By the time Packard’s Sixth series had hit dealership floors, Packard was well established as the undisputed king of the American luxury car marketplace. Mechanically, the Sixth series was tried and true Packard. A robust and beautifully engineered chassis featured conventional suspension, powerful four-wheel mechanical brakes and Packard’s proven 384 cubic inch inline eight, delivering 120 horsepower. A 3-speed manual transmission with synchronized gears made for a very easy and pleasurable experience for driver and passenger alike.
Packard’s reputation for quality was virtually unsurpassed, and for the sixth series they continued to offer their loyal clients a huge variety of body styles to choose from, from formal and conservative to sporty and sleek. No fewer than twenty-one body styles were available on the top-range Model 645. Of those bodies, eight were standard factory styles while a further thirteen were from the semi-custom catalog. Rollston, LeBaron and Dietrich each offered these semi-custom bodies with Dietrich designs counting among the most sporting styles.
Ray Dietrich had worked as a draughtsman for LeBaron before breaking off to form his own firm in 1925. Some believe he was canned after spending too much time dreaming up his new business plan whilst on LeBaron company time. Regardless of the circumstances, Dietrich was a talented designer responsible for many of the finest bodies of the period. His time at the firm that bore his name was short-lived, however; he left in 1930 as the Great Depression took its hold on the custom coachwork industry. Thankfully, his short time was marked with a number of exquisitely designed and constructed automobiles, his work being favored by a great many Packard clients.
This 1929 Packard Custom-Eight wears a very attractive and desirable Custom-Catalog roadster body by Dietrich. A top of the line model, it rides on a grand 145.5 inch chassis, which lends the signature long rear deck equipped with a rumble seat. It is one of just 2,061 645s sold, a mere fraction of the 35,000 total Packards produced in 1929, making it among the rarest of the sixth series. This example wears an attractive older restoration that has been well-maintained in good order. Paint quality is good, with a tan main body contrasting chocolate brown fenders, chassis and feature lines, accented with orange coach stripes. Panel fit and alignment is very good, and the paint shiny and attractive, with only a few minor blemishes from use. The restoration appears to have been done to a high standard, the car winning awards at the Meadowbrook Concours d’Elegance in the 1990s. The chrome is in generally good order, though it is beginning to show some slight pitting in places. Accessories include a Goodess of Speed mascot, dual sidemount spares with polished covers, and a golf-bag door. Depress Beam headlamps in chrome are supplemented by a pair of Trippe Light driving lamps, chrome cowl lamps and dual C.M. Hall spot lamps. In 1929, Packards still could be had with wooden spoke or solid disc wheels, however this car wears a set of beautiful chrome wire wheels, an $80.00 option in 1929. The wheels are freshly detailed and shod with new whitewall tires. With its light patina, it still remains a very pretty car, as well as an imposing one on that long, 145.5 inch wheelbase.
The sporting cockpit is trimmed in very nice dark tan leather which still presents very well, particularly against the body colors. Dark tan carpet is simple and tidy, and an alloy pyramid-pattern floor board surrounds the shifter and hand brake levers. Being a roadster, it wears a fairly basic convertible top which is in good order, trimmed in brown canvas. A matching top boot and side curtains are included, also in good condition. Behind the big original steering wheel, the instrument panel is correctly finished in woodgrain paint over steel, with original gauges, including the Jaeger clock, in good condition. Door panels are in very good condition, capped with attractive wood trim.
Packard’s big 384 cubic inch straight eight is in good condition on this example, with the block and head finished in correct Packard green over a natural finish crankcase. The engine shows a bit of wear from regular use on the finished surfaces, but remains tidy and appears to have been well-serviced. The firewall and accessories all appear in good condition and the Packard body tag and ID numbers are intact and visible.
Overall, this is a very attractive yet usable Packard 645 that has benefitted from a good quality restoration and has been well-maintained since. It would make a very fine choice for touring given its condition the performance characteristics of the Sixth Series. With its massive wheelbase and desirable, stylish Dietrich coachwork, this handsome Packard captures the essence of the late-twenties sportsman.