Gear Head Tuesday – Guest Author: How I Got Into Packard Trucks (Part II)

Gear Head

Last week, “Packard Truck Dave” shared with us how he got “into” Packard trucks. He continues today:

Packard-truck-replica

This is the Good Year truck Dave writes about below. Both Good Year and Packard promoted the construction of the Lincoln Highway. 

Picking up where we left off last week and continuing:

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  indifference..). Little did she know what portends for the future. Harry helped finance the Packard – and I decided to make the ultimate sacrifice – sell the 1954 Packard . Naturally I had thought of everything I needed for the Packard truck – except for parts, machining, authenticity of restoration, etc. Keep in mind I also ‘sold’ the Packard truck idea to Joan as being ‘rare’ – impossible to find.

Before I bought the 1920 Packard in 1979 I had to add onto my existing white barn – so I constructed a 10 feet by 30 addition – not ideal but far better than having to work outside – which is a big no-no for me. Completion of that project was finally accomplished in 1980. A local garage friend Ken Chronister used his wrecker and brought the Packard home. Once it was home, I started that process by this summation – “Duh, what do I do now?’ I began the process of disassembly, engine removal, wire brushing the frame and replacing steering thrust bearings, and countless other chores, etc.

In a moment of magic at a Keystone Packard meeting in 1981, Bob Stoltzfus of Maytown, PA informed me that in Lititz, PA there were two Packard parts trucks – sitting outside & just rotting away. The garage/delivery service (pre DOT) who owned & operated the Packard trucks had actually used the Packards well into the 1920’s – and they finally ended up left outside to decay. The late founder of the garage in 1917 was Charles Hartenstine would usually not even speak to anyone who stopped and asked about the Packard trucks – at best he would defiantly tell prospective buyers “You don’t have enough money to buy those trucks!

In 1981 Charles two sons who now owned the garage wanted to get rid of all the ‘junk’ his father had saved – included many original garage goodies – cleared out & scrapped! After months of negotiations I arranged to buy the two Packard trucks. When I went home & told Joan I had found two parts Packard trucks she shot back at me “You told me how rare these Packard trucks were – now you found two more! What gives?” So brought the two parts trucks home, courtesy of Ken Chronister, who, in the process of pushing the parts truck into my garage, wiped out the grille and radiator of his Ford wrecker as the improvised beams between the two vehicles dropped away – allowing the end of Packard frame to fit squarely between the headlights of his Ford wrecker.

As the dust settled and I glanced over now three rusting hulks, one of which was the most restorable, I pondered my next step, and began writing (no email yet…) to several Packard truck owners I stumbled across. Time marched on – and I received a phone call from the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. contractor was charged with restoring a Packard truck as a ‘Wingfoot Express’. Back in 1917 Goodyear had a fleet of Mack, White & Packard trucks that were being used to test/prove pneumatic tires for trucks. Up until this time, trucks rode on solid rubber tires. Cars being much lighter could rely on air filled tires, but not trucks. Goodyear had wanted to recreate a ‘Wingfoot Express’ Packard for promotional purposes – and they needed parts! They bought their truck from a friend in Minnesota that I had been writing to – and had told of the two parts trucks I had acquired. Clyde Walters of Canton, Ohio was the restorer – and we worked out a deal. I would give Goodyear an engine and a worm drive rear end and Goodyear would restore my engine! Clyde was eventually able to ‘hornswoggle’ (my word) four reproduction 38 x 7 diamond tread Goodyear tires with a 1909 patent date. Work continued and Goodyear subsequently sent my engine back to me along with a very capable mechanic by the name of Jack McGrath to install the engine. On a hot summer evening in August of 1987 the Packard was finally fired up. As the engine was warming up, Jack turned to me, with the Packard still in the barn “Dave, something is burning!” We looked down at the floorboard (that was NOT in place) and noted the exhaust manifold that was NOT connected to an exhaust pipe had ignited the right sneaker Jack was wearing! The fire was promptly stomped out. In 1989 Ralph Gery who never had the Packard running got to ride in it at age 90 at my home shortly before he passed. Ralph was beaming – I am sure he was thinking of his late brother who died in battle in 1918…..

A good friend on the eastern shore of Maryland, Dave Bennett gave me his old ‘C’ cab which only needed paint. A retired insurance executive by the name of Chester Conner who was a master woodworker & had done remodeling in our home volunteered to make the ‘Standard #38 Packard slat body’. I was virtually broke at this time and told him I could did not have the money to do so. He was so excited about the project I was asked by him “Can you buy the wood and pay me later?” which I did. Chester never gave me a bill – but I did give him $1000 which he said he was more than satisfied for. And so the 1920, along with a little later pin striping, was finally done!

