1937-1942 Packard Darrin

The 1940 Packard Darrin
The 1940 Packard Darrin had individual headlights, in this case riding in the front fender catwalks.
The 1940 Packard Darrin had individual headlights, in this case riding in the front fender catwalks.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Because the 1937-1938 Packard Darrin was creating such a buzz, packard Chairman Alvan Macauley took it upon himself to go to California and see the cars for himself.

When Macauley ventured that the Packard Darrins had a reputation for body flex, Dutch leaped up on the cowl of the nearest example in his shop. "Get off," yelled Macauley, "you'll ruin it for sure!" Dutch just grinned at him, jumping up and down. Unbeknown to Macauley, it was one of those with Rudy Stoessel's cast aluminum cowl. "I asked if he thought it was strong enough. That was how I got Packard to approve the Darrin Victoria for production." It appeared for the first time in Packard's 1940 catalogue.

There were strings attached to this deal: one was Alvan Macauley's stipulation that most Darrins be built on the Super Eight chassis, this for prestige purposes. He said Dutch could turn out a handful on the One Twenty chassis -- with a considerably reduced list price of $3800, f.o.b. -- but the majority had to be Super Eights. Packard also specified two additional body styles, a Convertible Sedan and a four-door Sport Sedan.

The late Warren Fitzgerald, an eminent Packard authority, held the Convertible Sedan the best design of the three: "It had the long 138-inch wheelbase, combined with the three-inch-longer hood, which made for stunning proportions." Dutch agreed with this view, but thought the Sport Sedan should not have been built at all: "It wasn't possible to alter it as dramatically as the open models." Yet it looks fabulous today, somewhat reminiscent of Bill Mitchell's pacesetting Cadillac Sixty Specials, but altogether sleeker, more flowing.

A fourth type, never catalogued, was a magnificent Model 1806 (1940) Coupe de Ville, its elegant landau bars complementing the curve of Darrin's beltline. This car was built as an auto show special, but several others followed in 1941; at least one has survived.

The 1940 Darrin Convertible Sedan was judged the best-looking of the three Packard Darrin models listed for the year by Packard authority Warren Fitzgerald.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

The Super Eight Darrins were priced at $4570 for the Convertible Victoria, around $6100 for the Sport Sedan, and $6300 for the Convertible Sedan -- the latter two were more expensive than any other model in the 1940 catalogue by nearly $2000. Even at these prices, demand would be brisk, however, and Darrin knew he'd need more cars than he could produce at Sunset Strip. So he arranged with Roy Faulkner, president of the almost defunct Auburn Motor Car Company, to produce 1940 Packard Darrins at the Auburn plant in Connersville, Indiana.

Production estimates vary. The Sport Sedan was dropped after a reported two were built; figures of five Convertible Sedans and 40 Victorias are commonly quoted. New serial/body number analysis by Charles Blackman of the Packard Club may alter these numbers.

Whatever the actual figures, production was inevitably limited. Packard must have soon wished there were more to go around. Showroom floor traffic increased 300 percent when a Darrin was on display, and a dealer was allocated a Darrin only if he'd promise to keep it on the floor for a month whether it was sold or not.

On the next page read about the unusual stunts Dutch Darrin would perform to promote the 1941 and 1942 Packard Darrins.

For more information on cars, see: