Here is a gorgeous car with a unique back-story ahead of the RM Auctions Motor City event on July 26th in Plymouth, Michigan.
After working as a master apprentice with French coachbuilders for more than a decade, Dutch Darrin returned to America to set up his own shop. The French coach-built car industry from the 1920s to the 1930s was the absolute best in the world – delivering wild one-off creations to buyers around the world. Cars like the Delehaye 139, the Hispano-Suiza Xenia or the Rolls-Royce Round Door Coupe all came from this small piece of land around and within Paris.
So Darrin surely learned from the best.
He applied these lessons to the top-line Packard of the day, creating something altogether more elegant than anything made in America at the time.
The low roof and wide, overstretched fenders are favorite elements of this design, which is said to be one of nine ever made.
This piece would be a great fit for Peter Mullin – so bid early and often if you are serious about taking it home!
1940 Packard Custom Super Eight Convertible Sedan by Darrin
Series 1807. 160 hp, 356 cu. in. L-head inline eight-cylinder engine, three-speed synchromesh manual transmission, independent front suspension with coil springs, live rear axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs, and four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 138 in.
Offered from the collection of Richard and Linda Kughn
One of nine known survivors; extensively documented
Formerly owned by Dr. Richard Steiner and Otis Chandler
Restored with the input of Howard “Dutch” Darrin himself
Treasured by enthusiasts for half a century
In 1937 Howard “Dutch” Darrin returned to his homeland of the United States after 13 years of work as a coachbuilder in France. He settled in Hollywood, California, where, working from a shop on the Sunset Strip, he found work performing his magic on the automobiles of “Glitter Gulch” residents. One of his original creations was a European-themed 1937 Ford with SS 100-like two-door bodywork, racing-style cut-down doors, and a vee’d windshield. The design of this car would evolve and eventually be employed on nearly two dozen Packard chassis. These cars were known as the “Hollywood Darrins,” and they were owned by such A-list actors and musicians as Clark Gable, Preston Foster, and Gene Krupa.
By 1940 Packard had taken notice of the popularity of these stylish convertibles and eventually arranged to build Darrin’s design as a limited-production “factory custom” model, which was initially produced in Connersville, Indiana, and later in suburban Cincinnati. The convertible victoria by Darrin was joined by two new four-door models, a convertible sedan and a sport sedan, which were designed along the same lines.
Unusually, both four-door Darrins were considerably rarer than the convertible victorias. In particular, more than a dozen convertible sedans were built in 1940, the sole year that this style was available. Of those, it is believed that only nine survive in the world, and they are treasured by enthusiasts for their unusual combination of practicality and sportiness, as well as for the modern drivability of their chassis. Simply put, few four-door cars of the era were very beautiful.
DARRIN CONVERTIBLE SEDAN NUMBER 1807-2009
According to its original firewall tag, this Darrin Convertible Sedan, number 1807-2009, was delivered new by the Packard dealership in Evanston, Illinois. A Packard memo from June 20, 1940, lists it as available for sale, wearing paint in Ronan’s Cream and featuring a khaki Burbank cloth top piped in cream leather, Lackawanna full top grain leather upholstery, and special equipment, such as the center armrest for the front seat. It was available for immediate delivery to a buyer in the Chicago area, where it retailed for $6,300.
By 1951 the car had made its way to California, where, after a minor accident, it was laid up on a peanut farm in the town of Arvin. It was found there in 1967, by Dr. Richard Steiner, a dentist from Torrance, who purchased the car and began its restoration. Exhaustive research went into examining other surviving four-door Darrin Packards. Howard Darrin himself, living in retirement in nearby Santa Monica, provided invaluable insight into the work, even making suggestions to reinforce the body, which corrected a common flaw in the original construction.
Dr. Steiner completed his Packard in 1994. On June 8, 1995, it was shown at the California Grand Classic of the Classic Car Club of America, where it was judged at 98 points. It eventually earned its CCCA Senior badge, number 1898S, which the car still wears today.
On May 15, 1996, the car was sold by Dr. Steiner to late, distinguished collector and enthusiast Otis Chandler. At the time, Mr. Chandler was in the process of selling his world-renowned muscle car collection and was refocusing on his original passion: grand Full Classics. The Packard was registered under the California blue plate DARRIN 1, and it became an early centerpiece of Chandler’s stable, where it remained until its sale from the Chandler Collection in 2003. It went on to be maintained in a well-known western collection and then in the stable of Mr. and Mrs. Richard Kughn, from which it is offered today.
The car, finished in Packard Maroon, shows only light aging throughout and detailing that would still be appropriate for the concours field. In fact, during the Kughns’ ownership, it has been one of their favorite show cars, as it was displayed at Meadow Brook, Eyes on Design, and the Amelia Island Concours. It was awarded its CCCA Premier honors with a First Place in the Michigan Grand Classic in 2010.
This Packard is equipped with numerous original accessories, including driving lights, bumper guards, a radio, a heater, a backup light, and, importantly, Econo-Drive overdrive. The latter makes the idea of enjoying the Darrin on the next CCCA CARavan a particularly tempting one.
In a collection so prominently focused on the best that Detroit had to offer, this Packard is an important standout. Darrin Convertible Sedans are seldom ever offered for sale, and when they do change hands, it is usually in private. Offered here is a scarce opportunity to acquire an example that was carefully restored, with the blessing and input of its creator, and one that has been maintained and enjoyed by some of the great enthusiasts.
Tom Burkart is the founder and managing editor of Car-Revs-Daily.com, an innovative and rapidly-expanding automotive news magazine.
He holds a Journalism JBA degree from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Tom currently resides in Charleston, South Carolina with his two amazing dogs, Drake and Tank.
Mr. Burkart is available for all questions and concerns by email Tom(at)car-revs-daily.com.