooth, silent Packard V-12 engine. The girl’s father offered to take Craig for a ride in the newly restored car and it was an experience that he never forgot. Sure, Craig owned his Model A(and still does, but that’s a story for another time!), but now the seed had been planted in his mind. He was convinced of Packard’s greatness, and had to own one someday. That was easier said than done, but fortunately, Craig would have his day.


About 5 years ago, Craig, who had been working as a veterinarian since the ‘80s, decided that he had saved the money he needed to make his Packard dreams a reality. He began his search, focusing on 8-cylinder Packards from the 1932-1937 model years. He did everything he could, including searching posts on the Hemmings website just about every day. Eventually, he was made aware of a car that wasn’t actively for sale, but might be available if he spoke with the owner. Craig took his father and went to check out the car. After seeing and driving it, he was smitten by its beauty.


The car is an older restoration that has had more than enough time to be broken in, but even though it was restored long ago, it was still stunning to behold with its orange and cream two-tone paint job and the liberally applied exterior chrome trim. Craig wanted the car so badly, but the price the owner was asking was a little out of his league. However, his father, knowing very well that this was his son’s dream car, clapped Craig on the shoulder and said, “Son, we should have this car!” They went halfsies on the Packard and took it home not long after. For Craig, that day was probably his best day so far as a car enthusiast. Ever since taking home the Packard, he’s been keeping the car prepared for antique car shows and taking every opportunity he can to share his love for the Packard with others.


Over the past year, Craig has been taking the Packard out so often that he hardly drives his Model A anymore, which his wife, Patti playfully bugs him about from time to time. After seeing the attention the car gets from passersby, one can’t really blame Craig for wanting to take it out for a spin so much. The car’s orange and cream paint job isn’t original to the car, but was added during its restoration many years ago. Everybody agrees that the new paint job is a perfect look for the car. The paint job is so closely associated with the car in the minds of those who know it that it’s inspired a couple of nicknames. Patti and many other members of Craig’s family refer to the car as “Moxie” after Craig’s favorite brand of soda, which has almost always been sold in bright orange bottles and cans. Despite his affinity for the soft drink, though, Craig prefers to call the car his “Big Orange Creamsicle”.


However, those aren’t the only reasons that Craig likes driving the car so much. Much of the experience of simply driving the car around is also very enjoyable. The straight eight engine is incredibly smooth and reliable, the manual transmission was one of the earliest to include synchronizers (Synchronizers aka Synchros make shifting easier, as the driver only has to push in the clutch pedal once instead of double-clutching like in most other pre-war automobiles), and the previous owner even installed an aftermarket overdrive system that allows the car to cruise more easily at highway speeds when activated. Even the ride is smooth and comfortable mostly due to the size and weight of the car(about 2.5 tons). However, what Craig enjoys most isn’t the attention the car gets or the driving experience, but how happy the car tends to make people of all ages.


Elderly folks, baby boomers, millennials, and small children all smile at the Packard and its gorgeous paint job because it doesn’t just stand out. Its orange creamsicle paint job combines with the elegant styling of a 1934 Packard model, which many Packard enthusiasts consider to be the pinnacle of Packard design, to create a car that appears as inviting and downright friendly as it is elegant to behold. As I’ve mentioned before, Craig loves sharing this car with others. I went with him to a car show in Vermont a couple weeks ago where he had brought the Packard to show. So many people approached us to compliment the car and just about everybody was invited by Craig to sit in the car. So many people were taken aback and some even refused to sit in it just because of how old and exclusive a car it is. The few who did sit in the car understood, I think, that Craig is sharing his passion for the car. He wants to help people understand what was planted in his head when he rode with that girl’s father in his newly restored car so many years ago. Craig is a Packard fan through and through, and he wants to help people understand what he loves about Packard’s brilliance in engineering and design. In this writer’s opinion, that’s the best kind of fan of an automotive brand that anyone can be.