When we first introduced Adlai Pennington on these pages, we discovered a classic car collector who pursued the hobby somewhat differently than any of the others we’ve written about in our more than 100 car stories.
Readers may recall that his passion was to find rare, unmodified, unaltered, and unrestored vehicles and keep them just as they were when added to his collection of 20-plus unique models. Doing so means that he can say with confidence, “there’s not another one out there like this.”
If he was to enter any of them in competition, his would be in the “survivor” or “preservation” class. Some may even be called a “rust bucket” and there’s a good chance the one we are looking at here could have fallen into that forlorn category, except for one thing.
Unpredictably, Adlai decided to restore this end-of-the-era, 1956 Packard Four Hundred.
“A guy who knows the kind of cars I like called me up and asked if I wanted this one. Sight unseen, I said I would take it. He brought it over on the back of a truck. It was an awful mess of rust and overall deterioration; the wheels were locked up, so it wouldn’t roll off. I wondered how he got it onto the truck.
“The only solution was to back the truck up to the edge of my creek bank, hook the car to a backhoe, and pull it off onto the ground. And there it sat for a very long time until I got the idea that it may be time to bring it back to life – if such a result would even be possible.”
To start the venture, he found a specialist who could restore the rusted exterior parts of the body and make it ready for paint. And that’s where the project stands today – if you look no closer than the outside of the car, it appears to be the correct Packard color scheme and a nice example of one of the last of its kind.
However, the internal condition, as dramatically revealed on the preceding page, is another story. “I’m going to get the interior restored, “Adlai explains, “and then see what needs to be done under the hood to get her running again!”
While that sounds like a good plan, a great deal of work lies ahead (to state the obvious), as everything from the frame up, including the floor itself, is going to have to be replaced before seats, upholstery, carpet, and the other finishes required to make the inside as nice as the outside.
And, as daunting as it may seem, there’s a mechanic out there somewhere who can get that big 4-stroke, 374 V8 engine running, and Adlai will find just the expert he needs.
When he will have something different, while still unique as the last of the true Packard line of a pre-depression, pre-war brand that once was generally considered the finest American-made automobile on the market.
That will also ensure no one will call it a “rust bucket,” and it can proudly compete with other restored classics at any car show. He can, as well, show it off cruising around town and sharing it with car lovers everywhere.
Adlai promised to let me know when it was all finished so I could bring this story to a conclusion. So, we’ll provide some “after photos” of this 66-year old project to compare with those featured in our story this month.