UPDATE III – Scroll down.
New photos 25 Feb 18
New photos 17 March 18 (scroll down)
On 28 December 2014, we posted “Before Chevrolet’s Monte Carlo, there was the Packard Monte Carlo“.
In that post we detailed the 1948 Packard, converted by coach builder Henney, designer Richard Arbib’s proposal for a Packard two door hardtop. Arbib worked for Henney. He is best known for the Packard Pan American, the show car forerunner of the production ’53 Packard Caribbean.
Richard Arbib designed (and Henney built) the ’52 Pan American which spawned the ’53 Packard Caribbean.
Toward the end of the post about the Monte Carlo, there are two photos of a Monte Carlo convertible, languishing in Houston, TX.
The one-off Monte Carlo convertible in Houston
No one seems to know the origin of the Monte Carlo convertible. The hardtop is the only documented Monte Carlo. Arbib’s design wasn’t put into production as it came too late – the 1951 Packards, which would include the Mayfair hardtop, were well along in development when Arbib’s Monte Carlo was pitched to Packard.
Enter Geoff Hacker of Tampa, Florida – well-known for his work in fiberglass for cars and for his work in restoring one-offs and other auto rarities. Late last week he purchased the Monte Carlo convertible and made a marathon sprint from Houston to Tampa with it. He plans to bring the car back to its glory – and he is certainly capable of doing that.
Now entering Florida!
As a side note for you Kaiser buffs, Geoff also collects and restores Kaisers. In the YouTube clip below, you’ll see a couple of his Kaisers in the background when he is doing the walk-around on the Packard Monte Carlo.
In the 4 minute video below, it is stated that Geoff’s Packard Monte Carlo is an early ’49 (22nd Series) Super Eight convertible. That was an error caused by the difficulty of reading the VIN behind the surface rust on the data plate. At the time he shot the video, we thought the VIN read “2279-9-9182”, which would make it an early ’49 22nd Series car. After the video was made and posted, Geoff discovered that the crucial second 9 is not on the data plate. The correct VIN is “2279-9182” making it a ’48 Super Eight Victoria. Thus it is more contemporary with Arbib’s hardtop Monte Carlo.
The difficult-to-read data plate
As written above, the exact origin of the convertible Monte Carlo has yet to be discovered. Geoff reports that the quality of the work on the conversion is very good. Was it done by a dealer? Was it done by Henney? A detail that adds credence to the theory that the convertible may have been built by Henney are the Monte Carlo badges on the front fenders. They match exactly the badges used on the hardtop. This was no schlock conversion. The question of when it was built (as well as the question of who built it) is heightened by the fact that it wears 23rd Series (’49) taillights.
Above: The Monte Carlo scripts are identical to those used on the Henney-built hardtop prototype and would not be easily made outside of a professional operation such as Henney. Below: the Monte Carlo convertible is fitted with the taillights used on the late ’49 23rd Series Packards. Missing from the rear are the “egg crate” rear grills as used on the Custom Super Eights that had been fitted to the car – but will be re-installed in the restoration. They were with the car but not installed.
An additional proof that the Monte Carlo was built from a ’48 is indicated by the fact that it is a manual transmission car. Packard’s Ultramatic Drive automatic transmission was introduced with the 23rd Series “Golden Anniversary Year” Packards mid-year in 1949. Thus there were manual transmission ’49 Super Eights in both 22nd and 23rd Series, there are no Ultramatic ’48s. “Owen Dyneto” at PackardInfo points out that the ’49 23rd Series Custom Super Eight convertibles had Ultramatic as standard equipment.
Because the convertible Monte Carlo doesn’t have the sheet metal changes that the hardtop has, is it possible that Henney took a convertible, applied the paint and side trim and modified the grille to show Packard that the concept could be executed with virtually no tooling costs? While the convertible wears the same Monte Carlo badges as the hardtop and they are mounted on the sides of the front fenders above the wheel wells as on the hardtop, they are in the white rather than in the color band as on Arbib’s hardtop.
This Monte Carlo has power windows and power seat. Only 47,737 miles show on the odometer. The instrumentation is that of the ’48s.
While the car is very dirty and has copious amounts of surface rust, there are no places where the body or frame are rusted through. There are no major dents in the body, only some dings here and there. The only missing trim piece is the hood ornament which likely was a cormorant.
Video of the initial clean up of the car after it arrived in Florida (4 min.)
Click to play:
Monte Carlo Update I:
Geoff sent new photos – he installed a set of 4″ whitewalls he had on hand and put all of the hubcaps back on. He discovered that the front wheel wells have been reduced by four inches just as on the Monte Carlo hardtop. This reinforces my thought that this may have been a true “Skunk Works” conversion by Henney or by someone at Henney.
