Digital Exhibition: Christine Wolff
Name: Christine Wolff
I was just four years old in 1958 when my grandparents purchased a well-used (and mostly worn-out) 1941 Packard LeBaron Sport Brougham from a private individual for $200. Meant to be a “retirement project” for grandpa, they drove it around St. Louis, Missouri for a few years before putting it into storage in their garage.
And it sat there - for a very long time.
When the garage roof collapsed after an unusually heavy snowfall one winter, my father decided to rescue the badly deteriorated and damaged car. He took title to it on October 9, 1974, and had it moved to our home in New Jersey so he could restore it himself.
At that time, I was away for my second year at college.
A full restoration began in 1976 at Hibernia Auto Restorations with Robert Turnquist, and in 1982 it went to Doug Hull of Hullco-Layton Garage. My father did much of the work himself, as college tuitions left little money for the Packard. It was a long time in progress, and both of my grandparents passed away before its completion.
Finally, in October 1990, it was ready for showing and made its debut at the Antique Automobile Club of America’s Eastern Division National Fall Meet in Hershey, Pennsylvania. It won a 1st Place Junior Award in Class 19-E and went on to win it’s Senior Award there the following year.
I had moved to Colorado by then, so I never saw the Packard except in pictures.
Over the years the car won many awards, including a “Magnum Opus” honor in 1999 at the Packard Motor Car Company Centennial Car Show sponsored by the Packard Museum in Warren, Ohio. Much to his credit, my father drove the car to every event he attended.
Dad passed away in 2011. Knowing how much this car meant to him, I purchased it from the estate, hoping to keep it in the family.
Having never even been inside it, I was able to spend a desperate and extremely stressful hour with Doug Hull, learning the bare minimum so I could drive it out to the highway where the transporter bringing it to Colorado waited.
It has been quite a journey for me, learning about an automotive heirloom that’s now been in our family for 60 years. However, I think the most amazing part of the story relates to a strange, unexplained childhood memory I had: being in an enclosure behind the front seat on the floor of a car. How could this memory possibly be real: I would've been a toddler. So, I believed it to be false and mostly forgot about it.
While sorting through the Packard files left by my father,
I discovered an old community newspaper clipping about a small car show in their neighborhood. In it, my mother was interviewed as a spectator, and she is quoted as saying:
“Years ago, we owned a 1938 Packard. I used to put a playpen in the back for the baby and go off for the day.”
WOW! That “baby” was ME!!
Not only was this a shocking revelation that my strange memory was indeed real, but at 65 years old there's another Packard in my life, and this time, I’m behind the steering wheel!
Cars really do connect people; often across generations and sometimes in unexpected ways that amaze.