August 21st 1933 market the introduction of Packard’s beautiful 11th series. The 11th series is the last, and in the opinion of many, the very best of the classic era Packards before the era of streamlining came to dominate styling trends among American automobile manufacturers. The curvaceous, full-figured fenders and v-shaped grille of the 11th Series form an elegant yet imposing look that defines the classic era. As before, buyers had their choice of eight-cylinder and twelve-cylinder models on a variety of wheelbases. At the entry level was the Standard Eight, followed by the Super Eight with its additional power, trim and more luxurious body options. At the top of the range lay the Twelve, which had been renamed from the earlier “Twin Six”. The Twelve was powered by the magnificent 445 cubic inch, side-valve V12 which delivered a silken 160 horsepower in virtual silence. A fully synchronized transmission and adjustable vacuum assisted four-wheel brakes made it a sublime machine to drive. It is said that it was Packard’s magnificent V12 engine that inspired Enzo Ferrari to use the same layout in his own sports cars. While the entry level Eight models were offered with various catalog body styles, the prestigious 1108 Twelve was often custom-bodied by the finest coachbuilders in the world to individual client specifications. Packard produced more than 8,000 vehicles in 1934 but just 960 left the Detroit factory equipped with the expensive and exclusive V12 engine.
Among American coachbuilders, Derham of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is one of the lesser known; despite the fact that it outlasted virtually every one of its more famous competitors – surviving well beyond the era of custom coachbuilding into the 1960s. Founded in by Joseph Derham 1887 as Rosemount Carriage Works in Philadelphia’s Main Line area, it was said that Derham’s coaches rivaled those from Brewster in terms of quality and style. Their first auto body was a closed limousine built for local woman Pansy Griscom in 1907, who incidentally remained a loyal client through until 1960. Joseph Derham’s sons entered the business and soon found a niche market for quality “semi-custom” bodies which were of beautiful quality, but less expensive than fully custom coachwork offered by others. They cleverly partnered with local dealers to provide small production, semi-custom bodies. By 1920, this formula was proving quite lucrative and with more than 200 employees in their Philadelphia works, over 250 cars per year were built, most of which went to dealers and distributors. But amid the production work, their custom coachwork continued, with lusciously styled custom bodies trickling out on Rolls-Royce, Duesenberg and Packard Chassis. Interestingly, Derham operated into the 1960s when it was purchased by Albert A Garthwaite, founder of the famous Algar Ferrari dealership which still survives today.
This handsome and imposing 1934 Packard 1108 Twelve (Chassis 1108-88) wears one such custom body built by Derham Body Co. This custom Sports Sedan was originally constructed in 1930 and supplied on a Packard 745 chassis owned by John Bromley. Mr. Bromley upgraded to a new Packard Twelve in 1934 and, like many loyal Derham clients, had the body from his older car updated and transferred to the new chassis. The body is in a sporty and elegant close-coupled style with an upholstered roof and faired-in, upholstered trunk. The low roofline and short cabin accentuate the 1108’s long bonnet, making for a stunning visual effect, particularly when viewed in profile. 1108-88 remained in Mr. Bromley’s possession until the 1950s when it was sold to a Packard dealer and disassembled for restoration. It remained unfinished when it was sold again in 1965, changing hands again to Mr. Ken Vaughn who purchased the car sight unseen for $750 and shipped it to his southern California home. The late Mr. Vaughn was widely regarded as one of the finest restorers of Packard automobiles, and he restored this car alongside his young son Glenn, prior to teaming up with another noted Packard enthusiast, Phil Hill, to establish Hill &Vaughn Restorations. While the car was described as “a mess” when the Vaughns received it, the original components and body were intact the restoration was completed to a very high standard. The elder Vaughn showed the car extensively in the 1970s, amassing 5,000 miles in the process. The beautiful Derham sports sedan earned awards at CCCA Grand Classics as well as a First in Class and Gwenn Graham Most Elegant Car Award at Pebble Beach in 1972. The Twelve then found its way to the prestigious Otis Chandler Collection in the late 1990s, who returned to Pebble Beach with 1108-88, where it was awarded a second in class – wearing a then-30-year-old restoration! The car remained with Mr. Chandler until his passing in 2006.
Today, the Derham Sports Sedan remains as elegant and stylish as ever. The restoration belies its age, a testament to the quality of Mr Vaughan’s work. The tan main body sits atop deep brown fenders. The fenders and brown body swage lines are accented with orange coach stripes which complement the orange wheels. The fixed “faux convertible” roof is trimmed in tan canvas which is repeated on the upholstered trunk and side-mount spare wheel covers. The paint remains remarkably good, showing some minor cracking, crazing and touch ups in a few areas but still shiny and very attractive. The extensive brightwork presents very well, with very good bumpers, lamps and details such as Packard Twelve hub caps and Packard-script outside mirrors. The painted radiator shell is adorned with chrome slats and topped with a Goddess of Speed mascot.
The luxurious interior is simple yet exquisitely appointed. Tan broadcloth upholstery is fitted front and rear over brown carpeting, and the interior chrome fittings remain simply beautiful. The dash features original instruments, a correct original radio, and the wood-grain finish presents in very good order save for one notable scuff. Rear passengers have a fold-down armrest, cigar lighters, and a robe rail with lap blanket. The quality of the interior is excellent, showing the great care this car has received while in the hands of its enthusiastic owners.
While the cosmetic presentation is quite impressive, it is in the performance where this V12 Packard truly makes its mark. It runs strong and drives beautifully, delivering power in virtual silence and exceptional ease thanks to the synchronized gearbox, vacuum assisted brakes and surprisingly light steering once underway. Just five examples of this body style were built by Derham, and this is the only one fitted to a 1934 1108 chassis, making it a true one-off. It delivers in terms of exclusivity, style and outstanding history in a beautifully presented and utterly usable package.