This 1948 Packard Custom 8 is built on a 148" wheelbase, and is about as big as cars ever got. Most people would call it a limousine, but the factory called it a sedan for 8 passengers because they distinguished between the owner-driver car and the professionally driven car. The true limousine had the same body, but was fitted with a partition window between the driver and passenger compartment, a fixed bench seat, and leather upholstery in the front for more durability to the frequently exiting and entering chauffeur, who was expected to assist with packages and open doors for the passengers. The owner-driver car was considered more comfortable with the wool upholstered adjustable front seat. I suppose that the professional driver was just supposed to fit, however uncomfortably, in the fixed leather bench seat supplied by the factory.

The car is powered by a huge straight-8 356 cubic inch engine, and surprisingly lacks the overdrive unit that was normally fitted to all Custom 8 models, suggesting that the car was only intended to be driven about town. There were no freeways around Boston in 1948.

The 1848 Packard was neglected by collectors for many years, because many models were considered to overstuffed-looking; they were too tall and short for the approaching longer-lower-wider era. But the rare Custom 8 cars of 1948 had a 6" longer hood than most models, and the limousine variants, stretched 21 inches to the rear, had handsome proportions that enhanced the liquid and flowing lines of the car, suggesting smoothness and speed. These cars make most other limousine models by any manufacturer look too long and stretched out. Consider the contemporary Lincoln stretch jobs you see everywhere today.

Only about 100 of these long-wheelbase cars were made during 3 years of production, and far fewer survive today. I particularly like the way the fender line is continuous from front to rear, but in most kinds of light the sheet metal picks up sky reflections to give the appearance of separate front and rear fenders. And long sheet-metal lines produce the appearance of elegant smoothness and power. Recall that just 10 years previously, cars were square boxes with chunky fenders and running-boards!

A Salem, Massachusetts native remembers the car from his youth. It was owned by a doctor and rarely driven except to church on Sunday morning. And every Sunday morning all the neighborhood kids would gather to watch the doctor back the big Packard out of its garage to curbside for loading, and then off to church.


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