In 1929, before the Wall Street Crash, more Americans held stock in Packard than in any other listed company save for General Motors. Arguably, most of these shareholders didn’t own Packards but, nonetheless, recognized value and a smart investment when they saw one. Despite a 34-percent decline in sales in 1930, Packard’s affluent audience hung in there enough that the company outsold Cadillac-LaSalle six other times during the decade.
Packard introduced its Sixteenth Series models in September 1937. Most changes were cosmetic, including more rounded fenders and “vee’d” windshields on many bodies. Packard tallied 48,682 sales for 1938, less than 1937, but still the best showing of all the independents.
The Packard Darrin was a special automobile in the maker’s lineup. It was a blending of all the glory that was Packard in the Classic Era with all that was the stock-in-trade of Howard “Dutch” Darrin. The result was glamour with lots of pizzazz.
Without Darrin’s insistence, the car wouldn’t have been built at all. Following his days in Paris, the inimitable Darrin had settled in Hollywood where he immediately established himself as the purveyor of custom coachwork to the stars. The polo playing Darrin was quickly accepted by the movie crowd; his well-cultivated French accent fit in perfectly. He named his shop “Darrin of Paris.” His first client was Dick Powell for whom he fashioned a two-passenger Ford Roadster in 1937. Shortly thereafter, he built a two-seat convertible victoria roadster on a 1937 Packard One Twenty chassis for actor Chester Morris. It led to the idea of building a five-passenger version and selling Packard on the idea of including it as part of its lineup. The initial word from Detroit was no, but that didn’t stop him.
Darrin began with a standard Packard Eight Business Coupe, little of which remained when the transformation was completed. Most memorable are the sweeping cut-down curves of the doors, the car’s signature styling feature commonly referred to as the “Darrin Dip.” The rakish body looked downright racy when compared to competitor Lincoln’s Zephyr Continental. Yet the car remained unquestionably, and distinctly, a Packard.
Darrin arranged to have the car parked outside the Packard Proving Grounds at the time of the annual dealer’s meeting, precisely where the dealers couldn’t help but see it. That, as they say, was that! Under pressure from its dealers, Packard included the Darrin as part of its catalog for 1940 with three models: Sport Sedan, Convertible Sedan and Convertible Victoria. Nearly 100 were built through 1942 when production was halted prior to WWII.
This car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in August of 2010 at the Portola Hotel & Spa and Monterey Conference Center, Monterey, California.