Peter Portugal - Automobile Design and Fabrication
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The Design and Fabrication of a Custom Car
This photo essay shows how I take vintage car parts and create a unique design.
This 1926 Packard started as a leftover cowl. Using the cowl as a foundation I created a new design for this boat tail speedster.
1 - The original 1926 Packard cowl. I made the cowl wider and removed the vent. The straight flat windshield was replaced with a curved slanted windshield.
2 - This shows the basic layout of the body. In a very rough stage. The car in the background became the black and red dual cowl Sportster in the gallery (1928 Packard).
3 - Laying out the frame under the new car’s body
4 - Shaping the wooden buck that is the form for the rear fenders
5 – Shaping the metal over the buck
6 – Shaping the boat tail
7 – Door frame construction
8 – Mock up of the rear deck
9 – Wooden joinery in the rear deck frame
10 – Gluing up the rear deck panel
11 – The first look at how all the parts fit together
12 – The artist with car in progress

The completed car.

Why 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.

© Peter Portugal 2007
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