CC reader Norm forwarded me an e-mail with pictures and just a bit of info on this splendid 1937 Packard motorhome. Why wasn’t this in my driveway on Christmas morning with a big red ribbon and bow?
Let’s take a little walk-around and really savor this gem. According to the e-mail I got, this was the only one built. But there’s at least one other one with the exact same motorhome body, that was for sale a couple of years ago, and was shown here. That one is a 1935; these were obviously built by a small-scale builder of motorhomes.
There was a market for them. In 1972, on my hitchhike up the coast of California, I ran into a guy who had a somewhat similar motorhome built on a 1936 Ford truck chassis parked right next to the cove in Mendocino. He told me he had picked it up from a movie studio storage lot for peanuts, and had been used by a popular star in Western movies in the late 30s and 40s, whose name I have forgotten. It was used when they were shooting out in the desert. He showed me the inside; how I lusted over that motorhome, and what I wouldn’t have given for that instead of hitchhiking.
The owners bought this for $16,000 about a year ago, after sitting for many years. It’s got some fine patina, and the new owners buffed it and clear-coated it, preserving the glow of what almost looks like oiled brass or so.
The engine need just a bit of work before firing up and running. This rig has about 40,000 miles on it. This appears to be the series 1502 Super Eight, which had the long 139″ wheelbase (possibly lengthened) and used for commercial cars as well as the Super Eight 7-passenger touring car and sedan. And the engine would be the “big” 320 CID straight eight, a legendary and massive thing weighing some 1000 lbs. It was rated at 135 hp. Torque? Sufficient.
I’m assuming this is some sort of turn signal/trafficator, but I could be wrong.
Let’s step inside.
All the comforts of home, except a bathroom. Those generally didn’t appear in RVs until after the war or in the 50s.
The spice rack has what looks to be period-correct tins. I’m guessing they probably don’t get actual use anymore.
Here’s the tail. The 1937 California plates add the right touch of authenticity.
Oh good; they left the key inside. Color me gone…
Sweet looking motorhome. I’ve seen Packard cars, but I’ve never seen a Packard motorhome. Sweet. 🙂
Badass should be in a museum I ran into a guy a while back said he seen one a long time ago.puts the value about a million dollars. congratulations.
Omg how special!!
Just when you thing you’ve seen it all. Amazing!
Amazing find. In addition to the spice containers, the vintage racquetball racquet and shotgun are great details in the interior.
My first thought upon seeing the roof was that the car looks like it was specially coachbuilt for the Coneheads.
Pretty sure that is a fish net, not a racquetball racquet.
Even has the original 1937 Packard cup holder 🙂
The link to the 1935 one has some interesting comments on where the earlier, unrestored one might have originated. Speculation is that it was custom ordered by a guy named Earl Anthony who was, evidently, the sole distributor of Packards in all of post-WWII California.
Then, someone else noticed that the windows are very similar to that of buses of the same time frame. So, the best guess is it (and probably this restored 1937 version) were built by a bus company on a Packard commercial chassis.
I also like how this is referred to as a ‘housecar’ as opposed to ‘motorhome’.
This is really cool. These old motorhomes are simply fascinating. The lack of air conditioning would rule this out for any trip involving the Mrs. Do they make 6 volt air conditioning units for one of the windows? 🙂 Actually, a motorhome in the era of the 6 volt electrical system would have been interesting to live with. No wonder there are lanterns hanging over the bed.
Beautiful! It says “class” without having to say anything at all.
It’s a beauty. Reminds me of the 1928 Pierce Arrow Housecar that made it to the 100th Anniversary Celebration in Buffalo that I attended in 1978. I believe the attached photo is of that truck, which resides in the RV Hall of Fame Museum in Elkhart, Indiana. Check out the rear platform… perfect for Herbert Hoover to speechify from.
Love the view through the windshield… note at what appears to be a first generation white Mustang with contemporary cheap dollar store plastic wheel covers. That really “hurts”.
Note on the cup holder. Those are almost “antique” now.