As time went on and I had the 1920 out to different shows I thought about a World War One Packard Army truck. My 1920 is incorrectly titled as a 1918 – Packard did not refer to their trucks by year – only by size – up until 1920. The State of Pennsylvania wanted a year of production so early on the 1920 was tagged as a 1918. I clarified this as my 1920 was rated by weight by pounds – but the builders brass plate had it identified as a ‘Model E’ (worm drive) and a ‘Size V’ (pneumatic tires, cast iron Motor Wheel wheels) – so a further check with PMCC original literature identified the Model E, Size V as being introduced in 1920

The 1918 Packard Army truck

As my thinking continued about restoring a WW-I Packard Army truck several options opened up to me. I decided that it would make it a lot easier if the Packard could be actually owned by a 501 (c) (3) so folks could have tax deductible donations – so technically the Packard Army truck is owned by the Citizen’s Motor Car Company, America’s Packard Museum in Dayton, Ohio – and I’d do the work – or get others to contribute. Sounds like a really good money making proposition, eh? (Uh, NO!) So that was the first step – then I began to seek folks willing to contribute. We needed a good frame and wheels – and a real gentleman by the name of Ron Carey, who puts his money where his mouth is, ended up donating a complete Packard truck frame and wheels – and he lives in Calgary, Alberta, Canada! Ron cannot receive a tax deduction as a Canadian! And – he had it delivered from Calgary to my home in York Springs, just above Gettysburg – at no charge. Initially we were to pay him $2,500 but when he learned the Packard was in honor of the long gone veterans, he refused to take any more money!

We received an engine from Don Meltz which we kept and used – and a frame with incorrect cast steel wheels which we traded off for money for work done on the Packard. The late Clyde Walters of Canton Ohio went over the engine we received from Don Meltz – it just needed tweaking and cleaned up. A good neighbor who passed away in 2010 – a retired long haul truck driver by the name of Charlie Linus hauled he engine out to Clyde’s place and later retrieved it. The frame and wheels we got from Ron Carey had a foot of channel iron missing – someone apparently adapted the length of the Packard to fit their garage – so two 12 inch steel sections were donated by a steel fabricator in Middletown, PA and another buddy Paul Kenific, an awesome welder from Fruitland, Maryland came up and made the necessary repair/addition of a foot of steel – that cannot be detected. I got a paint match from the US Army Transportation Museum and had a custom batch of paint mixed in Harrisburg, PA. George Lupfer who owns a transmission shop in Carlisle rebuilt the transmission. George is an ex-Packard garage mechanic and has an amazing knowledge of every type of transmissions known to man. Over time I ended up bringing three transmissions to George to make a good one George was happy with – these are cast iron brutes that take 4 men to lift. George’s son Scott remarked to me as I showed up with the 3rd transmission “Where the hell do you find these things?” Now we needed the correct body.

I had been corresponding with noted WW-I historian Tim Gosling in England and explained my dilemma of no body plans. To my utter amazement, Tim not only had at his finger tips but immediately provided me with not only the 1917 US Army War Department Class B body plans – but also had the shop drawings! Tim just happens to have two fully restored American built WW-I Army trucks with Class B bodies on them….. At this point, Tom Schlarb of Topton, NC agreed to custom build and donate a 12 volt electric starter (did I tell you at age 71 that I no longer hand crank these beasts?) and custom fabricated all the hardware for the rear tail gate hinge, bow pockets and stake pockets and body mount brackets.

Dave Jacoby, a custom furniture builder from Gettysburg agreed to volunteer to make the Class B body – all I had to do was buy the wood – which the money came from the sale of the frame and wheels of the Meltz Packard ….. The five bows of the Packard are made from five steam bent laminated layers each of yellow pine – and cannot be told from a solid piece of wood. Ironically, Dave had never steam bent wood before.

While at the Hershey Fall Meet, I was introduced to Tom Hovetter who owns an awning/canvas shop in Walnut Bottom, PA near Carlisle. Tom volunteered to custom make the canvas top, brought his crew of two craftsmen out, measured and custom sewed & installed the canvas top that the Packard has today. In early 2010, the Packard Army truck was complete.

By this time I had promised my wife I would not buy any more Packard trucks. Technically, I lived up to that promise, however the next story is about my 1919 Packard truck…. (hint- it was given to me….Ha Ha Ha)

About 1994 or so I sold a spare Packard engine and transmission to a great gentleman by the name of Charles White from Bensalem, PA, just above Philadelphia. Charles and his son Jamie would faithfully attend every Packard Truck Meet we would hold at my home – (2017 marked the 31st such gathering.) Charles had a 1919 Packard in a warehouse in Philadelphia that he later had moved to Florida when he and his wife lived near Waverly. Over time, Charles’s wife passed away & Charles moved to South Carolina, however the 1919 remained in Florida at a garage that was supposed to restore it. The restoration never took place. Charles had a love for old trucks (especially White trucks for an obvious reason) and told me the history of the 1919 that it had been a chemical fire truck in Connecticut, had the chemical tanks & body removed and his father James White purchased the Packard in 1955 and had it hauled to the Philadelphia warehouse it resided in for many years. The Packard was hauled to Florida with the best intentions of restoration – that never happened.

