- The Washington Times - Friday, August 23, 2002

When Judson Fielding came to Charlottesville to visit his sister and her family 50 years ago he always arrived behind the wheel of a luxurious Packard.

These various Packards left a lasting impression on his young nephew Tom Bradley. Unfortunately, by the time the youth was of driving age, Packard had long since departed from the automotive scene.

Consequently, Mr. Bradley's cars from the beginning were always non-Packards. Still, the lingering memory of the elegance of his uncle's cars kept the Packard flame alive.

Almost 40 years later in 1994 an epiphany of sorts occurred at an intersection near Mr. Bradley's home in Springfield, Va. Facing him, as he was stopped at a red traffic light, Mr. Bradley saw a Packard across the street.

The long dormant fire was rekindled.

Once the traffic light changed, Mr. Bradley attempted to chase the Packard , but lost it in traffic.

He excitedly raced home to break the good news to his wife, Betsy, that a Packard must actually live somewhere near their neighborhood. She responded by asking, "What's a Packard?"

A year later, at the same intersection, the very same happenstance occurred; however, there was a happier conclusion the second time.

After chasing down the elusive Packard, a 1940 convertible, Mr. Bradley was encouraged by the owner to join the Packard club, which he did in 1996.

Following a bit of study about Packard history Mr. Bradley decided the Packard for him would be one from the late 1930s or a prewar 1940s model, preferably a convertible.

"I wasn't looking for a trailer queen," Mr. Bradley said, "I wanted a car I could enjoy with my family."

As the summer of 1998 was waning, a 1941 Packard Model 110 convertible coupe was advertised for sale in Gordonsville, Va., near Charlottesville.

Mr. Bradley and his wife drove down to see the car, which had a base price when new of about $1,200. They were surprisingly impressed, so much so that Mr. Bradley arranged a return visit the next weekend. This time he was accompanied by a mechanic who, Mr. Bradley said, "was there to pull a comb through the car."

The Packard proved to be in pretty good condition with a slight miss in the engine that Mr. Bradley hoped could be cured with new spark plugs and new wiring.

On the third autumnal trip he made an offer to buy the convertible, only to learn that another prospective buyer had placed a deposit on the car.

Mr. Bradley was depressed.

The man who placed the deposit suddenly developed health problems and was happy to have his deposit returned.

Mr. Bradley was elated.

In November 1998, he made his fourth trip. This time he purchased the 16-foot, 9-inch-long Packard.

On several of the previous test drives, Mr. Bradley had determined the steering was rather loose and didn't want to drive the 3,260-pound Packard until the steering problem had been corrected.

The owner agreed to deliver the vehicle on the back of a truck to his Springfield home.

Mr. Bradley had a great Thanksgiving in 1998.

Inspecting his new/old car he found the dual spotlights in working order as well as the dual fog lights. As required, each fender was dressed with four bright strips of stainless steel.

A brief foray into its history indicates that it was sold new somewhere in New York. Where the car has been in the intervening half century is a mystery.

The Saratoga tan paint appears to be correct. Under the vacuum-powered black top is a red leather interior along with red sun visors atop a foundation of Chinese red carpeting.

All the red as well as the wood-grained dashboard is accented by the chrome window frames.

The speedometer registers speeds up to 110 mph, which the 245-cubic-inch flathead six-cylinder, 100-horsepower engine is capable of producing.

Upon changing the thick oil Mr. Bradley remembers, "You could have walked on the oil drained out of the crankcase."

Ever since fresh oil was poured into the engine, he said, "It's been a trooper."

The singular drawback to driving the Packard is the claustrophobic top, which dramatically reduces visibility to the rear.

"Looking through the tiny rectangular rear window is like peeking through a porthole," Mr. Bradley notes. Contributing to the blind-side rearward vision is the gracefully curved right-side rearview mirror. "It's totally useless," he concludes, "but it looks great."

Soon after he took possession of his Packard, he realized a quick fix wasn't going to cure the slight miss in the engine.

He took his car to Ross Miller in Pennsylvania who returned the mechanical parts to good health. Since then he has driven his Packard as far afield as the north side of Baltimore. The odometer has recently rolled over 78,000 miles. "We think that's a good figure," Mr. Bradley said.

The 122-inch wheelbase supported by modern tires, which replaced the original 6.50x15-inch rubber, provides a comfortable ride. Mr. Bradley hopes to enjoy that ride a lot more now that his Packard is running like a Packard should.

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