Gear Head Tuesday – 1934 Packard Twelve Dietrich Individual Custom Sport Sedan

Gear Head

'34 Packard Twelve - Dietrich Individual Custom Sport Sedan/ls

Sold at the Gooding Company Auction, Pebble Beach, CA, August, 2015 for $3,630,000

Text adapted from The Gooding Company Pebble Beach Catalog

• One of Only Three Known Dietrich Individual Custom Sports Sedans
• The Sole Example Known with Elegant Polished Belt Molding
• Distinguished Provenance Includes Nethercutt, Harrah, Bahre, and Herrington
• Gorgeous Award-Winning Restoration by Leading Marque Experts
• Arguably the Most Beautiful Classic Era Packard

• 445.5 CID L-Head 67˚ V-12 Engine
• 160 BHP at 3,200 RPM
• 4-Wheel Vacuum-Assisted Mechanical Drum Brakes


• J.B. Nethercutt, Los Angeles, California (acquired circa 1955)
• William F. Harrah, Reno, Nevada (acquired from the above circa 1962)
• Bob Bahre, Paris, Maine (acquired from the above circa 1986)
• Lee Herrington, Bow, New Hampshire (acquired from the above circa 1992)
• Current Owner (until August, 2015; acquired from the above)


• AACA Fall Meet, Hershey, Pennsylvania (National First Award)
• Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance®, August 2007 (CCCA Best Classic Award)
• Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, March 2008 (Best in Class)
• Meadow Brook Concours d’Elegance, July 2009 (Best of Show, Domestic)


Edward J. Blend, The Magnificent Packard Twelve of Nineteen Thirty Four, pp. 73, 178b
Ralph Stein, The Great Cars, pictured on p. 237

'34 Packard Twelve Dietrich


Among the many attractive classic Packards, the Dietrich individual Custom Sport Sedans came to be, as Beverly Rae Kimes stated, “perhaps the most famous Packard of all time.”

Not only famous, it is also likely the most beautiful closed car ever made. The first was built for display at the Packard exhibit prepared for the Century of Progress International Exposition in Chicago. The travel and transport building featured a giant dome that rose above the rest of the Expo’s buildings to the height of 12 stories. It was here that the Packard, which became known henceforth as “the Car of the Dome,” was unveiled to the public on May 27, 1933.

'34 Packard Twelve

Fundamentally a Dietrich custom, this stunning Sport Sedan also contained design input from legendary stylist Alexis de Sakhnoffsky and Packard design chief Edward Macauley. Constructed from the outset as a show car, this one-off Packard was specially outfitted with gold-plated hardware, a rear-mounted spare, and an exquisite passenger compartment, replete with the finest luxury furnishings.

Screen Shot 2015-08-21 at 9.02.06 PM

Art Deco lamp in the passenger compartment (above); jewel-like instrument panel (below)

'34 Packard Twelve instrument panel

Displayed alongside the first 1899 Packard Model A built, the Car of the Dome caused a sensation among the Exposition’s visitors. Naturally, Packard received inquiries from its well-heeled clientele about owning the Dome car or having identical cars built for their use.

'34 Packard Twelve - interior

One such customer was Tom Lyle Williams, President of the Maybelline Company, who in 1934 ordered a special Dietrich Sport Sedan through the Hon, Smithson & Raymond Packard dealership in Chicago. Mr. Williams, who commissioned several memorable one-off Packards, was no stranger to expensive coachbuilt automobiles and, given the success of the Maybelline Company, he could easily afford the car’s $7,000-plus list price – even during the depths of the Great Depression.

Tom Lyle Williams:Dietrich Packard

Maybelline cosmetics owner Tom Lyle Williams and his ‘Dietrich-bodied 34 Packard Twelve

Finished in a dark color, presumably black, Mr. Williams’ Sport Sedan was delivered new with dual rear-mounted spares, a chrome radiator, as well as a dramatic polished belt molding and matching hood vent doors. Mr. Williams’ vision resulted in one of the most spectacular Packards ever built – an extraordinarily elegant V-windshield sedan, possessing graceful proportions and a myriad of bespoke features.

While it cannot be confirmed that this 1934 Dietrich Sport Sedan was indeed the car ordered new by Mr. Williams, what is certain is that it is one of only three examples known to survive today and the only one extant with the distinctive polished belt molding clearly seen in photographs of the Maybelline Packard.

