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Lot 234

1938 Packard Eight Cabriolet by Graber

  • Chassis no. 1601-2039
  • Engine no. A311499A

Sold for $1,760,000


Series 1601. 110 bhp, 282 cu. in. inline eight-cylinder engine, three-speed selective synchromesh manual transmission, independent front suspension, solid axle rear suspension with semi-elliptical leaf springs, and four-wheel hydraulic brakes. Wheelbase: 127 in.

  • The 1938 Geneva Auto Salon car
  • Stunning one-off Swiss coachwork
  • Exceptional Steve Babinsky restoration
  • A Best in Class winner at the 2011 Pebble Beach Concours
  • The most beautiful “junior” Packard ever built


Packard had a roaring export business for much of its history, as it was one of the few American automobiles that enjoyed the same prestige in Europe as in its home country. Much of the Packards exported were sold as rolling chassis and then custom-bodied once they reached their destinations. Some of the most beautiful of these were crafted by Hermann Graber, the renowned carrossier of Bern, who is perhaps the most famous and highly regarded of all Swiss coachbuilders. Graber was renowned for the beautiful, solid construction of his bodies, as well as for a surprising range that ran from elegant formal cars to one-off curvaceous showstoppers.

THE GRABER CABRIOLET

This 1938 Packard, a 127-inch wheelbase “junior” Eight, is among the latter. It was bodied by Graber for the 1938 Geneva Auto Salon, and its body virtually duplicates, albeit to a smaller scale, one built for a Model J Duesenberg, number J-246. The body was ahead of its time, as the lines include sweeping French-inspired pontoon fenders with fully skirted rear wheels and a single tailfin dropping down the rear deck lid. The hood is covered in dozens of small louvers, and beautiful hints of chrome trim appear everywhere.

For many years, the spectacular Packard was lost to most authorities; that is, until it was miraculously uncovered in the early 21st century. The car had been plucked by well-known Swiss enthusiast Erich Traber from an old cinderblock garage, where it had resided for decades. Traber had reportedly spent 20 years pursuing the Packard before finally succeeding in purchasing it.

This Cabriolet, still in unrestored condition, down to the years of dust, was taken to the 2010 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, where it was shown in the Prewar Preservation class. Steve Babinsky, the respected Lebanon, New Jersey-based restorer who has long been involved in that class, described it as being in “good original condition, including its original interior; a car that was just ‘on the edge’ of being too original to restore. The paint was a little tired but the interior not so bad.”

Following Pebble Beach, Mr. Traber sold the Packard to Paul and Chris Andrews, who took it to Mr. Babinsky’s shop for restoration. The car had originally been white, as it was shown at Geneva, but it had worn the present shade of dark green for many years. The decision to restore the car in green was made after the restorers began to take it apart and found dark green under all of the upholstery and weatherstripping. This indicated that “the car had been shown white but probably not delivered in white; Graber probably repainted it for the original owner.”

As a solid original car, it took only a year to return this Packard to as near its original condition as possible. The body was repainted in that beautiful, rich, almost black shade of deep green, and it featured chrome wheel covers that were surrounded by blackwall tires and a snug-fitting beige canvas top. The interior, in rich olivine green, is tight, fresh, and stunning.

It is no surprise that this has been one of the Andrews’s favorite automobiles and a much-admired car by judges as well. It won Best in Class at the Pebble Beach Concours in 2011, followed by a 100-point First Primary score at the 2012 CCCA Annual Meeting. It is ready to stun more judges in continued competition as the sleek, sexy automobile that it is—the best-looking and most sensuous junior Packard ever built.

Please contact our exclusive automotive transportation partner, Reliable Carriers, for a shipping quote or any other information on the transport of this vehicle.

Alexander Weaver

aweaver@rmsothebys.com

+1 864 313 6844
California, United States

Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

asabatie-garat@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 74 1511 4179
United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

Barney Ruprecht

bruprecht@rmsothebys.com

+1 203 912 7168
Ontario, Canada

Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 911. Barney l... read more

David Swig

dswig@rmsothebys.com

+1 415 302 2247
California, United States

David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. David is a life-long automobile enthusi... read more

Don Rose

drose@rmsothebys.com

+1 617 513 0388
United States

Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould

dgould@rmsothebys.com

+1 954 566 2209
Florida, United States

Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff

gduff@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

Jake Auerbach

jauerbach@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

Kurt Forry

kforry@rmsothebys.com

+1 717 623 1638
California, United States

Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut

mmalamut@rmsothebys.com

+1 805 231 6410
California, United States

A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire

msquire@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Michael Squire joined RM Sotheby’s European Division in the summer of 2016. He comes to RM with a prestigious racing background ... read more

Mike Fairbairn

mfairbairn@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin

ocamelin@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 75 0110 7447
United Kingdom

With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill

pdarvill@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher

pfisher@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 784 9300
Ontario, Canada

Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. ... read more

Shelby Myers

smyers@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden

tvandervelden@rmsothebys.com

+31 653 84 19 60
United Kingdom

Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more