Gear Head Tuesday – Packard Monte Carlo Convertible – About to be reborn!

Gear Head

UPDATE III – Scroll down.

New photos 25 Feb 18

New photos 17 March 18 (scroll down)

Monte Carlo hardtop

On 28 December 2014, we posted “Before Chevrolet’s Monte Carlo, there was the Packard Monte Carlo“.

In that post we detailed the 1948 Packard, converted by coach builder Henney, designer Richard Arbib’s proposal for a Packard two door hardtop. Arbib worked for Henney. He is best known for the Packard Pan American, the show car forerunner of the production ’53 Packard Caribbean.


Richard Arbib designed (and Henney built) the ’52 Pan American which spawned the ’53 Packard Caribbean.

Toward the end of the post about the Monte Carlo, there are two photos of a Monte Carlo convertible, languishing in Houston, TX.

Monte Carlo convertible in Houston

The one-off Monte Carlo convertible in Houston

No one seems to know the origin of the Monte Carlo convertible. The hardtop is the only documented Monte Carlo. Arbib’s design wasn’t put into production as it came too late – the 1951 Packards, which would include the Mayfair hardtop, were well along in development when Arbib’s Monte Carlo was pitched to Packard.

Enter Geoff Hacker of Tampa, Florida – well-known for his work in fiberglass for cars and for his work in restoring one-offs and other auto rarities. Late last week he purchased the Monte Carlo convertible and made a marathon sprint from Houston to Tampa with it. He plans to bring the car back to its glory – and he is certainly capable of doing that.

Monte Carlo Arriving In FL

Now entering Florida!

As a side note for you Kaiser buffs, Geoff also collects and restores Kaisers. In the YouTube clip below, you’ll see a couple of his Kaisers in the background when he is doing the walk-around on the Packard Monte Carlo.

In the 4 minute video below, it is stated that Geoff’s Packard Monte Carlo is an early ’49 (22nd Series) Super Eight convertible. That was an error caused by the difficulty of reading the VIN behind the surface rust on the data plate. At the time he shot the video, we thought the VIN read “2279-9-9182”, which would make it an early ’49 22nd Series car. After the video was made and posted, Geoff discovered that the crucial second 9 is not on the data plate. The correct VIN is “2279-9182” making it a ’48 Super Eight Victoria. Thus it is more contemporary with Arbib’s hardtop Monte Carlo.

Monte Carlo data plate

The difficult-to-read data plate

As written above, the exact origin of the convertible Monte Carlo has yet to be discovered. Geoff reports that the quality of the work on the conversion is very good. Was it done by a dealer? Was it done by Henney? A detail that adds credence  to the theory that the convertible may have been built by Henney are the Monte Carlo badges on the front fenders. They match exactly the badges used on the hardtop. This was no schlock conversion. The question of when it was built (as well as the question of who built it) is heightened by the fact that it wears 23rd Series (’49) taillights.

Monte Carlo script LF

Above: The Monte Carlo scripts are identical to those used on the Henney-built hardtop prototype and would not be easily made outside of a professional operation such as Henney. Below: the Monte Carlo convertible is fitted with the taillights used on the late ’49 23rd Series Packards. Missing from the rear are the “egg crate” rear grills as used on the Custom Super Eights that had been fitted to the car – but will be re-installed in the restoration. They were with the car but not installed.

Monte Carlo rear

An additional proof that the Monte Carlo was built from a ’48 is indicated by the fact that it is a manual transmission car. Packard’s Ultramatic Drive automatic transmission was introduced with the 23rd Series “Golden Anniversary Year” Packards mid-year in 1949. Thus there were manual transmission ’49 Super Eights in both 22nd and 23rd Series, there are no Ultramatic ’48s. “Owen Dyneto” at PackardInfo points out that the ’49 23rd Series Custom Super Eight convertibles had Ultramatic as standard equipment.

Because the convertible Monte Carlo doesn’t have the sheet metal changes that the hardtop has, is it possible that Henney took a convertible, applied the paint and side trim and modified the grille to show Packard that the concept could be executed with virtually no tooling costs? While the convertible wears the same Monte Carlo badges as the hardtop and they are mounted on the sides of the front fenders above the wheel wells as on the hardtop, they are in the white rather than in the color band as on Arbib’s hardtop.

This Monte Carlo has power windows and power seat. Only 47,737  miles show on the odometer. The instrumentation is that of the ’48s.

Monte Carlo Interior PW:PS

Monte Carlo odometer

There is an interesting thread about the Packard Monte Carlos at >>HERE<< which includes updates from Geoff.

While the car is very dirty and has copious amounts of surface rust, there are no places where the body or frame are rusted through. There are no major dents in the body, only some dings here and there. The only missing trim piece is the hood ornament which likely was a cormorant.

