I Built This Car - or -
Peter Portugal picked through a pile of Packard parts
The Evolution of Automobile Design
At the dawn of the automobile era the focus was on
building reliable transportation. Parts such as the
frame, engine, hood, and body were connected to one
another without much attention to how they related
to each other visually. Additional parts, such as
headlights, taillight, etc. were attached as needed.
By 1912 coachbuilders like Frenchman Jean Henri-Labourdette
were developing aerodynamic designs for race cars.
His "torpedo" designs blended the hood into
the cowl and continued back to a point.He chose wood
(Mahogany) for the body to save weight and put a natural
finish on it because he liked the look. This shape
became known as a boat tail and by the mid 20's was
dominating the race track. Much like the spoilers
found on today's passenger cars, this race car concept
made its way into mainstream automobile design. By
the 30's manufacturers such as Dusenberg, Auburn,
Rolls-Royce, and Packard to name a few, were building
production boat tail speedsters that were the forefathers
of the modern sports car. This 1926 Packard is an
example of the one-off designs that converted a production
sedan into a sports roadster. It was this type of
independent design that led the way for the production
boat tails of the 30's.
I am an artist who loves cars and have been building
Packards for Carl Schneider for a number of years.
We cut up production sedans and built concept cars
that the Packard company had talked about making but
never did. One of these sold for $375,000, another
went up to $950,000 at the Kruse auction in 2005.
They have been shown at Pebble Beach and Meadow Brook.
I converted a 1928 Packard touring car into a european
style dual cowl phaeton. It can be seen in the background
in the "in progress" shots of the 1926 boat
tail. I also recreated a 1929 one-off Packard boat
tail speedster that had been built by the TRW company
for Lieut. J. R. Glasscock using dimensions scaled
from old photographs. It is a great car with a hot
Packard straight 8. The down side of that car is that
the tires, brakes and steering are not safe at the
speeds the car is capable of. That thought, along
with a pile of left over Packard parts, led me to
the creation of this 1926 Packard boat tail speedster
hot rod. It is a car that captures an important part
of automobile history, is at home in an art galley,
and is really fast.