'34 Packard Twelve belt moulding

The earliest recorded owner of this Packard is another well-known classic car connoisseur with a background in the cosmetics industry, J.B. Nethercutt, co-founder of Merle Norman Cosmetics.

Mr. Nethercutt discovered this Dietrich Sport Sedan in the mid-1950s, a period in which he was acquiring many important American classics, including his Pebble beach Concours d’Elegance best of Show-winning Du Pont. When purchased by Mr. Nethercutt, the Dietrich Sport Sedan was painted brown and equipped with side-mounted spares, though its polished chrome belt molding and chrome hood vent doors made it utterly unique.

In the early 1960s, Mr. Nethercutt sold the Packard, along with a number of his classics, in a package deal to William F. Harrah of Reno, Nevada. The Dietrich Sport Sedan was prominently featured in Harrah’s famous museum for more than 20 years until the dispersal auctions in the 1980s, whereupon it was sold to noted collector Bob Bahre of Paris, Maine. For several years, this car was proudly displayed alongside many other important Dietrich-bodied Packards in Mr. Bahre’s garage; however, when he acquired the Car of the Dome from Richard Paine, the 1934 Sport Sedan was sold to Lee Herrington, of Bow, New Hampshire.

At this time, Mr. Herrington was assembling an extraordinary collection of the finest one-off coachbuilt classics, and the rare Dietrich Sport Sedan was an important addition. During his ownership, Mr. Herrington commissioned marque expert Chris Charlton to perform a complete restoration of this most deserving and particularly rare Packard. Restored to Mr. Charlton’s famously high standards and refinished in a vibrant bright green color, the Dietrich Sport Sedan was exhibited on rare occasions, earning a National First Prize award at the annual AACA Fall Meet in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

'34 Packard Twelve

In 2005, the current owner (until this auction) acquired the Dietrich Sport Sedan and it has since resided in a prominent Southern California collection comprised of the finest American antiques, classics, and European exotic machinery. Shortly after purchasing the Dietrich Sport Sedan, the consignor commissioned noted Classic Era Specialist Stone Barn Restorations of Vienna, New Jersey, to refinish the Packard in a more traditional and fitting color scheme and re-trim the upholstery.

'34 Packard Twelve - interior

In August 2007, the exquisite Dietrich Sport Sedan made its post-restoration debut at the world-famous Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, where its outstanding presentation earned it the prestigious Classic Car Club of America Best Classic award. Since its debut at Pebble Beach, the Packard has been selectively displayed and earned major awards, including Best in Class at the 2008 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance as well as Best of Show honors at the 2009 Meadow Brook Concours d’Elegance.

Arguably the most attractive closed automobiles of the prewar era, Dietrich’s V-windshield Individual Custom Sport Sedans are brilliant expressions of the coachbuilt Packard and, to many, the finest of all American classics. Built to the highest standards of the era and outfitted with the most exquisite art deco details, these rare custom-bodied Packards are masterpieces of automotive art, created by the masters of Detroit’s golden age – Raymond Dietrich, Alexis de Sakhnoffsky, and Edward Macauley. This beautifully restored example is particularly appealing, given its distinctive one-off features and exceptional provenance that includes some of the most famous names in car collecting: J.B. Nethercutt, Lee Herrington, Bill Harrah, and Bob Bahre.

There is a thread about this car at

'34 Packard Twelve - rear

•    •    •    •

Packard Twelve ad from 1934:


•     •    •     •

1953 Packard Cavalier for sale

I was contacted by the owner of a very nice 1953 Packard Cavalier (a.k.a. “300”, though not officially so in 1953). Here are the details:

• Power Steering • Power Brakes • Ultramatic • AM Radio and Power Antenna ( neither work ) , Clock ( also not working ), black vinyl roof á la Derham, 4 BRAND NEW RADIAL whitewall tires, new control arm bushings, new front shocks, new king pin on right side, alignment, new muffler, new Interstate battery, power cut off switch, new ignition cables, points, & plugs. Carburetor needs cleaning or rebuild; nevertheless, the car runs very well, it has tremendous power but doesn’t always idle smoothly, absolutely no hesitations when driving. Door handles are pitted, new chrome bumpers and grille. brakes looked brand new when front end was rebuilt. solid floor pans no rust. Fender skirts are missing.  Price reduced from $9,500 to $8,500.

Contact: Maximilian Brand

MY 53 PACKARD & out the kitchen window 017

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