Car of the Week: 1930 Packard 733

Stunning in red! This 1930 Packard 733 is as good as it gets.
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Car of the Week 2020
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Love affairs with cars can start in some unlikely places. For Paul Kammann, it started on a hunting trip more than 50 years ago while he was out communing with Mother Nature.

“It was back in about 1970, maybe. I was out hunting around Madison, Wis., and I came through a woods and there was an old frame of a car sitting in the woods,” chuckles Kammann, a retired resident of rural Cleveland, Wis., “And I said, ‘I wonder what that was?’ And I started walking around that car and there was a brass axle cap nut on there, and in the center was an octagon indentation, which is a Packard trademark. So I did steal that hubcap and I still have it.

“And then of course I started learning about them and reading about them and how special they were. But I didn’t buy that first one until 2009, so that’s a lot of years that I waited before I scratched that itch. But that’s where it all started, out hunting in the woods!”

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Kammann has a wonderful collection of cars these days that first started with a lovely black Packard 1934 Model 1100 sedan. But things really took after that when he came across a second Packard — a truly spectacular red 1930 733 five-passenger coupe. Kammann had no idea one morning when he headed off to a nearby car show that he was going to need to clear some more storage room for another Classic car.

“It was about two years after I bought the black one… And we were at a car show with the ’34 and a fella came up to me and said he knew where there was a Packard for sale within 40 miles of us here,” Kammann recounted. “And I said, ‘Well, geez, I’d like to see it.’ So we went over there and it was just drop-dead gorgeous! And the fella had lost his job and had medical bills and was really anxious to sell it, and I’ve never, ever regretted buying that car. I just couldn’t pass up a car like that.

“Before I bought it, I talked to Alan Strong down in Illinois. He’s a big Packard collector down in the central part of the state. And he came back and told me, ‘That car is so over-restored!’ Every bolt on that car is made of stainless steel. Even the lug nuts are stainless. Nothing but the finest way of doing something. I have no idea how much money he had in it, but he took a heck of a loss. But he was up against it, I guess, and needed to sell it.”

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After doing some more homework on the history of his ’30, Kammann discovered that somehow the car had spent much of its life semi-abandoned and waiting to be re-discovered and restored. At least one previous owner had good intentions, but the car spent perhaps 50 years in mothballs before finally getting a worthy restoration and being returned to the road.

“From what I understand, it was originally sold out of the Twin Cities and that family owned it until the end of World War II and by that time it was pretty well wore out,” Kammann said. “It had been painted once in a lacquer black with a brush. And a fella came home from [World War II] and bought the car and planned to restore it. And all he did was rip out the interior, which was in pretty good shape, and then it all stopped. He never wound up finishing it. It just sat. Then finally the guy I bought it from bought it about 15 years ago now. And then he actually dove into it and restored it. It had been sitting a long time. The interior was out of it and he had damaged it, so they wound up finding a guy to put in a new interior.

“It had been sitting maybe since World War II; a long time.”

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1930: DARK CLOUDS AHEAD

The Packard Eight line had long since established itself as a benchmark luxury car line by the time the Packard 1930 models started rolling off assembly lines. The Eight was launched in 1924 and helped carry the company through some rough times up until 1936.

The 1930 cars were already in production, of course, when Wall Street crashed in late 1929, but Packard soldiered on without initially making any radical changes, hoping that that the economic hard times gripping the nation would be short-lived. With that, the company again offered a wonderful variety of fine machines in five tiers as part of its new Seventh Series: Standard Eight (726 and 733); Speedster Eight (734); Custom Eight (740) and Deluxe Eight (745).

There were 38 different Packards in all for 1930, ranging in price and prestige from a Standard Series sedan at $2,375 all the way up to a Deluxe Eight limousine at $5,350; Packards with custom-built bodies or part of the new Speedster series were even priced higher.

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The 726 and 733 lines were part of the Standard Eight series and included 10 different body styles, including the two-door, four-passenger 733 coupe base priced at about $2,675. A single 726 sedan body style was offered on a 127-inch chassis; all other Standard Eights were 733 models riding a 134.5-inch chassis. Both the 726 and 733 rode chassis that were one inch longer than the previous year.

The fender line on the ‘30s was slightly different than previous years. The Standard Eight hood had louvered vents, and an accessory three-door hood was available that resembled the higher-end Packards. Horsepower remained at 90 units for the 319.2-cid L-head eight, which was mated to a new four-speed manual gearbox. Other notable upgrades included a new water pump with two fan belts and thermostatically controlled radiator shutters.

