The summer of 1927 saw Packard introduce its newest model, known officially as the Fourth Series, or the 4-43. Based on a 143” wheelbase and powered by the same proven 385 cubic inch inline eight-cylinder engine as the 1926 models, this new car represented a typically evolutionary step forward for Packard. The legendary straight eight featured nine main bearings, L-head valve arrangement and produced 109 horsepower, delivered with sublime smoothness. The engineers at Packard always strove for excellence in reliability, drivability and quality, and they earned the company’s status as producers of some of the finest American cars of the era. As usual with high end pre-war manufacturers, Packard had the freedom to choose from an array of standard catalog bodies, or they could select a custom body built by any number of favored coachbuilders of the era.
One of the most prestigious of those American coachbuilders was Walter M. Murphy Coachbuilders of Pasadena, California. Originally from Detroit, Walter M. Murphy was practically born to be in the automobile business. His uncle, William H. Murphy, had bankrolled Henry Ford in 1899 and later worked closely with Henry Leland of Cadillac and Lincoln fame. Young Walter moved to California in 1904, and opened his first dealership in Los Angeles in 1916, representing Simplex and Locomobile. Success came quickly and by 1920, he operated the premier West Coast Lincoln distributorship. At the same time, he recognized the demand for top quality coachwork was not being met, especially to the tastes of his California clientele, so he hired the best talent he could and established Walter M. Murphy Co. coachbuilding.
Word spread of Murphy’s quality and exquisite style, particularly among Hollywood elite and the California business world. Their bodies would go on to grace a great number of special European chassis from the likes of Mercedes Benz, Minerva, and Bentley. Murphy also holds the distinction of providing more bodies for Duesenberg J and SJ chassis than any other coachbuilder – nearly a quarter of total production.
The intersection of Murphy and Packard was a natural one, as both companies demanded excellence in their products. However, given the more conservative nature of Packard buyers, very few of them opted for Murphy coachwork, making them exceptionally rare finds today. This striking example is one such Packard to originally wear a Murphy body, in this case, a gorgeous “Clear Vision” convertible sedan. While the earliest history of this particular car is yet unknown, it was purchased by its most recent owner some 40 years ago as a restoration project. As so often happens, life and business took precedent over the Packard, but the owner held on to the car, knowing he had something special on his hands. Finally, within the last 10 years, the owner was able to treat the car to a much-deserved, no-expense-spared, body-off restoration undertaken by Vintage Motorcars of Westbrook, Connecticut.
This Packard 4-43 Custom Eight is now presented in a wonderful combination of two-tone red, featuring a bright red main body and subtle, darker red fenders, chassis and body feature lines. A dark red canvas top and two-tone disc wheels complete the look, in a subtle, yet visually imposing manner highlighting the masterful Murphy styling. The restoration is excellent, with superb paint and finish quality. Chrome drum-style Tilt Ray headlamps flank the chrome Packard radiator grille, which is topped with a Packard Moto Meter in combination with a Goddess of Speed mascot. The rear features an upholstered, fitted trunk as well as a trunk rack to handle any additional luggage. Dual side mount spares and painted disc wheels have been fitted with fresh black-wall tires that lend this car a marvelous, aggressive look. The bumpers are accented with red-painted brackets, further enhancing the sporting appearance of the Murphy bodywork.
The lavish interior is trimmed in gorgeous and supple tobacco-colored antiqued leather. The quality and execution are outstanding, with the deep brown colors wonderfully judged against the rich red of the body and canvas top. Door panels are trimmed in the same subtle antiqued leather as the seats, with intricate stitching and beautiful detail. Like the seats, the brown carpets are expertly fitted, lining the front and rear compartments as well as the lower edges of the door cards. We particularly like the details such as leather covered sills with Murphy badges grace all four doors. The marvelous interior not only looks fabulous, but when viewed in person, the colors, materials and quality can be truly appreciated. As a convertible sedan, this Packard features a fully opening soft top, with the all-weather comfort afforded by roll up windows that seal tight against the top frame. The dash is equipped with original instruments and is finished to original specification with a beautiful wood grain finish. A stylish finish touch is the marbleized shift knob topping the gear lever.
Packard’s turbine-like 385 cubic inch inline-eight is presented in excellent condition, detailed to a high standard in correct Packard green with black porcelain manifolds. A set of period Champion spark plugs demonstrate the level of detail achieved in the restoration. Since the project was completed, this stunning 4-43 Custom Eight has been minimally shown and is eligible for any number of AACA, CCCA or similar events. Show quality finishing, excellent road manners and stunning Murphy coachwork combine to make this one seriously rare and highly desirable Packard.