Would Packard still be in business today had it continued to produce pickup trucks beyond 1923? Probably not. However, in the past few months we’ve seen a pair of post-‘23 Packard pickups that have us smiling as we consider the possibilities.
Last fall, at the Glenmoor Gathering, which is quickly climbing into the top tier of American automotive concours d’elegance, we were enthralled by a pair of 1937 Packards converted by A.J. Miller Co. of Bellefontaine, Ohio, for use by Fisher Funeral Home of Vermillion, Ohio. One car was modified into a casket-carrying coach. The other, a Packard 1501 Super 8 sedan, was turned into an El Camino-style pickup “flower car,” transporting bouquets from the funeral home to graveside services. That pair of Packards was in regular use into the 1950s, and then retired to the Canton Classic Car Museum in Ohio.
Recently, we were covering the 16th annual Vintage Motor Cars of Meadow Brook auction, held in conjunction with the Concours d’Elegance of America, Detroit’s annual classic car soiree. The event was staged by RM, a company that started in 1976 when Rob Myers was restoring classics in a one-car garage in Canada and his work became in such high demand that he expanded his shop and then opened an auction company to sell his handiwork as well as work done by others.
The identity of the person who converted this 1937 Packard from car to pickup is unknown, but the handiwork is exceptional. The car, er, truck looks like it rolled off an OEM’s assembly line.
The original car was built on a Packard One-Twenty chassis with a 138-inch wheelbase often used for the luxury car company’s seven-passenger touring limousines. For much of its existence, Packard joined Pierce-Arrow and Peerless as the “three Ps” of American automotive luxury. Packard’s “Ask the Man Who Owns One” advertising slogan became part of the American lexicon.
Packard produced not only outstanding luxury cars, but — at least until 1923 — commercial vehicles, including “service” cars and even wreckers. Even after the company stopped making such vehicles, it continued to build its cars on frames so strong they could be used as underpinning for working vehicles.
The 1937 Packard 120 Pickup offered at RM is a standard sedan from the back of the front doors forward. The back section of the cab and the pickup bed were gathered from an appropriate-sized pickup and skillfully grafted into place.
The car’s original wood instrument panel was retained, though restored, and ochre-colored carpet was used to finish the passenger compartment.
Outside, the truck is black with red pinstripe, rides on wide, whitewall tires and carries a pair of front fender-mounted spares.
It also has two unique touches: A Packard luggage trunk formerly used on the back of a big Packard sedan was converted into a storage compartment and mounted in the pickup bed against the back of the cab, and an illuminated light from a Packard service car was installed on the roof.
By the way, we weren’t the only ones who liked this conversion. Someone paid $63,250 for the truck at the auction.