LIFESTYLE

Working man’s Packard: 1937 115-C

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For the better part of six decades Packard produced luxurious automobiles that were as well built as they were beautiful. The high water mark in Packard sales came in model year 1937 when a total of 109,518 vehicles were manufactured.

Packard buyers were given a choice of 50 models powered by two different inline eight-cylinder engines: a twin-six twelve-cylinder powerplant or a six-cylinder engine.

Packard had not built a six-cylinder car since 1928, but in order to thwart the ambitions of lesser competitors, Packard introduced its least expensive model — 115-C.

Behind the impressive Packard grille was a 237-cubic-inch, six-cylinder engine developing 100 horsepower. This business coupe rode on a 115-inch wheelbase and carried a base price of $795. It was the shortest wheelbase on any car that Packard had produced since the 1912 Runabout model, which was a wheelbase used only one year.

Because the 1937 Packard still had a gear shift lever sprouting from the floor, the three-window business coupe was advertised as a two-passenger vehicle.

At 3,140 pounds, the Packard 115-C, in conjunction with the independent front suspension is easy to drive and steer on the 7.00×18-inch bias-ply tires.

When Randy Denchfield first saw the car he was captivated. Negotiations ensued with the owner and eventually an agreement was reached. He purchased the three-window 1937 Packard 115-C in 2008.

The body wears a coat of light green, which is highlighted by gray-green fenders. Denchfield’s wife, Susan, appropriately named the car “Sweet Pea.”

Once home with time to further examine his acquisition, Denchfield discovered that his Packard still had some original parts. The upholstery had been replaced with authentic materials and of course the rubber parts have been replaced. He found that both of the original running boards have survived, as well as the fabric insert in the roof, which is an unspoken testament to the car having been garaged. The windshield is also original.

The rear of the Packard is adorned by not one but two tail/brake lights. Surrounding the trademark hexagon trademark at the enter of each hubcap is printed PACKARD SIX. Each wheel is dressed with a beauty trim ring.

Ever since the first drive in his Packard, Denchfield noticed the car’s effortless steering. Besides the fine engineering, he attributes the steering to the six-cylinder engine that weighs less than the eight- and twelve-cylinder engines. Additionally, inside the cabin the driver is greeted by a shoulder-width, three-spoke steering wheel, giving the driver great leverage.

The speedometer is ready to record speeds up to 100 mph, which Denchfield thinks might be somewhat overly optimistic.

No power windows, power seats, power steering, power brakes were available, nor was air conditioning offered. Denchfield points out that his Packard could have been equipped with a radio, but wasn’t. However, the car does have a cowl ventilator at the base of the flat, one-piece windshield that directs cooling, fresh air inside. That windshield is kept clear by a pair of vacuum-powered wipers.

There is only the single front bench seat, which means that most of the extra room normally consumed by a rear seat was added to the already substantial trunk space.

Behind the front seat and beneath the extra large package shelf that extends to the base of the rear window is a hidden storage area where a traveling salesman could keep his samples out of the sight of passing by shady characters.

Denchfield has observed that very few 115-C Packards have survived. “They were throwaway cars,” he says. Collectors were after the senior Packards. Nevertheless, his 115-C looks, drives, and rides like a senior Packard.

Employing Packard’s longtime slogan he advises, “Ask the man who owns one.”

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