Erik Fuller ©2018, courtesy of RM Sotheby’s
  • Offered from the Joseph and Margie Cassini Collection
  • Best of Show, 2013 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance
  • Best of Show, 2016 Concours d’Elegance of America at St. John’s
  • Poster Car, 2015 Elegance at Hershey
  • The world’s most beautiful Individual Custom Packard
  • A unique factory show car with stunning LeBaron-style fenders
  • A Dietrich Packard of peerless significance and allure

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1934 Packard Twelve
Years Produced:1934
Number Produced:Four
Original List Price:$6,060 (over $14,000 as delivered)
SCM Valuation:$3,687,500
Tune Up Cost:$2,000
Chassis Number Location:Patent plate on firewall
Engine Number Location:Left side of crankcase
Club Info:The Packard Club
Alternatives:1934 Packard 1108 dual-cowl sport phaeton by LeBaron, 1934 Packard 1106 sport coupe, 1933 Packard 1107 “Car of the Dome”
Investment Grade:A

This car, Lot 131, sold for $3,745,000, including buyer’s premium, at RM Sotheby’s auction at the Monterey Conference Center in Monterey, CA, on August 24, 2018.

There are Packards, and then there are Individual Custom Packards by Dietrich — the epitome of custom coachwork.

The relationship between Packard and Raymond Dietrich is rather convoluted, with the name applied to various models designed by Dietrich and built by Dietrich Inc. even after he had left the firm. To make things even more confusing, there are Dietrich body tags on later-model Packards that he had absolutely nothing at all to do with, including the One Twenty.

The Dietrich cars

Raymond Dietrich was a talented designer who began his career at Brewster. That’s where he met fellow designer Tom Hibbard. The two of them went on to form LeBaron Carrossiers, where they designed custom and semi-custom bodies for wealthy individuals and the major manufacturers of the day.

Shortly after Hibbard left to join Dutch Darrin in Paris, Murray Body Company — a major Ford body supplier — attempted to buy LeBaron. Edsel Ford was looking at acquiring Dietrich designs for Lincoln. Dietrich declined the offer, but he was offered a 50% ownership position with a new design firm, Dietrich Inc., with Murray owning the balance.

All went well until business faltered in late 1930. In September of that year, Ray Dietrich was let go from the firm that bore his name. He continued as an independent designer and often served as a consultant to Packard. In 1932, he became head of design at Chrysler.

Meanwhile, in late 1929, Packard hired independent designer Count Alexis de Sakhnoffsky to update its Dietrich designs. On the 1934 1108s, Sakhnoffsky eliminated the sidemount spare tire, raked the windshield and created a “false hood” by extending it almost to the windshield, making the 147-inch wheelbase appear even longer.

Special car, colorful history

This striking 1934 Packard Twelve Individual Custom Convertible Victoria, besides probably having the world’s longest name for an automobile, was one of four constructed on the 147-inch 1108 wheelbase. It was powered by Packard’s 473-ci V12. The body was built by Dietrich Inc. and incorporated the Sakhnoffsky design modifications. It also featured rear-hinged or “suicide” doors. The fenders are similar to a LeBaron design and may have been built by the Packard Custom shop.

The four Victorias were considered semi-customs and were priced at $6,080. With the stylish fenders, integrated luggage compartment, dual rear-mounted spares and a few other styling touches, it became a one-off Full Custom that had a reported price tag of close to $14,000 — a small fortune in the era.

This unique Packard became part of the “Traveling Salon,” a selection of special cars that made appearances at auto shows throughout the country. Selling expensive custom cars as the country was in the grasp of the Great Depression was not an easy task, and Packard’s efforts were focused on the new lower-cost One Twenty.

A flamboyant attorney in Puerto Rico who had a number of one-off automobiles bought this car. When he died, the Packard suffered the indignity of being repainted red and yellow and was placed in service as a taxi cab. In the early ’60s, it was found abandoned and subsequently returned to the United States.

It passed through the hands of several well-known early collectors and restorers before being acquired by Superior Court Judge Joseph and Margie Cassini, who are known for their exquisite taste in automobiles. They commissioned RM Auto Restoration to complete the restoration. It took a reported 14,000 hours to return it to its former glory. With an hourly rate in excess of $100, the bill was certainly staggering.

The road to Best of Show

That is the type of commitment, however, that is necessary to contend for the coveted Best of Show at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. The Cassinis won that distinguished award with this car in 2013. They went on to win several additional Best of Show and Best in Class awards before offering the custom Packard at RM Sotheby’s August auction.

In the Market Report on the auction, I stated the car was properly sold at $3,745,000. Upon further research, I have to contradict myself. Why? Because Gooding & Company, at their August 2015 sale in Pebble Beach, sold an 1108 sedan for $3,630,000 (SCM# 266315), and earlier in 2015, RM Auctions sold an 1108 coupe for $4,180,000 (SCM# 265059).

This is a more desirable Packard than those two cars, and with the Pebble Beach award in the back seat, it sits at the head of the class. For the money spent, this was definitely well bought. ♦

(Introductory description courtesy of RM Sotheby’s.)

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