Joe B 1923 hand made detrick Packard

When I got to drive a hand made Detrick Packard

I got to drive a hand made Detrick Packard touring car that was one of only three made by the then retired famous Packard designer. All three were custom in a shop he had in his back yard. Each one was made for a famous celebrity client. The one I got to drive was owned and restored by my late Uncle James T. Busby. Research showed that there were only two left in existence (the one owned by a Hollywood female star was destroyed in a fiery crash out in California), one was in a car collection, and the one I got to drive which my daddy's brother found sealed up in a garage he bought which was part of a building he bought for his Chicago, Illinois office.

My uncle was taking some of his business associates from LLoyds of London to a University of Alabama football game in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. As they were planning to tailgate and celebrate before and after the game with a formidable quantity of spirits he was not willing to drive the car himself so he asked me to chauffeur them to the game.

As anyone could imagine I was agreeable and excited to get to drive such a beautiful and classic car. The car was dark blue, had a white convertible top, four doors, a trunk on the back, and an AM radio and hand wind clock that both still worked! the tires were of coarse the expected 20 inch "gangster whitewalls" with two spare tires mounted between the running board and the front fender.

When I arrived at my uncle's house early the morning of the game he and all his guests were each decked out in a what could only be described as a classic Gangster uniform. Each one had a pin striped suit, suspenders, brown (or black) and white two toned wing tipped shoes and a grey or brown fedora. they all had a large cigar in his mouth and at least three in the out side breast pocket of the coat.

When I started to laugh at their outfits my uncle quickly informed me that I needed to go in the house and put on the outfit that they had ready for me. My aunt met me at the door with a double breasted brown suit and a chauffeur's hat to put on. I asked her where her flappers outfit was but she laughed and informed me she had passed on the trip this time.

Once dressed I went back outside to check the fluids and make sure the car was road ready for the trip from Helina, AL to the game in Tuscaloosa. Uncle Jim and his compatriots all agreed that I should put the top down for the trip. It was a little on the cool side in my opinion to make the trip with the top down (I knew I would not have the antifreeze in my system they had already started enjoying) but what weight does the chauffeur have in similar circumstances.

The top down and everything needed for the trip and tailgate party loaded and secured they loaded up with the three of them in the back seat and me the chauffeur up in the front seat alone. I will have to admit their plan to look like a group of gangsters worked very well! Not only when we arrived at the tailgate party before the game but also as we drove to and from the stadium.

The straight eight Packard engine ran like the well designed and restored engine it was. I had no problem cruising down and back from the game on Interstate 20 the total trip being over 120 miles. Interstate 20 at that time between Birmingham and Tuscaloosa was in a sad state of disrepair. I was amazed at how comfortable the ride was in that old a car. However, when I made a comment about it Uncle Jim reminded me of the size of the tires, the long wheel base, and heavy weight the car had. They sure knew how to build them back then. In fact, the only incident we had was when a Alabama State Trooper pulled me over supposedly to check to see if I was licensed and old enough to drive a car (I was in my mid twenties and married at the time). In the end I think what he really wanted was to look and ask questions about the car.

My passengers in their costumes and big cigars in their mouths definitely looked the part they were trying to portray. We all enjoyed watching the reactions of the other car occupants as they passed by almost always either pointing, laughing, blowing their horns,and many did all three.

We all enjoyed showing the car off to the many fans that came by our tailgate location. Most of the lookers, especially the men, would have lots of questions about the car. I can assure you the owner of the car (my uncle) was tickled to oblige all of them.

Since I didn't have a ticket to the game and being a diehard Gator (they were not playing either Florida or any other South Eastern Conference team that day) I was okay with sitting in the car and listening to the game on the radio. Wanting someone to sit in the car and protect it from anyone that might wish to damage it was probably one of the two main objectives my uncle had in the first place when he asked for me to drive the car, him, and his associates to the game.

On the trip back home to Helina all of my passengers went to sleep on me sometime before we made it back to ,y uncle Jim's house. However, that did not diminish my pleasure of driving such a wonderful car. And it confirmation of one of the points I always make when I talk to anyone that restores and drives any classic car. Not only does the owner and/or driver get to enjoy the car but those of us who don't have or can't afford one still get to enjoy them! It is one of the few hobbies that the public gets to enjoy right along with the owner.

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