Geoff w:Monte Carlo

Monte Carlo LF

Monte Carlo LS

Monte Carlo LR

Monte Carlo interior

Video of the initial clean up of the car after it arrived in Florida (4 min.)

Click to play:

Monte Carlo Update I:

Geoff sent new photos – he installed a set of 4″ whitewalls he had on hand and put all of the hubcaps back on. He discovered that the front wheel wells have been reduced by four inches just as on the Monte Carlo hardtop. This reinforces my thought that this may have been a true “Skunk Works” conversion by Henney or by someone at Henney.

The grille is modified from a Custom Super Eight while retraining the three horizontal bars of the Super Eight. This Monte Carlo got another Custom Super Eight item: the cloisonné hub caps. The hub cap centers on the Super Eights were painted. Photos of a ’48 Super Eight convertible and a ’48 Custom Super Eight convertible are posted below so you can more easily see the differences. The end result of this Monte Carlo convertible is that it is a hybrid between the Super Eight and the Custom Super Eight with the special modifications adapted from the Monte Carlo hardtop adapted to this convertible.

Geoff is well-known in the auto hobby for sleuthing things out, so if anyone can discover the provenance of this car, it is Geoff!

Monte Carlo w:tires:hub caps

Compare the grilles of the Monte Carlo (above) with a ’48 Custom Super Eight and a ’48 Super Eight below. The Monte Carlo grille is a hybrid of the two. Geoff noticed a further difference – there is no opening between the bumper guards in the bumper on either the convertible or the hardtop Monte Carlo while there is an opening in the bumper between the bumper guards on the Custom Super Eight and Super Eights. Curious – even the low price Deluxe Eights have the opening in the bumper. Where did the bumpers used on the Monte Carlos originate? *

“Owen-Dyneto” at PackardInfo answered the bumper question: it was a running change on the regular production Packards.

48 Custom Super Eight


Compare the size of the wheel well openings on the standard issue Custom Super Eight and Super Eight with the wheel well opening size on the Monte Carlo. Geoff discovered that the wheel well has been reduced in height by 4″ as on the Monte Carlo hardtop. The workmanship on the lowering is excellent as shown in the photos below.

Monte Carlo-tire:hubcap detail

Monte Carlo-wheel well detail-1

Monte Carlo wheel well detail 2

Monte Carlo wheelwell detail 3

UPDATE II (from Geoff, 22 February 18):

See attached from October 1992 issue of Collectible Automobile. Hampton Way shared this reference with me tonight. This issue contains a personality profile on Richard Arbib. Great thanks to Alden Jewell for scanning/sharing this article. Alden shared a few observations with me about this tonight as follows:

* This rendering is from 1949 and shows a continuation of the “Monte Carlo” theme for Packard beyond the first 1948 Monte Carlo hardtop.
* This rendering identifies the car as a “Monte Carlo Coupe” – the third version of a Monte Carlo we have now seen (48 hardtop, 48 convertible (with 49 updates), and rendering of a 49 coupe. This spans 1948-1949 designs for this model. The rendering shows a “B” pillar which is different from the 1948 Monte Carlo hardtop which did not have a “B” pillar.
* The 1949 renderings of Arbib’s shows the re-emergence of the 1948 Monte Carlo hardtop fin at the rear of the car. (The convertible does not have fins.)

In summary … two cars built (the 48 hardtop and the convertible I found), a Monte Carlo theme that crosses 2 years (48 and 49), and 3 versions/models of the Packard Monte Carlo sound like a far more significant proposal or effort than previously thought.

Research continues … but we now see that this was a far larger effort by Arbib than has generally been recognized.

Geoff additionally encourages us to compare the differences between the hoods and grilles on the production convertibles above with his Monte Carlo convertible. The convertible’s grille is an interesting hybrid between the Super Eight and Custom Super Eight.

Packard Monte Carlo_Coupe
“Raffi” notes: “Also notice the woman with the ribbed fur. This was a clear visual reference by Arbib to indicate the streamlined trim on the side of the car having more than an industrial connection.”

UPDATE III (from Geoff 25 February 18)

New photos today of the engine number, the Briggs body number plate, the Theft Proof number and photos of how the space for the taillights was filled in from inside the trunk. Regarding the Theft Proof number, what looks like an “I” is actually a “1”. From PackardInfo: “Three different identification numbers may be found on Packards from 1929 and forward. These are the Vehicle Number, the Theft Proof Number, and the Briggs Body Number (1941-1954 only).

