The beautiful, Canadian-born Packard 120 Sport Coupe
If Ed Krupinski’s gorgeous 1935 Packard 120 Sport Coupe had been built in the automaker’s sprawling 3.5-million square-foot Detroit plant, it wouldn’t be singularly unique. But Krupinski’s 120 is a Canadian Packard, produced in a small Windsor, Ontario, factory that operated from 1931 until it was converted to wartime production in 1939.
That makes the car special. Krupinski says only three Canadian-built 120 Sport Coupes are registered with an online Packard owner’s club.
Packard hoped the 120 would save the automaker at a time when luxury brands were disappearing at a fearsome rate. From 1924 to 1930, Packard’s hand-built automobiles had outsold all other luxury marques worldwide, but its business model wasn’t sustainable in the economic climate of the 1930s. With rapidly declining sales, the company turned to mass production and introduced the moderately-priced 120. Built using modern techniques on dedicated assembly lines, the 120 could be produced for far less money than a Senior Packard—the company’s premium model. Since assembly-line production was a new undertaking for Packard, old plants had to be remade or new plants had to be built. That made the 120 a natural for a foray into Canadian manufacturing.
Priced right around $1,000, the 120 was expensive compared to a $600 Ford or Chevy, but it was a huge bargain compared to top-of-the-line Packards that sold for more than three times as much. The 120 was moderately ticketed, but it was an attractive car, and because it resembled the Senior Packards, it was considered an exceptional buy. What’s more, its engineering didn’t take a backseat to any other Packard. With a contemporary look, independent front suspension, and hydraulic brakes, it was an automotive tour de force, and for a time, Packard sold as many 120s as it could produce, over 24,000 in total for 1935. The majority of those were sedans, and only a small percentage were built in Canada; it’s likely that only a handful were Sport Coupes.
Canadian Packards were truly products of Canada. According to the Canadian Auto Trader of January 1937, the tires were manufactured in Canada, as was the upholstery fabric. The glass was made in England, but it was laminated in Canada. The radiator cores and headlamps were Canadian in origin, as were the carpeting, lacquer paint, and brakes. Other Canadian-sourced parts included front and rear springs, wheels, hub covers, mufflers, body hardware, and more. The engines were assembled in Canada with many locally sourced parts.
Krupinski’s car was built in Windsor and delivered on June 13, 1935 by Packard dealer G.W. Edwards. Its early history is incomplete, but the car was probably driven in the Windsor area for much of its life. It was subsequently purchased by a Packard enthusiast in Red Deer, Alberta. That owner sold it to a collector in Troy, Michigan, who four years ago showed it at the Packard Proving Grounds in Rochester, Michigan. Krupinski saw the car and fell in love. He asked the owner to let him know if he ever decided to sell it. Earlier this year, he got that call. Krupinski wanted to take a test drive before making the deal, but it was January.
“I told the seller I didn’t think it was a good idea to test drive a collectible car on a winter day in Detroit,” Krupinski recalled. “But the guy said, ‘The street is dry, let’s do it.’ So I drove it for about half an hour in frigid weather. No heater and windows fogging up, but it ran great. I was smitten.
To fund the purchase, Krupinski sold a ’65 Mustang that he had owned for 40 years. Now that’s true love.
A life-long car enthusiast, Krupinski has become a dedicated Packard fanatic. He wears a Packard watch that was Hamilton produced for the automaker in 1927. He has probed the depths of Detroit’s huge crumbling Packard plant with an adventurous group of urban spelunkers. And he’s a regular at the shows that are occasionally held at Packard’s once-busy proving grounds, where his car draws a crowd despite the presence of million-dollar Packard classics.
The appeal of the pretty 120 Sport Coupe is testament to both the intelligence of Packard’s 1930s market strategy and Krupinski’s good taste. Built in Canada but conceived in Detroit, this Packard is truly world-class.