1934 Packard 1108 Dietrich Convertible Victoria
This car represents the pinnacle example of what many believe to be America’s finest manufacturer during the first half of the twentieth century. At this time Packard Motors was so respected that even their competitors recognized their acumen. When WWII broke out Rolls Royce was so confident of Packard’s capability that it was Packard that Rolls chose to build the famous Merlin engine under their license. After the war, Rolls adopted the Packard design for independent front suspension. Rolls Royce continued production of this design through the 1950’s.
Many Packard experts consider the 1934 Packard 12 to be the best overall year of Packard production. It has been said up until that time that Queen quality ruled over King price. While the 1935 and later models showed some improvements in design, close examination reveal a cheapening of the product unheard of before 1935. This automobile represents the best example of the best year and the best chassis and the best designer of what many believe to be America’s best manufacturer.
For those unfamiliar with the 1934 model year, Packard offered a line of semi custom cars that were usually built in numbers of at least five. The 11th series cars were distinguished from all other models by their raked back, “vee” windshields, extra long hoods, extra wide cowls, and their extra tall radiators. These were unique to only this model year. The V12 engine was in it’s third year of production and the bugs were worked out, most notably a change in the design of their hydraulic valve silencers.
Examples that have survived are the LeBaron dual cowls, the LeBaron boattail speedsters, the LeBaron coupes, the Dietrich convertible sedans, the Dietrich Victorias, the Dietrich coupe and coupe roadsters, and the Dietrich sport sedans. Finally, there is a car which was a blending of the beautiful Dietrich Victoria with fenders identical to those used on the LeBaron dual cowl phaetons and LeBaron boattail speedsters. This car is also one of the twenty or so surviving “vee” windshield cars, but the only one built with this combination. This is and always has been a one of a kind car.
In his book “The Magnificent Packard Twelve of Nineteen Thirty Four”, the author Ed Blend recalls seeing this car at the Pittsburgh Auto Show in 1934 when he was a boy. Little is known of the car when it was new or how it came to be, but Blend sites one example of Packard using it at a major auto show venue. Pittsburgh was a steel supplier to Detroit, and it was also the home of the Carnegie and Mellon fortunes, as well as many others that supplied steel, coal and transportation. The Pittsburgh Auto Show would have been an important date on Packard’s public relations calendar.
Other authors have recognized this car also. Beverly Rae Kimes mentions it in her book on Packards. Also, the famous automotive historian John Conde pictures this car in his book “Cars with Personalities”. One thing that is known is that after its original sale, the car ended up in Puerto Rico. It was seen there after WWII. After many forgotten years, where it had ended up as an open air taxi cab, a gentleman from New Hampshire rediscovered it in 1967 and had it shipped to the United States. In 1972 noted Packard collector John Wheatley, from Tulsa, Oklahoma bought it. This is where I first saw it in 1973 or 74, when it was still in an untouched state of great degradation. The car had been painted red with a brush, dashboard and all, with the beltline in bright yellow, also done with a brush. The passenger seat and door had been removed and discarded. Evidently this was done to make it easier for fares to enter and exit the car. I acquired the car in 1996. Little did I know when I was in my twenties back in Tulsa, that I would one day own this fabulous car.
This car represents a unique opportunity to the knowledgeable collector. Because it has remained unrestored for so many years, it is practically unknown to most collectors. To the person that is responsible for bringing this car back into the limelight, the car will be known from then on as “that person’s” car. No one’s name has been attached to this car as it has been out of the public eye since 1934. The new owner will never have to hear “oh, that is so and so’s car”. The old car world will be turned on it’s ear when this car makes it’s debut two years from now.
My good friend West Peterson who was the past editor of “Car Collector Magazine”, “Cars and Parts Magazine” and is the current editor of the Antique Automobile Club’s magazine, wants to write a book documenting my restoration of this important car. Publication of this book concurrent with the unveiling of the car should greatly add to the importance of the car as an automotive artifact. Once restored, this 1108 will take it’s place as a national treasure. This will be one of the finest examples of American know-how and can- do that history has to offer.
I will be restoring the car over the next two years and would like to sell it after its completion, due to a change in my personal priorities and the need to take advantage of a unique opportunity that came my way which makes more sense for me at this place in my life. It has been my dream to restore this car since I was 22 years old. As a life long professional restorer, I actually enjoy the restoration process more than the end result. To me, the journey is more important than the destination. So while I can let go of the dream of owning and competing with the car, I can’t let go of the dream of restoring it. I will be the proudest of all when this lovely lady makes her debut. Because of this, sale of the car is contingent upon my completion of its restoration. I will need a two year time window to do the job properly. I have already restored a number of components but it is my estimation that it will require 8000 man hours to complete this restoration to my satisfaction. You may have seen the 1934 Dietrich convertible coupe that I restored for the late Ken Wessel that is currently owned by Dave Kane. That car required 10,000 man hours to restore and was a little easier than this car will be as this car needs extensive metal work and woodwork, that the Wessel/Kane car did not. I want this car to be my finest hour as a restorer and am anxious to put my 35 years experience as a restorer to work in what I believe to be one of the finest restoration facilities in the country. It includes a large machine shop, a full wood shop, an upholstery shop, complete professional paint facility, and an extensive metal shop with the latest equipment and many rare antique machines that have been fully restored.
I estimate needing two years to complete its restoration. However, restoration time will be determined by many factors and will progress at a rate which is in the best interest of restoring this one of a kind automobile.
- Dale Adams
Above two: The 1108 as of April 2009.
Painting of the 1934 Packard 1108 Dietrich Victoria
Above: A sighting of the 1108 in a state of degradation.
Above: The 1108 as it looked circa 2000.
Above two: The 1108 at John Wheatley's in Tulsa, OK.