- Originally owned by Hollywood actor Clark Gable
- The second Packard Convertible Victoria built by coachbuilder Howard “Dutch” Darrin
- From the estate of Mr. John M. O'Quinn
- Full Classic eligible for all Classic Car Club of America events
Packard introduced its Sixteenth Series models in September 1937. Most changes were cosmetic, including more rounded fenders and “vee’d” windshields on many bodies. Packard tallied 48,682 sales for 1938, less than 1937, but still the best showing of all the independents.
The Packard Darrin was a special automobile in the maker’s lineup. It was a blending of all the glory that was Packard in the Classic Era with all that was the stock-in-trade of Howard “Dutch” Darrin. The result was glamour with lots of pizzazz.
Without Darrin’s insistence, the car wouldn’t have been built at all. Following his days in Paris, the inimitable Darrin had settled in Hollywood where he immediately established himself as the purveyor of custom coachwork to the stars. The polo playing Darrin was quickly accepted by the movie crowd; his well-cultivated French accent fit in perfectly. He named his shop “Darrin of Paris.” His first client was Dick Powell for whom he fashioned a two-passenger Ford Roadster in 1937. Shortly thereafter, he built a two-seat convertible victoria roadster on a 1937 Packard One Twenty chassis for actor Chester Morris. It led to the idea of building a five-passenger version and selling Packard on the idea of including it as part of its lineup. The initial word from Detroit was no, but that didn’t stop him.
Darrin arranged to have the car parked outside the Packard Proving Grounds at the time of the annual dealer’s meeting, precisely where the dealers couldn’t help but see it. That, as they say, was that! Under pressure from its dealers, Packard included the Darrin as part of its catalog for 1940 with three models: Sport Sedan, Convertible Sedan and Convertible Victoria. Nearly 100 were built through 1942 when production was halted prior to WWII.
This car, the second Darrin convertible, was built for legendary actor Clark Gable whose appetite for new and sleek automobiles was almost insatiable. The car would be built using traditional coachbuilding principles, including an ash frame with aluminum cowl and many hand-fashioned trim pieces. It would be the first five-passenger Packard Darrin Convertible Victoria produced. The Gable car is unique in that the length of the hood is stretched to within one-half inch of the door opening, the only one of the series built this way. This was later verified as being unique by Darrin himself in The Cormorant, the Packard Club’s magazine.
Gable didn’t keep the car long as he complained to Darrin the low doors were posing a problem – whenever he stopped at a traffic light or intersection, he became, quite literally, a sitting duck for eager fans. Darrin agreed to sell the car for him. He did, to a lady in Texas who was thrilled with the idea of sitting in the same seat as Gable, so much so that she willingly paid him several thousand dollars more than the asking price! Darrin gave Gable his money back and pocketed the profit.
Text adapted from the RM Auctions Catalog
- • • • -
1949 Mercury Dwarf Car