Two Best of Show Winners : Similar Designs : Same Owner

Two Best of Show Winners : Similar Designs : Same Owner  When these two vehicles won Best of Show honors at major Concours d'Elegance events, they both were owned by Judge Joseph Cassini III. The green colored Chrysler 4 door Phaeton with tan convertible top wears coachwork by LeBaron. In 2012, it won the Best of Show title (for an American car) at the Concours d'Elegance of America at St. Johns. The other car is a Packard 2 door Convertible Victoria with coachwork by Dietrich. It won this years Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance Best of Show honors. These two vehicles have many design similarities, though they were produced by separate manufacturers (and coachbuilders). Both have rear-mounted dual spare tires, low-mounted headlights, split windshields, and similar fender designs. The rear-hinged front doors are another trait both cars have in common.

The Packard 1108 Twelve
The Packard Twelve was built from 1933 to 1939 with over 35,000 examples produced. It is considered by many to be one of the finest automobiles produced by Packard and one of the most significant creations of the Classic Era. Most of the Packard Twelves received factory bodies; only a handful received custom coachwork by such greats as LeBaron and Dietrich.

The Convertible Victoria example has semi-custom features including the distinctive Raymond Dietrich styled teardrop fenders. Dietrich used a Custom Victoria body as a starting point for the design, which was built by Packard as an in-house special.

The Chrysler Custom Imperial
By 1933 the Great Depression had a full grip on the luxury car market. Chrysler was able to sell only 151 cars in its top-of-the-line CL series. This would be the last year for classic styling in the big CL series; Chrysler entered a period of controversial aerodynamic 'Airflow' styling in 1934.

The Five-Passenger Phaeton is believed to be the last example completed. It was the built for Ralph Roberts as a gift for his wife. The car was given several unique features including dual rear-mounted spare tires, a painted radiator, and lower-mounted headlights.

The car remained with the Roberts until the early 1940s. It was later purchased by Bob Harrison of San Francisco. At the time, it still wore its original paint and with all the unique features. A few changes were made over the years by Mr. Harrison, including black paint and a stone guard. It remained in his care until 1960, when it was purchased by fellow San Franciscan Bob Burkholder. The new owner had the top removed and replaced it with a canvas tonneau cover.

Other caretakers for this car have included Mr. Otis Chandler, Joe Morgan, and the Milhouse Collection. It the mid-1990s, the car was awarded the Most Elegant Open award at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance.

The Coachbuilders
LeBaron Inc. has a history that dates back to 1920 when it was formed in New York City by Raymond Dietrich and Thomas Hibbard. A short time later, Ralph Roberts was hired as a partner. Soon, the company was designing bodies for chassis supplied by New York dealers for Rolls-Royce, Mercedes-Benz, Minerva, Fiat, Hispano-Suiza, Packard, Cadillac and Pierce-Arrow (and others).

In 1923, Hibbard left for Europe, where he associated with Howard 'Dutch' Darrin in Hibbard & Darrin. Before the close of the year, the remaining partners of LeBaron were approached by the Bridgeport Body Company of Bridgeport, Connecticut to become design partners, in exchange for stock.

After a favorable meeting between Dietrich and Edsel Ford at the New York Auto Show, the LeBaron Company received a large order from the Lincoln marque. Soon, Lincoln had become LeBaron's best customer. Pleased with the work, Edsel tried to get Dietrich and Roberts to relocate to Detroit. Dietrich was persuaded by the very generous offer and moved to Michigan. Roberts and Stickney, however, remained at Bridgeport. In 1927, Walter Briggs of Briggs Body Company in Detroit approached Roberts with a buyout offer. This time, Roberts accepted the offer and departed for Detroit, where he and LeBaron became an in-house design studio for Briggs.

Dietrich Inc. was founded in 1925 by Raymond H. Dietrich, co-founder of LeBaron.

At the New York Auto Salon, Dietrich had met Edsel Ford. The relationship would prosper into business opportunities for Dietrich. After a prosperous time between Edsel and Dietrich, Edsel wanted to bring the coachbuilding business in-house where it could be better supervised. He encouraged Murray, who was Ford's largest body building firm at the time, to approach Hibbard and Dietrich. Because of the relationship Dietrich had with Briggs, Dietrich decided to sever his business relationships with Briggs and form his own company, Dietrich Inc.

Dietrich Inc. became the design arm of Murray. The elegant designs attracted many prominent customers such as Packard. After 1933, all open Packard's were designed by Dietrich.

The Raymond Dietrich bodied Packards were both influential and stunning. One of the highlights was the Convertible Victoria, with its blind quarters giving them an unsurpassed elegance. Unlike the convertible coupe, the car provided far more versatility with luxurious accommodations for up to four. The bodystyle was available from 1932 through 1934. They were unique in many respects, offering special 'wind-split' trim, a redesigned dash intended to accommodate an optional built-in radio and several chassis enhancements.

For 1934, the hood was extended back over the cowl to the base of the windshield in an unbroken line from the radiator to the main body. This resulted in a much longer hood than that of the earlier cars. The vent doors were curved, as were the leading edges of the doors. Exact numbers are not known, but it is believed that as few as three and as many as four or five Style 4072 Dietrich Convertible Victorias may have been built on the Packard Model 1008 chassis
The Briggs Company was a major body supplier for the newly formed Chrysler Corporation. The recent purchase of LeBaron allowed Briggs an opportunity to provide an upscale series of designs.

In 1953, Chrysler bought out Briggs and the LeBaron name was part of the purchase. The name has been used by Chrysler on certain prestige models ever since.

The Similarities
Perhaps the most striking feature of these two vehicles is the removal of the side spare tires to the rear, thus giving it a clean and undisturbed appearance from front-to-back. The Dietrich designs are evident throughout both vehicles with the two-door Convertible Victoria having a slightly more sporty flare while the 4 door Phaeton appearing (slightly) more formal.

The Chrysler has a 146-inch wheelbase platform and measures nearly 204-inches in length. The Packard has a 147 inch wheelbase. The 7.3-liter V12 engine found in the Packard offers 160 horsepower while the 6.3-liter straight-8 found in the Chrysler is rated at 125 horsepower.posted on


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