By Jordan Cohen
Howard Schaevitz decided it was best to keep his prized possession, a beautiful sleek 1912 Packard Model 18 Landaulet, housed in its trailer in the W.D. Packard Music Hall parking lot, visible only to those who happened to wander by during Saturday’s nonstop rainfall.
“I only brought it out long enough for the judges to look at it,” said Schaevitz, a New Jersey resident, as he wiped the raindrops from his shiny black classic. “I think it’s the oldest one here.”
Perhaps the car’s most notable feature is the hand crank on the front for starting the engine. “This was the last year for the hand crank before Packard made the electric start in 1913,” Schaevitz said.
The Landaulet was one of 48 competing for awards at this week’s Packard Automobile Club 49th Annual National Meet. It marked the first time the national gathering has taken place in Warren, the company’s birthplace, since 1999. Packards from the dawn of the 20th century to 1958, the year of the company’s demise, formed a colorful, parking-lot mosaic glistening with raindrops of early boxy sedans, limousines, convertibles, town cars and even a hearse, as their owners awaited judging.
Mike Rigsby, the chief judge, said vehicles competed in 14 categories. “We look at the engine, chassis, interior and exterior,” said Rigsby who is from Houston. “Restored cars can qualify for best-of-show awards, but they must be using Packard parts.”
Henry Ford’s purported quote that car buyers could purchase any color they want “as long as it is black” never applied to Packard. One example: a deep blue 1937 convertible coupe transported to the meet by Neal Porter of Lake Orion, Mich. Porter qualifies as a true Packard aficionado. He owns 12 of them in his 56-car collection.
“My father worked for Packard, and I’ve always loved the car,” Porter said. “They wanted to build the finest car in the world, even better than the Rolls Royce.”
A red and tan 1934 Packard coupe, owned by Harvey Knight, 86, drew praise from fellow Packard owners. The car, completely restored, boasts an eye-catching wood-grain panel in its interior.
“I don’t know how much money I put into it,” said Knight, of Cartersville, Ga., who laughed when asked about the cost of restoring his classic. “I just didn’t keep up with it and told them to finish it,” he said.
Many entrants remarked about the company’s history in Warren and praised the nearby National Packard Museum.
“I like the uniqueness of the car, and I’m glad that they held it here in Warren where it began,” said Bruce Grabenkort of Barrington, Ill. “There’s a lot of history here.” Grabenkort owns a black and white 1956 Packard Clipper Super Hardtop, its two-tone color scheme typical of American cars in the mid-1950s.
Mary Ann Porinchak, the museum’s executive director, called the five-day event a great success. “Given the intensity of programming and activities, it’s been extremely smooth,” she said.
The national meet concludes today.