- The Washington Times - Friday, February 2, 2001

With the demise of Packard, Ingrid Friberg's father, Carl J. Friberg, switched his automotive allegiance to Buick.
He had long held Packard automobiles in high regard. In that regard he wasn't much different from most motorists in Arlington, Va.
The difference came in the way he must have thought. Why, he must have questioned, pay the premium price for a new Packard? Because Packards were so well built, a 2- or 3-year-old model would suit him and his wallet just fine.
The last Packard he brought home a 1951 Packard Patrician 400, which had a base price of $3,662 when new never left. Mr. Friberg's daughter, now Mrs. Keune, doesn't specifically remember the arrival of the car: She just can't recall a time when the 4,115-pound Packard wasn't considered a part of the family.
The 18-foot, 1 3/4-inch-long Packard, one of 9,001 such models built in 1951, comfortably rides on a 127-inch wheelbase and flawlessly performs all the chores asked of lesser family sedans with Packard panache.
"I learned to drive on the car," Mrs. Keune said. "My father wanted me to be self-reliant," she said, "so I had to learn how to change tires."
On days when she had after-school activities at Washington and Lee High School, her parents permitted her to drive the Packard to school.
Those special days were when she would pack her friends into the 6 1/2-foot-wide Packard and cruise over to the Hot Shoppe on Kirkwood Drive. Teen-age life didn't get much better.
For about 10 years Mrs. Keune remembers the annual 500-mile trip to the family summer home in Plymouth, Mass. Each summer, Mrs. Keune says, it seems they would successfully negotiate the New Jersey Turnpike and as the approached the George Washington Bridge, something would happen to disable the Packard.
Mrs. Keune reports that one year during racial strife in the Deep South, as the family sat at the approach to the bridge, marooned in their disabled Packard creating a traffic jam, motorists driving by would see the Virginia license plates and call out derisive comments to what they termed "Freedom Riders."
The last real trip of purpose the family asked the Packard to perform and it did so flawlessly was to haul all the worldly goods and necessities of life of Mrs. Keune to college at Northeastern in Boston.
That was one trip the car, with its 30.5-cubic-foot trunk holding most of Mrs. Keune's belongings, didn't break down at the George Washington Bridge. The 327-cubic-inch L-head straight-eight engine worked with Packard precision. The Carter carburetor fed fuel from the 20-gallon gasoline tank to the engine to produce 155 horsepower.
Packard was the only independent auto manufacturer to create its own automatic transmission, which was called "Ultramatic." Packards so equipped were labeled with a chrome-plated "Ultramatic" placed on both rear fenders. The gear selector, mounted on the chrome-plated steering column, reads from the left: Park-Neutral-High-Low-Reverse.
The Packard's trip to college was in vain. The future Mrs. Keune met Russell Keune and soon transferred back home to Georgetown. As the pair soon became an item, they began to plan the wedding. Both prospective bride and groom thought the 17-year-old (at the time) Packard would make a great wedding car.
It wasn't to be. As they were driving up Connecticut Avenue NW to the best man's home, so he could become familiar with the vehicle, the brakes failed while crossing the Taft Bridge.
The ever-optimistic Mrs. Keune pronounced the hand-operated emergency brake outstanding and, taking the helm, carefully drove the Packard back to Arlington. The wedding went off without a hitch without the Packard.
Soon after the 1968 wedding Mr. and Mrs. Keune moved into a house across the street from Mrs. Keune's widowed mother. The Packard sat neglected for a time until her mother told her to take it. Mr. and Mrs. Keune simply backed the Packard across the street and into their garage.
Mrs. Keune, a heritage artist, soon learned that she needed more automobile knowledge in order to make her Packard whole. The solution came in the form of adult education night courses at her old Washington and Lee High School.
With money earned from her heritage art business Mrs. Keune figured she could tackle one problem per year.
As she addressed the project, many other Packard owners contributed time and expertise. The car has been rewired, repainted, reupholstered and been shod with new 8.00x15-inch tires.
After a decade of labor, Mr. Keune said, "It was presentable."
Mrs. Keune makes certain the 20 quarts of coolant are flushed regularly and the 12 quarts of transmission fluid are fresh as well.
In addition, each time the seven quarts of oil are changed, the oil-bath air cleaner is refreshed. She also makes certain the six-volt, positive-ground electrical system is in order.
The courtesy light above the three-piece rear window is operational, as is the roll-top ashtray in the back of the front seat.
The AM Wonderbar radio picks up all the AM stations within a reasonable distance. Additionally, the vacuum-powered windshield wipers work as well as they ever did.
Suspended from the top of the 5-foot-wide, one-piece windshield, is a glareproof mirror. The bottom of the windshield is secured by a chrome-plated frame.
By 1983 the restoration of the family Packard was as complete as an antique car is ever complete.
In July 1999 the Keunes wanted to take their Packard to Warren, Ohio, for the centennial celebration of Packard in the birthplace of the car. Instead of subjecting the car to the rigors of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, they joined three other local Packard owners and hired a truck to haul their cars to and from the historic event.
Since then the Packard has stayed close to home. On good-weather weekends the Keunes take the Packard out for exercise with Mrs. Keune completely at ease behind the shoulder-wide steering wheel.
She is familiar with the instruments on either side of the 110 mph speedometer and, without looking, operates the ignition switch. It's almost as if she never stopped driving the car she first drove.

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