Packard Twelve Individual Custom Sport Phaeton in the style of LeBaron
Recreation by Fran Roxas
Text adapted from the RM Sotheby catalog
One of the most spectacular Packards of the Classic Era was the Individual Custom Sport Phaeton, offered solely on the Eleventh Series Twelve chassis on a very limited basis. These cars featured striking streamlined styling with fully skirted fenders, rear fender “spats,” streamlined running boards, and a fabric top disappearing into a fastback roofline, designed along suggestions from Packard styling director Edward Macauley. Actual construction was carried out by the custom shop of LeBaron in Detroit.
Writing of the design in her book, Packard: The Pride, J.M. Fenster commented that “the Sport Phaeton is a peak in the transition from the erect architecture of earlier cars to the rather bulbous aerodynamics to come.” In other words, it was the high water mark of Packard body design in this era.
It is believed that five original examples of the 1108 Twelve Individual Custom Sport Phaeton were built by LeBaron. One of these was eventually shipped to Europe, where it was destroyed during World War II. The remaining four cars survive, and all are part of long-term private or museum collections from which they are unlikely to emerge soon.
Renowned restorer Fran Roxas, famous for his numerous Pebble Beach and CCCA award-winners, took it upon himself to recreate several Sport Phaetons in the 1980s. With Roxas’s typical attention to detail, these cars were painstakingly fabricated to the same standards of craftsmanship as in 1934 on original 12-cylinder Packard chassis. They provide a delightful and most affordable alternative to the “real thing,” with the same driving quality and spectacular styling.
The car shown here is believed to be the fourth built by Mr. Roxas and uses as its basis a 1933 1006 Twelve chassis and engine, which, given the very near proximity of their numbers, were likely mated together when new. This drivetrain is virtually identical to that of the 1934 1108, and Mr. Roxas used correct 1108 styling cues to depict accurately the original Sport Phaeton’s design. The body was finished in deep mink silver, with a color-coordinated leather interior. Conical wheel covers and wide whitewall tires complete the svelte and dignified appearance.
Mr. Roxas maintained this Packard as his personal car until selling it to its present owner, a well-known collector of American Classics, in late 2000. It has been well maintained in the collection ever since. In 2002, it even appeared in the European and American New Coachwork class at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, performing beautifully on the Tour d’Elegance and achieving Best in Class. It continues to show nearly as well today, with all fits and finishes being attractive and well kept.
The LeBaron-bodied Individual Custom Packard Twelves are considered superlative examples of the marque and are highly sought after by enthusiasts.
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It was Fran Roxas who created the Packard Myth, bases on a LeBaron-inspired design by the late Strother McMinn who sketched out for Roxas a LeBaron-style boat tail fastback coupe, a style never built either by Packard or LeBaron. McMinn’s design was true in dimension and spirit to what LeBaron might have done. I saw the Myth at the RM Auction in Monterey a few years back. I was disappointed the Roxas’ interpretation of McMinn’s design has a strong element of Los Angeles Chop Shop to it. It makes you think you should be wearing a t-shirt with a pack of Camels rolled into the sleeve and your hair waxed back into a duck tail – quite the opposite of the tweed elegance of the LeBaron designs. Rojas used a genuine Packard Twelve in the Myth. He fitted it out with three 2 bbl. Weber carburetors as a hat tip to Enzo Ferrari, Ferrari’s V-12s were inspired by Packard’s Twin Six.
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Ernie Adams’ Dwarf Car Museum
(Hat tip: “Shirl”)
Ernie Adams builds these replica cars by hand in his shop in Maricopa, AZ.