- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Paul Delaney Jr. recalls with affection those halcyon days after World War II when he and his father would drive to Florida Avenue and Seventh Street Northwest in the family Packard to see the Washington Senators play baseball in Griffith Stadium.

After a few years, the 1948 Packard Custom 8 Club Sedan was traded for a newer Packard, but the memories lingered.

In the spring of 1985 an adult Mr. Delaney learned of a 1948 Packard for sale in suburban Maryland. When he discovered that it was not a convertible, he lost interest. His interest was piqued once he found that it was an identical model to the one his father had owned.

He took one look at the 17-foot, 8.5-inch-long black Packard and had to open the door. The aroma of the interior smelled the same as his father’s Packard. “I sat in the car and it took me back to my childhood,” Mr. Delaney says.

Next came one of those irrational, “I’ve got to have it,” moments.

“I believe a doctor in D.C. was the original owner,” he says.

A few days later, he returned to take possession of the Packard. He was driving it home to Alexandria when the magnificent car sputtered to a stop. With the help of some pedestrians, it was pushed to a nearby service station where the gasoline filter was found to be clogged. It was an easy fix and that has proven to be the most trouble Mr. Delaney has encountered in the 20 years that he has owned the car.

The 4,110-pound Packard rides on a 127-inch wheelbase. The heavy car is powered by a remarkably huge — for the era — 356-cubic-inch straight-eight-cylinder engine, that Mr. Delaney says was the most powerful in the industry.

Inside the long engine is a 104-pound crankshaft with nine main bearings. “It is overengineered and understressed to an incredible degree,” Mr. Delaney says.

The base price was also amazing — $3,700.

“It was the most sophisticated car on the road in 1948,” Mr. Delaney says. The designers were so confidant of its status and recognizability that the name “Packard” never appears on the car. “It’s just so smooth,” Mr. Delaney says. “On the highway it’s so composed.”

The packard features:

• Fliteglow instruments.

• Comfort-Aire ventilation.

• Tru-Course steering.

Luxurious accommodations are found from one end of the car to the other, including an engine hood that opens from either side or can be removed altogether. At the other end of the car is a 20-gallon gas tank equipped with a Ventalarm that whistles when the tank is nearly full, alerting the attendant to avoid unsightly spills.

A fifth shock absorber mounted in front of the rear axle between the 4.5-foot-long leaf springs damps out any side thrusts. Packard claimed a 22.5-foot turning radius for the big car.

“Nobody ever got a car more right than that,” Mr. Delaney says of his Packard. “It is so refined.”

By 1993 Mr. Delaney decided the Packard deserved to be restored. He was able to find the tan shadowcloth upholstery material, as well as the rubber-backed carpeting that was supposed to feel as if driver and passengers were walking on moss.

Details were not ignored, including the pearwood side panels and the leather trim at the bottom of the seats. “They spent so much time on details getting things right, that it is amazing,” Mr. Delaney says.

The restoration was completed in 1995 and, although 18 colors were available on 1948 Packards, Mr. Delaney opted for authenticity and had the car painted in the original hue.

The original glass is still in place and the view of the cormorant hood ornament from the front seat is framed by chrome-plated window frames.

Pressing the accelerator to the floor activates the starter and gets the 7 quarts of oil and the 20 quarts of coolant flowing.

Though the 160-horsepower engine was the largest in the industry, the car was among the heaviest. Mr. Delaney went shopping for some authentic 1948 speed equipment. In Hershey, Pa., where he found an Edmunds intake manifold. He found a matching high-compression head in Omaha.

A twin to the original two-barrel downdraft Carter carburetor was added along with a dual-point ignition system and a slightly larger exhaust pipe.

Mr. Delaney has been told that the horsepower rating has been boosted to 220.

Despite the speed equipment, Mr. Delaney says, “It idles at a whisper and cruises effortlessly at 90 mph.”

He adds that the overdrive unit reduces the engine speed by 28 percent. The servo-hydraulic brakes are up to the task of reining in the big Packard.

As Mr. Delaney’s Packard approaches 62,000 miles, he looks upon the beautifully restored car, he says, “as a memorial to my Dad.”

In that regard, with the home-field opening day of the Washington Nationals only a fortnight away, he has plans — weather permitting. He would like to take his son, Paul Delaney III, and his grandson, Paul Delaney IV, to the ball park in a Packard just like his father’s.

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