Four-wheel mechanical drum brakes did the stopping and a Bijur chassis lubrication system was part of the luxury car trappings. The running gear included solid front and rear axles and semi-elliptical springs on both the front and rear.

Other standard features for the Standard Eight included a rear-mounted spare tire; disc wheels; and fender-mounted parking lamps. Model year production for all Seventh Series 1930 Packards finished at a little over 36,000 cars.

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RAVISHING IN RED

Kammann says there was a small issue with the lubrication system that he had to figure out when he first brought home his 733, and he had some vapor lock problems initially, but both problems were short-lived. “You could drive it 10 minutes and it would stop and you’d have to cool down and wait 10 minutes,” he says. “In the end we just turned up the fuel pressure a little bit…. But the seals held and I’ve never had the car vapor lock again. There are always little things like that with every car you work on — some little trick that you learn.”

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The body and exterior bells and whistles on Kammann’s ’30 can confuse people who aren’t familiar with its dress-up kit, which was a dealer-installed package that makes the car resemble cars that succeeded it. “That dress-up kit, that came out because in 1930 Packard built a total of 36,000 cars, 1930 models, and of course they started building those in the summer of ’29 and they didn’t know about the crash coming. Once it happened, they thought [the economy] would come back and they kept on building. But after they had built all of those, they realized nobody is buying anything! So this car sat for two years in the dealer’s showroom. Either nobody had any money or nobody was willing to spend any money. So Packard had to get that inventory out of there so they could start selling new cars.

Kammann added, “So they came out with what they called the dress-up kit. The ‘30s came with a flat radiator shell and in ’32 they had a like a Vee’d shell, so Packard came up with a shell that would fit on those ‘30s and make them look like a newer style. And part of the kit was the big deluxe headlights with the green cats-eye on the back to let you know they were on. And they had the big running lights. It was all dealer installed. The dealers put that radiator shell on, and they changed the hood… And another thing they did was bring the horns out from under the hood and up front for a little more chrome and splash. Dealers also swapped out the four-spoke steering wheel for a three-spoke unit and added a second tail light in back."

Kammann’s ’30 also has the optional hood with the doors instead of louvers to give it the look of the more expensive 1930 Packard 740 and 745 models.

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After sitting for decades in a state of partial disassembly, Kammann’s 733 has certainly come full circle. The stunning red coupe looks freshly restored even a decade after it was completed, and it runs every bit as good as it looks, Kammann insists. 

“When I’m at car shows with a Packard and I leave, I have to be careful I don’t run somebody over because they do not hear me coming!” he laughs. “I was at a show one time and a guy was there looking at the car and we got to talking for quite a while, and then he just stayed there. So I went back to him and asked him if there was something else he wanted and he said, ‘I just want to hear it run.’ I said, ‘It’s been running the whole time we’ve been talking!’ He just about fell over, but that’s the way they are. I mean, they’ve got nine main bearings on that crank shaft and there is nothing moving that doesn’t belong moving. You can barely hear them run.”

Steering and maneuvering around obstacles takes plenty of experience to master, however. Kammann makes sure to plan ahead when he’s staking out a spot at a car show or plotting his arrival or exit. 

“The steering wheel, boy, it takes a man to crank that thing. If you’re not moving, that’s got 20-inch tires on it, if you are on blacktop you’ve really got to be moving,” he noted. “It’s a job to turn that steering wheel on there. It’s not quite as bad on gravel. And they’ve got a long wheelbase, so it takes room to get around. You just try to avoid getting in a corner someplace where you can’t get out.”

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Kammann joked that the “granny” first gear on the 733 does not get used much, but it bailed him out at least once. 

“I was at a car show one time and I was on grass and it had rained and I was in a bit of a wet spot, and it was a little downhill, and I was glad I had that low gear to pull myself up and out of there. There was another guy parked next to me with a Stutz and he got stuck and they had six guys pushing on him, and he spun the tires and threw dirt all over the place.”

Kammann keeps his collector cars in a barn he converted into his personal old car oasis. It’s heated and air-conditioned and ridiculously neat and tidy. He handles his trio of Packards with kid gloves — none more carefully than the ’30, the senior member of the fleet.

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“I was gonna be happy with one, and then the red one fell into my lap. I couldn’t walk away from a car like that. It was so right, all the way,” he says almost apologetically.

“They’ll probably bury me in it. I just can’t get myself to part with a car like that.”

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SHOW US YOUR WHEELS!

If you’ve got an old car you love, we want to hear about it. Email us at oldcars@aimmedia.com

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