In March of 2008, Charles called me up from SC and told me he was in failing health and had to get rid of the Packard. I told him I’d be glad to help sell the Packard as I had seen pictures of this very complete Packard, minus the body. Quickly Charles told me not to do anything quite yet – that he’d get back to me. A couple weeks later I received a letter in the mail from Charles – he told me I could have the Packard as a gift – he would even send me the PA title – and he included the spare engine and transmission I had sold him years before! So I was able to keep my promise to my wife not to buy another Packard truck – it was a gift!

The next month my good buddy Charlie Linus were on I-95 heading to Waverly, Florida. It was a stinking hot & humid Florida day we loaded the Packard onto Charlie’s flatbed trailer that was pulled by my 1986 Dodge beavertail truck and headed home. Our plan was to make Jacksonville, Florida by nightfall – which we did – and were literally drenched in sweat – that exited our body even when done loading the Packard – still secreting sweat at a disgusting level. We showered immediately after finding a motel….. My brother Jeff lives in Jacksonville – so I called him up around 8 pm – & told him where we were – and he hopped into his car and met us at the motel. When Jeff saw the Packard with the Dodge piled high with a spare engine, extra tires, etc., his jaw dropped and he muttered something like ‘OMG! – Dave – what have you done?’ – Jeff went home and we continued on to home early the next morning.

When we got home, I pulled the engine & transmission out, put it with the spare engine and transmission that came with the truck on pallets and took them to Tom Schlarb, my mechanical magician in Topton, NC. Tom ended up that he had to restore the spare engine as the original engine was just in too bad a condition. Tom also installed a 12 volt custom built starter & modified the fly wheel as all Packard trucks had the teeth cut directly into the flywheel – so he cut the flywheel down and found a ring gear to match to the starter gear – and bingo!

I liked the ‘barn fresh’ look the Packard had and decided to leave the ‘patina’ of light rust as the finish. Years previously someone offered me an original raw aged wood ‘C’ cab – so it was decided – the provenance of age would be the ultimate finish (plus I saved a boat load of money…) . Upon completion of the engine and transmission restoration I retrieved them and promptly installed both in the 1919.

A year or so went by and I had no body for the truck and wanted one with aged wood. It so happened at the time that further out Mountain Road where I live there was a fellow who had literally disassembled turn of the century homes, board by board and stashed them into his barn. He ended up divorcing and when he learned he had to split everything he had or sold with his ‘ex’, he threatened to just burn al his precious antique wood. With just minimal pleading, actually I just asked – and was told I could have whatever wood I wanted as whatever remained would be burnt. I crafted the body and even matched the aged wood with rusty bolts, nuts and washers from friends.

A Packard truck left in Serbia after World War I:

While all the above was happening, I was sitting at home one evening in 2007 and out of the blue my home phone rang – and the caller was from Serbia. I was a bit suspicious as my last investment with a rich Nigerian prince had gone poorly (p.s. – joke….), however this call was legitimate. The fellow, Vojin Sevic from Belgrade, Serbia was calling me on behalf of his friend Sait Hadzic. Sait did not speak English and Vojin was fluent in English.

Vojin asked me if I was the individual who owned three Packard trucks. I replied in the positive and Vojin popped the question ” Would I allow him to come over from Serbia and visit & to take pictures of my Packard trucks?” Without consulting my wife Joan (a beginners mistake – however I have learned over time that -sometimes- forgiveness is easier than permission ) I said “Sure, no problem. We have extra rooms so you can stay with us!” After the call, Joan asked me about our upcoming visitor – and I explained that Serbia was previously known as Yugoslavia and was a communist country. Joan’s eyes went buggy – so I assured her that if our visitor liked old trucks, he was OK in my book. I am not sure Joan fully agreed with me at the time…….

Continued next Tuesday

Packard script

A gallery of Packard trucks:

Packard truck-covered bed

Packard truck-fruit grower

Packard truck-no body

Packard truck-red

34 Packard headlight

Vintage Kodachrome Snapshots: Gas Stations of the 50s and 60s

Gas station photos-Lunch Room

The Lunch Room could feed both you and your Chevy!

3 Comments

Add yours →

  1. Thanks for sharing looking forward to next update

    Liked by 1 person

  2. WELL DAVID MY NAME FINALLY GOT IN PRINT AND NOT ON A WANTED LIST AT THE POST OFFICE !! PAUL KENIFIC.

    SURE GLAD I SAVED AN OLD TUBE OF SPECIAL WELDING ROD.\, FOR THAT JOB.

    Liked by 1 person

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