This Packard 343 (Chassis No. 223084) left the Detroit plant as a bare chassis destined to be fitted with luxurious custom coachwork. In the late 1920s, factory-bodied open cars were still touring cars and the intricacies of constructing the more sophisticated convertible sedans were left to experienced custom coachbuilders. This car made the journey to the famed workshop of Walter M. Murphy Co. of Pasadena, California.
Designed by the legendary W. Everett Miller, the convertible sedan was a specialty of the innovative coachbuilders, and its remarkably thin "clear-vision" cast-brass pillars were a hallmark of the company. The refined, center-hinged doors match in shape, and on each opening end there are curves corresponding to the cowl and the top. This creates a handsome symmetry that is in keeping with the unbroken, horizontal emphasis of the design.
The luxurious coachwork boasts a myriad of lovely details, from the solid rosewood running boards with open step gates, through discreet door handles that blend with the design, to a full windshield for the rear passengers, mounted on the rear of the front seat. It was further outfitted with a radiator stone guard, the first year that such a feature was offered, and it also is equipped with the combined "Goddess of Speed" mascot and motometer, one of the last years that this fascinating item was available.
The Murphy-built trunk fits the lines of the car perfectly and, when combined with the optional dual rear-mounted spares, it serves to visually lengthen the already long and narrow design. There were only three Packard 343s ever fitted with this majestic coachwork, and it is believed that this car is the only surviving example.
The completed car was delivered to Carl Henderson's Packard City in Santa Monica, California, on April 16, 1927. The Fairbank family, famous in Canada's petroleum industry, paid $9,200 for the coachbuilt Packard and collected the car from Riverside. Evidently, the car remained in the Fairbanks' possession for many years. In the mid-1960s, the Murphy-Bodied Packard came to the attention of Phil Hill of Santa Monica, who recognized the distinguishing qualities immediately.
In its heyday, Hill & Vaughn was widely regarded as the world's finest restoration shop. The combination of expertise, acumen and reputation that Phil Hill and Ken Vaughn brought to the business attracted the finest examples on which they could work their magic, and their efforts were awarded innumerable honors at concours. At an early age, Mr. Hill cultivated a strong affection for the Packard marque. His aunt's unbelievably original and highly personalized 1918 Packard Town Car occupied the family's garage from the time that Mr. Hill was a boy. The exceedingly rare Murphy convertible sedan was a car Mr. Hill could not ignore, and in 1967, he purchased the car out of Windsor, Ontario, from Robert Fairbank, the son of the original owner.
Although initial work began in the late 1960s, with so many ongoing projects and so much research yet to be done, the restoration did not really begin until the mid-1970s. Work schedules from 1976 indicate that Hill & Vaughn's two original partners, Phil Hill, Ken Vaughn and their first employee, Bob Mosier, executed the vast majority of the restoration work. However, as the Packard was Mr. Hill's personal car, he went to great lengths to ensure the highest quality, greatest attention to detail and authenticity.
The color scheme received serious consideration, but the final decision to paint the car in this exotic combination came after a trip to Harrah's Automobile Collection. It was there that Mr. Hill discovered a highly original seventh-series Packard that was referred to as the "Lilac Car". After seeing this car, he decided to go with the same purple and lavender color scheme that was, as it turns out, an original Packard color combination. The interior was meticulously restored to the exacting standards of a Murphy convertible sedan.
Once fine-tuning and detailing had been done, the Packard was ready to show, and the car made its debut at the 1977 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance. With this Packard, Phil Hill earned his second Best of Show trophy. It had been 22 years since the restoration of his aunt's 1931 Pierce-Arrow had earned him his previous Best of Show honor, and this was a major accomplishment considering the growth in size and prestige of the Pebble Beach Concours since the 1950s. Since being restored, the purple Packard has resided in the Hill garage in Santa Monica, less than a mile from where it was originally delivered in 1927.
In 2009 the car was sold at the Gooding & Company Pebble Beach Auctions for $627,000.-
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