- - Thursday, April 6, 2006

In the not too distant past Randy Judkins owned a yellow convertible, a 1948 Pontiac. Sadly that car is history but its owner retains fond memories of the car.

Like many federal civil service employees, when retirement came he followed the sun to warmer climes only to discover that the sun can be too hot and too bright. Besides, he says, “I like the antique car club culture in the Washington area.”

Once he had moved back to the area he began a search for an antique car, which lead him to Sam’s Auto Show in Allentown, Pa. There he went in May 2004 to inspect a 1954 Pontiac. Although the car was complete, it was in need of a lot of care and, frankly, proved to be a disappointment.

The next day, in Mannheim, Pa., an enormous antique car auction was planned, so Mr. Judkins said he would see what was available there before deciding on the 1954 Pontiac. The next day Mr. Judkins was looking over the cars when he came across the same dealer he had talked with the day before. This day he had a few more cars on hand, including a 1952 Packard Mayfair, a yellow convertible.

Perhaps it’s because of that 1948 Pontiac he used to own, but for some reason Mr. Judkins has a mindset that equates antique automobiles with ones that are yellow and convertibles.

He bought the car on the spot and then wondered how he was going to get it to his Woodbridge home. He found a truck driver who after the auction was going to be hauling a few cars farther south. He agreed, if Mr. Judkins didn’t live too far off Interstate-95, to deliver the Packard.

Four days later the telephone call came from the truck driver who was in the commuter parking lot just off I-95 in Woodbridge. Mr. Judkins raced out the door and to the parking lot where the truck driver had unloaded his 2-ton Packard. It looked better than ever and the 327-cubic-inch straight-eight engine even started.

“It was a real pa-chugger,” Mr. Judkins recalls. “I was afraid to shut it off until I got home.”

A careful inspection revealed several things on the car that needed attention. Several members of the Packard club suggested he take his Packard to Ross Miller’s Speedwell Garage, Inc. in Parkton, Md. Once there the brakes received long-overdue attention, as did the automatic transmission, cooling and electrical systems.

Unlike modern cars, the transmission shift pattern, from the left is: Park - Neutral - High - Low - Reverse.

Cosmetically, a refurbished maroon dashboard was installed along with a new tan vinyl convertible top.

The top, with a plastic rear window, was not functioning, Mr. Judkins explains. “I fixed the hydraulic top myself,” he says with pride, adding that the problems only involved a few seals. The top works properly once the single handle above the rearview mirror is turned.

Although the car is only a “junior” Packard, Mr. Judkins admires his well-trimmed 17-foot, 8.75-inch-long car with its chrome window frames, spotlight and three chrome louvers on each rear fender. “They look pretty,” he says admiringly.

Research shows that Mr. Judkin’s Packard is one of 1,133 such models manufactured, and sold with a base price of $3,476.

The red wheels are wrapped with 7.00x15-inch white sidewall tires with tubes that support the car on a 122-inch wheelbase.

Fluid capacities are 7 quarts of oil, 20 quarts of coolant and 20 gallons of gasoline. With the L-head engine running smoothly, it delivers 150 horsepower and, according to Mr. Judkins, “approximately 10 miles per gallon.

On the valance between the trunk lid and the rear bumper are a pair of backup lights. On a massive piece of chrome mounted on the rear bumper between the bumper guards is the light to illuminate the license plate.

While seated behind the two-spoke steering wheel in the 6½-foot-wide Packard, Mr. Judkins, by stretching, can barely reach the glove compartment drawer at the right end of the dashboard.

That’s correct, the glove compartment is a drawer that conveniently slides open. That’s not the only convenient feature the Packard has to offer including — a tip as to the era in which it was built — four ashtrays.

A veteran antique automobile owner like Mr. Judkins realizes that the car is never done. There’s always something that needs adjusting or a part that could be improved but with good weather upon us, it’s time to put the top down and go cruising in his yellow convertible.


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