By David Lockard, noted Packard truck historian
The author is in the red jacket driving his 1920 Model E Size V 1 1/2 ton at Hershey several years ago. Sitting next to him is Tom Schlarb of Topton, NC who custom built 12 volt starter motors for all three of his Packard trucks – plus he made all the hardware for the top bows and stake pockets on the author’s Packard army truck – and a lot of other stuff. A friend from Holland is driving the author’s ’52 Studebaker Commander V-8 behind the Packard truck.
I was always fascinated by cars and I got a chance to really focus on ‘older cars’ in 1968 when I came home on Liberty from the US Navy. My late Mom told me there was a really nice original Studebaker in the next block up from our home (she had already realized my affliction with old iron with the relics I drove prior to the Navy). The Studebaker turned out to be a gorgeous completely original garage kept rust free original paint 1952 Studebaker Commander with a 232 cubic inch V-8 and automatic transmission. I bought the car (err, I should say I stole it for $300) and was able to garage it at my grandmother’s home in Cheltenham, PA.
David’s ’52 Studebaker Commander
When I got out of the Navy in in 1970 the Studebaker was my ‘daily driver’ and I even dated my future wife Joan in it (when everyone else was driving Camaros, Mustangs, etc). Fortunately it dawned on me how nice the Studebaker was so in 1971 I took it off the road and found a nice secure garage in Willow Grove, PA and parked it. I then bought a weather beaten & well used but largely original 1953 Packard Clipper ‘Plain Jane’ 3 speed manual 288 cubic inch straight eight.
Married in 1972 I had my automotive dreams side lined until I was finished with college. While at Penn State in Middletown, PA (I did not drink enough to qualify for Main Campus – even with four years Navy behind me) I happened to be at a car wash in Highspire, PA with my ’53 Clipper where I met my Packard mentor, Harry W. Furst of Middletown, PA. Harry was the man! He had been a battleship sailor in WW-II (USS West Virginia) and later on board the USS Saint Paul, a cruiser in the Korean Conflict AND – had worked at the Packard dealership in Altoona, PA. Harry was at the time employed by Three Mile Island nuclear plant in the Health Physics Department – and had a fleet of Packard cars, an original 1929 Graham Paige and so on. Harry probably forgot more about Packard than I ever knew.
I was at a car wash in Highspire, PA – Harry was driving his son’s 1961 red Studebaker Hawk and was washing it in the next bay from me. About a month earlier I had modified a Cormorant from a 1950 Packard to fit my ’53. Harry’s opening line to me when he saw my Earl Sheib painted Packard was “Hey, you know you have the wrong bird on that car?” Harry turned out to be my best friend who introduced me to his cars, the AACA and the AACA Hershey Region – and the life long pursuit of Packard cars and eventually focusing primarily on Packard trucks.
After college I got a job in a food processor’s warehouse in Adams County, just above Gettysburg and was able to locate & purchase a house with a barn (a primary goal of house hunting) and still in touch with my good buddy Harry Furst.
Finally I could start dragging Packards home! Through Harry I located & purchased a whole slew of straight 8 – then V-8 Packard parts cars – and ultimately a 1954 Packard convertible, not a Caribbean – but a Packard convertible (yes, another derelict parts car.) Problem was – nothing ran – all the cars really needed a lot of work. The engine in the convertible was stuck. I had the brilliant idea of dragging the convertible (it needed paint, chrome, glass and body work – but it had a good floor!) around at 50 mph then dropping it into gear. All I ever did was get the transmission to glow cherry red and start smoking….so we quit that idea.
So it was in the later in the 1970’s and my wife tells me “Look, FOCUS on one car, OK?”, so with that epiphany I tried to figure out which car I could focus on & began to thin the herd. I had bought a respectable amount of NOS chrome for the 1954 convertible, but had done little else – and with the 1954 as the last of the herd, my wife came to my rescue! Yes, my wife! Feigning interest in my hobby, she made a mistake she regrets to this day. A fellow employee where she worked told her about an early Cole automobile he had bought – and the elderly gentleman he bought the Cole from also had a Packard truck for sale! Being the know-it-all that I was, I told Joan “Packard never made trucks!” Duh – I could have taken ‘Stupid Responses for $100’ if I were on a quiz show!
I arranged to go see this “alleged” Packard truck …
The Packard truck was owned by an elderly man Ralph Gery of Mechanicsburg, PA – and had not been driven in many, many years. Ralph had purchased the Packard in the 1930’s in memory of his late brother Edward Gery who was killed in action in France just days before WW-I ended. For those who may be reading this and know of Glen-Gery Brick, Ralph’s father had started Glen-Gery Brick Company in the 1800’s & had plants all over eastern Pennsylvania. Ralph had sold the business sometime in the early ’70’s. Harry Furst accompanied me to the nearby barn where Ralph had been storing the Packard. As we opened the old heavy wide wooden double doors, there it appeared! But lo and behold, it was a White truck! A quick overview of the barn determined there was a huge wrought iron chandelier suspended by chain to the post beam of the barn -and directly underneath lay the Packard. Every pigeon in Mechanicsburg (and probably surrounding towns) gathered to make a deposit on an old used truck below! Upon approaching the Packard, and closer examination – the word Packard was finally visible in traditional script – it became evident on the cast iron top tank of the radiator. Immediately I wanted it – it was love at first sight!
The hood of the Packard did not fit nicely to conform to the form of the radiator – no, the hood looked more like ‘The Flying Nun’ as both sides were outstretched indicating the hood had been off the truck and stored up side down for some time. And the color of he truck ‘I am curious yellow’ – wow! I learned the Packard had been literally bathed in yellow chromate paint by a local mason, of all kinds of restorers, a mason with a spray gun. Paint was virtually – I mean everywhere on the Packard. Apparently there was a shortage of paint tape or the applier of the paint want Ralph to get his money’s worth. (with my apologies to Earl Sheib) I still remember what Harry said when he saw it “I knew Packard made trucks but I never saw one in the flesh”. As I drove Harry back to Middletown, I asked him what I should do – and Harry replied “If I was you, I’d buy it. Hell, Dave, it is one of a kind!” So the die was set….
When I got home to York Springs, I was so very excited. I told Joan “I want it!” She sobbed violently (actually, her reaction was really much more subdued – and much closer to pure disgust…). Harry helped finance the Packard – and I decided to make the ultimate sacrifice – sell the 1954 Packard . Naturally I had thought of everything – except parts, machining, authenticity of restoration, etc.
Continued next Tuesday …
See our previous post about Packard trucks >>HERE<<
David figures in this story as well!
Above: The 1915 Packard truck in Serbia that David helped restore.
Below: More Packard trucks – some of these photos are in the Photo Gallery at PackardInfo.com
Above: A Packard truck built for Good Year. Note that the headlight housing mimics the distinctive oxbow shape of the Packard grille.
Above: a very early Packard truck hauling a Packard car through snow.
St. Lawrence Starch Company used a Packard truck for deliveries.
A 1920 Packard truck used for grocery deliveries. David Lockard notes that Packard trucks were built completely in-house. Packard didn’t buy components such as transmissions from outside vendors and assemble the trucks from purchased components.
Above: A caravan of Packard trucks, each pulling an extra trailer, hauling Sunkist citrus to the port of Los Angeles for shipment to London. Note the steamship in the center left background.
Courtesy of “Chris-to-Fear” we continue with photos of old gas stations at
Curbside Classic. Today – ice cold cola time while the car is filled up. Note the Buick hardtop in the background.