That Mustang also looks like someone has stuck a side marker light on the quarter panel too. I remember they sold working and fake aftermarket marker lights in the late ’60’s after new cars came out with them.
Love the Packard. If I remember correctly, Packard was the first manufacturer to offer factory air, but it was a couple of years after this one was made.
That’s wonderful! It’s homey with the spirit of the frontier, outrageous and classic all at once. I love that they had the presence of mind to keep the rubbed through paint, resulting in a beautiful tortoise shell look.
Packards from that era are quite common in Napier I see em every day in town motorhome versions an unknown but I like it lots.
“Ask the man who sleeps in one” LOL
I am wondering about the lights in the motor home. Such as the two above the rear window. I wonder if those are gas lamps and are running off propane?
I dunno… looks too much like a hearse for really big people..
I’m curious as to who the builder was. I doubt it was Henney (of Freeport, IL), who built hearses, ambulances and limos almost exclusively on Packard chassis until their demise in 1954.
Go through to the Barnfinds link in the article. One of the commenters (David) thinks the one featured there might have been built by LA-based bus and fire-engine builder Crown Coach.
What a wonderfully preserved artifact from that pre-war era, unique! Perhaps they should have selected another color rather than black, does look a bit too hearse-like.
I saw this very same unusual vehicle in Torrance, CA about a year ago parked on the street with a couple of guys poking around under the hood. As I walked up to it I recognized it as a Packard but never saw anything like it and just had to ask about its history. The man told me it was a custom built job and only one made. He bought it and restored it and got it running after years of non-operation.
Anyway, I asked what was wrong and the man explained they were tightening up a hose and adjusting the timing. Took a couple of minutues to get the engine to start but once running it purred like a sewing machine.
It’s only 5 years older than I am and I am surprised I haven’t seen one before. On a Packard chassis I don’t remember any at all. Really a nice find.
Not quite the same thing but the tv network GET-TV has been running the Boston Blackie serials and I was surprised to see so many Packards as taxis.
Needs a Packard built Merlin under the hood 🙂
Looks like it was converted from a hearse or ambulance. Interior looks like a vintage motor boat. Definately not a vehicle you see everyday,must be a rare bird.
It’s hard to pick one thing, but I think my favorite detail is the glass shifter knob.
I think that glass shifter knob is actually a door knob. My grandmother had those on her interior doors in her house. A classy touch !! Bet that house car turns a lot of heads on the road, and the owner gets a lot of questions at stops.
Agreed, that looks like a cut glass doorknob. The interior doors of my apartment (built 1926) have that style of knob. Unique, and a nice touch!
This bears a passing resemblance to the high-headroom 1937 Cadillac Ambulance, custom built by Meteor for the Detroit Fire Department as a gift from Fire Commissioner Paxton Mendelsson. I’d be willing to bet a professional car coachbuilder put this Packard together. Maybe Meteor, or more likely Henney, although there’s no record in McPherson’s books on both firms.
Is this what Banacek uses on his out-of-town jobs?
“Why wasn’t this in my driveway on Christmas morning with a big red ribbon and bow?”
Because it was supposed to be on mine?;-)
Beautiful, streamlined “housecar”! The lines of the body work well with the Packard sheetmetal. Very classy, and functional too. Does look like it could use some extra ventilation though–bet it gets hot in there in the summer!
On the outboard lights — they might be turn signals, but it occurs to me they might also be auxiliary lights. Don’t some states require additional marker lights for vehicles that are over 80 inches wide? (I don’t know how wide the cabin is, but it looks like it might well be more than 80 inches.)
Amazing! There is always something old/new to learn more about automotive heritage.
I’ve heard about it and man I wish I had it cause like this is the best antique motorhome that could ever please me and every packard is pretty rare and super hard to find so yeah this is pretty cool looking and that amount of hp sounds quite good for the 30’s cause man I’ve seen cars with only 70 hp and a motorhome wow thats quite nice.
WOW!!! That is AWESOME! Never saw one before. Yes it should be in a museum.
thanks for sharing