The grille is modified from a Custom Super Eight while retraining the three horizontal bars of the Super Eight. This Monte Carlo got another Custom Super Eight item: the cloisonné hub caps. The hub cap centers on the Super Eights were painted. Photos of a ’48 Super Eight convertible and a ’48 Custom Super Eight convertible are posted below so you can more easily see the differences. The end result of this Monte Carlo convertible is that it is a hybrid between the Super Eight and the Custom Super Eight with the special modifications adapted from the Monte Carlo hardtop adapted to this convertible.
Geoff is well-known in the auto hobby for sleuthing things out, so if anyone can discover the provenance of this car, it is Geoff!
Compare the grilles of the Monte Carlo (above) with a ’48 Custom Super Eight and a ’48 Super Eight below. The Monte Carlo grille is a hybrid of the two. Geoff noticed a further difference – there is no opening between the bumper guards in the bumper on either the convertible or the hardtop Monte Carlo while there is an opening in the bumper between the bumper guards on the Custom Super Eight and Super Eights. Curious – even the low price Deluxe Eights have the opening in the bumper. Where did the bumpers used on the Monte Carlos originate? *
* “Owen-Dyneto” at PackardInfo answered the bumper question: it was a running change on the regular production Packards.
Compare the size of the wheel well openings on the standard issue Custom Super Eight and Super Eight with the wheel well opening size on the Monte Carlo. Geoff discovered that the wheel well has been reduced in height by 4″ as on the Monte Carlo hardtop. The workmanship on the lowering is excellent as shown in the photos below.
UPDATE II (from Geoff, 22 February 18):
See attached from October 1992 issue of Collectible Automobile. Hampton Way shared this reference with me tonight. This issue contains a personality profile on Richard Arbib. Great thanks to Alden Jewell for scanning/sharing this article. Alden shared a few observations with me about this tonight as follows:
* This rendering is from 1949 and shows a continuation of the “Monte Carlo” theme for Packard beyond the first 1948 Monte Carlo hardtop.
* This rendering identifies the car as a “Monte Carlo Coupe” – the third version of a Monte Carlo we have now seen (48 hardtop, 48 convertible (with 49 updates), and rendering of a 49 coupe. This spans 1948-1949 designs for this model. The rendering shows a “B” pillar which is different from the 1948 Monte Carlo hardtop which did not have a “B” pillar.
* The 1949 renderings of Arbib’s shows the re-emergence of the 1948 Monte Carlo hardtop fin at the rear of the car. (The convertible does not have fins.)
In summary … two cars built (the 48 hardtop and the convertible I found), a Monte Carlo theme that crosses 2 years (48 and 49), and 3 versions/models of the Packard Monte Carlo sound like a far more significant proposal or effort than previously thought.
Research continues … but we now see that this was a far larger effort by Arbib than has generally been recognized.
Geoff additionally encourages us to compare the differences between the hoods and grilles on the production convertibles above with his Monte Carlo convertible. The convertible’s grille is an interesting hybrid between the Super Eight and Custom Super Eight.
“Raffi” notes: “Also notice the woman with the ribbed fur. This was a clear visual reference by Arbib to indicate the streamlined trim on the side of the car having more than an industrial connection.”
UPDATE III (from Geoff 25 February 18)
New photos today of the engine number, the Briggs body number plate, the Theft Proof number and photos of how the space for the taillights was filled in from inside the trunk. Regarding the Theft Proof number, what looks like an “I” is actually a “1”. From PackardInfo: “Three different identification numbers may be found on Packards from 1929 and forward. These are the Vehicle Number, the Theft Proof Number, and the Briggs Body Number (1941-1954 only).”
Above: Theft Proof number stamped on the firewall. What appears to be an “I” is actually a “1” and the “0” may be confused as being an “O” due to the square shapes of the numbers used. The Briggs Body Number is below the Theft Proof number. The president of Packard at the time, George Christopher*, contracted Packard body production to Briggs in 1941, a move that would ultimately have a disastrous effect on Packard when Briggs was purchased by Chrysler. This was one of the many crises that James Nance had to confront when he became president. The quality of the Briggs bodies was not as good as Packard-built bodies had been. Then, in 1953-4, Packard lost Briggs as a supplier when Chrysler purchased Briggs. Chrysler agreed to lease the Briggs Conner Avenue plant in Detroit to Packard. The move of full production from East Grand Avenue to the former Briggs plant was a big factor in Packard’s failure.
* See Stuart Blond’s comment below. Max Gilman was Packard’s president when the decision was made to outsource body production to Briggs.
Above: the engine number.
Above: the fill-in for the taillights, left side, from inside the trunk. Below: ditto, but the right side.
Update 17 March 18
Geoff has rented a storage space for the Monte Carlo and has supplied new photos with the car off of the trailer.
Courtesy of “Chris-to-Fear” we continue with photos of old gas stations at
Curbside Classic. Today we see a Carter station in Sturgis, South Dakota. Carter was part of the group of gas and oil companies (like Humble in Texas) that became Exxon. The Exxon logo was designed by Raymond Loewy (scroll down when you click the link).