- The Washington Times - Friday, November 9, 2001

The last Packard had been built more than 40 years before when Hal Hermann, recently retired from the Defense Department, attended the centennial of Packard's founding.
The July 1999 celebration at the birthplace of Packard automobiles was in Warren, Ohio.
With more than 1,000 Packards from around the world in attendance, Mr. Hermann carefully looked over them all. What he found most impressive was the quiet 356-cubic-inch, L-head engine introduced in the 1940 model year.
The powerful straight-eight cylinder power plant contained nine main bearings, as well as a 105-pound crankshaft, and developed an awesome 160-horsepower. Packard used the engine through the 1950 model year.
He returned from the Packard centennial to his Fairfax home determined to get a prewar Packard, a 1940, 1941 or 1942 model, with the majestic 356-cubic-inch engine.
The search led to a 1948 Custom 8 Touring Sedan for sale in Houston, Texas. It sold new with a base price of $3,750.
Mr. Hermann conversed for hours via telephone with the Texas owner of the Packard and photographs were sent to add more information to the decision-making process.
By October 1999, Mr. Hermann had garnered as much data as he could without seeing the car in person. The moment of truth arrived.
"I had to swallow pretty hard," Mr. Hermann says, "to buy it on a picture."
He swallowed hard, and if a bullet had been available he would have bit it, too. After wiring the money to Houston, with fingers crossed he awaited the arrival of the truck carrying his Packard.
Mr. Hermann was told that his car was taken to a holding lot where cars were held until a truck going in the appropriate direction came by.
With the truck's ground positioning satellite capability he was assured that he could be kept up-to-date on the location of his vehicle.
That was the plan.
It would have worked if only the driver had done what he was supposed to have done.
The trucking company apparently thought the Packard was, indeed, on its way toward Virginia and kept Mr. Hermann informed of the progress of the truck.
When the truck got to Virginia and kept on going without stopping, an anxious Mr. Hermann spent days on the telephone trying to locate his Packard. "My car was lost for a couple weeks," Mr. Hermann laments.
Days passed before Mr. Hermann was informed that the driver thought the Packard was too big for his truck, so he didn't pick it up. Unfortunately, he didn't tell anyone of his decision to leave it in the holding lot.
Mr. Hermann found a second trucking company to haul his Packard. However, what should have been about 11/2 weeks for delivery stretched into five anxiety-filled weeks. When the 17-foot, 85/8-inch-long Packard finally arrived, its battery was dead. Mr. Hermann anticipating such a happenstance, had an appropriate battery at the ready. With it, he was able to start and drive his 4,175-pound Packard. "It ran beautifully and only needed points and a coil," Mr. Hermann reports.
The cavalier maroon over Egyptian sand color combination was exactly as advertised. Mr. Hermann was quite pleased with the choice of colors selected out of the 18 available colors. A total of four complementary interior colors were offered including:
Styling dictated the rather small 17.2-cubic-foot trunk. The 8.20x15-inch Firestone spare tire stands vertically against the back of the rear seat.
Mr. Hermann was grateful that the previous owner had completed a frame-off restoration.
Almost everything was as good as new or better than new. From headlight to taillight, the side panels are smooth.
The traditional cormorant hood ornament towers over the special front bumpers. In addition the same egg-crate grille motif is carried over into a faux grille on the rear of the car below the trunk lid, incorporating the taillights into the design.
Under the engine hood, which opens from either side, is a two-barrel, dual downdraft, Carter carburetor on top of the big engine that originally drew Mr. Hermann's attention. "This engine is the ultimate refinement of the big straight eight," Mr. Hermann explains. It has an automatic choke.
According to the owner's manual, the 160-horsepower engine provides "Safety Sprint Acceleration." With the overdrive engaged, the engine speed is reduced by 27.8 percent.
Inside the car the manual boasts of "Flite-Glo" instruments and "Comfort-Aire" ventilation along with "Tru-Course" steering.
The dashboard houses the AM radio with four vertical push buttons. Across the face of the dashboard, in what appears to be a continuous strip of chrome, are disguised buttons to activate the lighter, headlights, instrument lights, map light, fog light and heater fan. Ankle level vents are operated by knobs under each end of the dashboard.
The headliner is composed of nine longitudinal panels. At the base of the windshield is a chrome knob that operates the wipers. "They are vacuum wipers, such as they are," Mr. Hermann says. The radio antenna is vacuum-operated.
One feature offered only by Packard was the "Ventalarm." The owner's manual instructed the driver to: "Tell the attendant to fill it up until the whistle stops." Only Packard had a whistling warning in the 20-gallon tank.
The 20-quart cooling system works by air drawn through the radiator by the five-blade, 181/2-inch fan.
Other literature boasts that: "Packard achieves a rare blending of great roominess, lavish appointments and an unbelievable ease of control."
Mr. Hermann subscribes to Packard's claims. "I bought it already done," he says, "I just drive it."
The farthest he has driven it is 300 miles in June to a national Packard meeting in Canandaigua, N.Y. The car performed flawlessly.
Mr. Hermann is vice chairman of the 37th national Packard meeting scheduled during the first week of July next year. His 1948 Packard Custom 8 Touring Sedan will most certainly be there.

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