Monte Carlo convertibe-Theft_proof:body nos

Above: Theft Proof number stamped on the firewall. What appears to be an “I” is actually a “1” and the “0” may be confused as being an “O” due to the square shapes of the numbers used. The Briggs Body Number is below the Theft Proof number. The president of Packard at the time, George Christopher*, contracted Packard body production to Briggs in 1941, a move that would ultimately have a disastrous effect on Packard when Briggs was purchased by Chrysler. This was one of the many crises that James Nance had to confront when he became president. The quality of the Briggs bodies was not as good as Packard-built bodies had been. Then, in 1953-4, Packard lost Briggs as a supplier when Chrysler purchased Briggs. Chrysler agreed to lease the Briggs Conner Avenue plant in Detroit to Packard.  The move of full production from East Grand Avenue to the former Briggs plant was a big factor in Packard’s failure.

See Stuart Blond’s comment below. Max Gilman was Packard’s president when the decision was made to outsource body production to Briggs.

Monte Carlo Covertible-engine number

Above: the engine number.

Monte Carlo Convertible-tail light fill-in-L

Above: the fill-in for the taillights, left side, from inside the trunk. Below: ditto, but the right side.

Monte Carlo convertible-tail light fill-in R

Update 17 March 18

Geoff has rented a storage space for the Monte Carlo  and has supplied new photos with the car off of the trailer.

Monte Carlo-off trailer-LS

Monte Carlo-off trailer-F

Monte Carlo-off trailer-LR

Monte Carlo-off trailer-Rear

Monte Carlo-off trailer-RR

Monte Carlo-off trailer-RS

Monte Carlo-off trailer-RF

Packard script

Courtesy of “Chris-to-Fear” we continue with photos of old gas stations at
Curbside Classic. Today we see a Carter station in Sturgis, South Dakota. Carter was part of the group of gas and oil companies (like Humble in Texas) that became Exxon. The Exxon logo was designed by Raymond Loewy (scroll down when you click the link).

Carter Gas Station


Add yours →

  1. Dave Brownell 20/02/2018 — 05:28

    Another clue that the Monte Carlo is a 22nd Series, not a 23rd, is the square brake and clutch pedals. 23 Series used oval pads, not square for the 1949 and 1950 cars. In the 24th Series, they returned to the square rubber designs. Having had that hardtop, and with the accompanying convertible, might have kept up the pace with the 1949 Buick and Cadillac hardtop models.

    I remember my uncle proudly showing his new Riviera hardtop, one of the first in town, and my father asking why he called it a “hardtop convertible”? Uncle responded with something to effect that it had all the open air fun of a convertible and none of the bother with caring for a cloth top. Mid-year, Buick switched from the straight stainless side trim to the now-famous Riviera downward sweep for the hardtops only.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. C.S. Marshall 20/02/2018 — 11:12

    Better not let the Low Rider crowd know about another Monte Carlo in the world!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. When I pass or am passed with a truck towing an equiptment trailer with ‘THAT TREASURE’ someone has found I dream of finding one in perfect condition just needing an oil change wash and paint job. LOL I cannot imagine starting from this position and condition.
    I am always amazed at the men and boys capable of re-making art/beauty out of rust and dirt. AMAZING.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Stuart R. Blond 25/02/2018 — 18:41

    At the April 10, 1940 meeting of the Packard Board of Directors, a discussion was held on what was referred to as the “Packard-Briggs program.” $3 million was authorized “…to secure the assistance of the Briggs company in designing a new line of automobiles for our 20th Series cars. The agreement provides that the Briggs Manufacturing Company will do the design work, make sketches, provide a quarter-scale model and furnish us with engineering services for a period of one year at a total cost of $11,088. It is understood that this new car is to be of an advanced design which will place us in an excellent competitive position with popular medium-priced cars. The body and chassis sheet metal engineering, die and tool designing and production will probably be performed by the Briggs company, and the chassis engineering, tool designing and production by our own organization.”
    The new car would be introduced the next year, and would be named “Clipper.” Packard’s President in 1940 (and 1941) was Max Gilman. George Christopher, Packard’s VP-Manufacturing, would not become President until 1942.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Love this stuff. I am on a break not much time between fixes and running to do anything but read. But this is good@!

    From central Florida with my hands full.


    Liked by 1 person

  6. Eric Butler 07/10/2019 — 17:04

    Just fantastic reading, learning. I had an unrestored 1954 Patrician, Orchard Green with a light green broadcloth interior. The exterior top was painted (factory? dealer?) white, which did not lend itself to improving the appearance. The car was wonderful … except for the famed UltraTraumatic transmission. No real problems for me, so damned slow. I sold the car sixteen years ago to a good friend, who still owns it.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. GaryLA Kettas 02/04/2020 — 18:19

    Love your great Packard website!!!! From an old 1948-50 Packard owner fan!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Happy trails to you and Sherry, Jack!


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