“Packard Truck Dave” has been sharing with us his passion for Packard trucks. Part One >>HERE<<. Part Two >>HERE<<
ALSO see the story of the Packard truck rescued in Serbia
Today’s concluding post has more detail of the restoration of
the Packard truck in Serbia
Serbian Army Packard truck on display in Belgrade
Continued from last week:
While all the above was happening with the active restoration of the 1918 and 1919 taking place, I was sitting at home one evening in 2007 and out of the wild blue my home phone rang – and the caller was from Serbia. I was a bit suspicious as my last investment with a rich Nigerian prince with a huge financial gift for me had gone poorly (p.s. – joke….), however this call was legitimate. The fellow, Vojin Sevic from Belgrade, Serbia was calling me on behalf of his good friend Sait Hadzic. Sait did not speak English and Vojin was fluent in English.
Vojin asked me if I was the individual who owned three Packard trucks. I replied in the positive and Vojin popped the question ” Would I allow him to come over from Serbia to visit & to take pictures of my Packard trucks?” Without consulting my wife Joan (a beginners mistake (I have learned over time that -sometimes- forgiveness is easier than permission ) I said “Sure, no problem. We have extra rooms so you can stay with us!” After the call, Joan asked me about our upcoming visitor – and I explained that Serbia was previously known as Yugoslavia and was a communist country. Joan’s eyes went buggy – so I assured her that if our visitor liked old trucks, he was OK in my book. I am not sure Joan fully agreed with me at the time…….
With Vojin’s arrival, I learned that his good friend Sait Hadzic back in Belgrade had acquired a worn out and badly rusted WW-I Packard Army truck and needed direction as to how to go about the restoration. The provenance or ‘pedigree’ of the Packard was that it was given to the Serbian Army just after World War One ended. Many Packard trucks were ordered by foreign governments. In 1915, Packard sold more trucks than cars. Apparently Sait’s Packard passed through numerous owners before becoming his prized unrestored vehicle. Vojin brought pictures of the Packard – and yes, it needed much. Not to mention, the truck needed a really thick wallet to finance the restoration process.
At this time, Vojin and I were standing in my building with my Packard trucks and my Packard truck parts. I guess it was fair to say that Vojin looked in awe at the assemblage of truck parts I had in one corner of my building. (Bear in mind, NONE of these parts are new – they are all dirty/rusty/grease covered pieces I saved from the numerous Packard trucks that I had parted out over the years)
Along with the pictures, Vojin produced a list of parts that Sait definitely said he really needed or were missing entirely from his truck (like the original brass carburetor, etc., not to mention a bad engine). As Vojin rattled off the sorely needed items, I replied with each statement “Yes, I have one.” After Vojin did his reading, he then popped the question “Would you sell us what we need for the Packard?” I took a moment to reply, and stared into Vojin’s look of anticipation I replied “Heavens, no. I could never sell you the parts.” As I saw the look of total dejection rapidly creep across Vojin’s face, I followed up with the following statement – “No, I will definitely not sell you the parts, but yes, you may have them – whatever you need.”
A strange look came across Vojin’s face (like when you talk to someone who has not the slightest idea of what you just told them) – and Vojin cocked his head to one side and an apparent overwhelmed look of total disbelief replaced his previous expression. “Tell you what” I said. “Here’s the deal, I’ll assemble all the parts you have on your list. I’ll crate ’em up and the parts will sit right behind this overhead door on pallets. They will be ‘Free On Board’, York Springs.” I then said. “From that point on, you take over, you get a truck with a lift gate here, load ’em and then figure how the heck you’re going to get all this junk to Belgrade.”
I think my reply really, really surprised Vojin – but what was actually going through my mind was Vojin’s friend Sait would most likely never be able to find all the parts he’d need. And – I thought maybe it was just the right thing to do. Over the years I’ve had many, many the pleasure of Sait being able to restore his Packard Army truck…..
Vojin left America a very pleased visitor, flew back to Belgrade and just a short time after Vojin’s departure, a box truck with a lift gate showed up and loaded the Packard truck parts – to be off to Serbia. Following that, I periodically emailed Vojin and occasionally communicated by email with Sait who was determined to master the English language. The years went by and in 2010 I had a brain storm! (well, not a real brain storm as that would require a brain) I would invite Vojin and Sait to come over to the USA for the Hershey Fall Meet, they could stay with us and I could pick them up at the airport, bring them to our home where they would be comfortable and we had room for them. Ultimately I received their answer – Yes! – they would come!
I picked them up at Harrisburg International Airport, brought them to our home in York Springs, just above Gettysburg. Sait and Vojin were gracious guests and thoroughly enjoyed Hershey. I did not think it unusual when after Vojin, Sait & I returned from Hershey at 5 pm the first day, Sait went right to bed.
While at Hershey, Sait fell in love with an original 1927 Hudson ‘Super Six’ sedan in the Car Corral and bought it.
The following day after a stint at Hershey trudging through the flea markets, I took Sait & Vojin down to my building with the Packard trucks and parts and through Vojin, offered Sait any Packard truck part he saw to take back for his Packard in Serbia. Sait gave me the virtually identical look that Vojin had given me some three years earlier – and after just a little bit of initial interpretation, a large smile appeared across Sait’s face each time he selected a part he could use for his truck. We stuffed the parts (there were a lot smaller items than Vojin selected in 2007) in an old locker that fit perfectly in the back of the Hudson. Vojin and Sait returned to Serbia, the Hudson got picked up by a freight forwarder. Following Hershey we stayed in touch by email. I received periodic progress reports from Belgrade and I was very pleased.
In 2013 I received a pleasantly surprising – no – an outright shocking phone call from Vojin. Vojin told me that Sait wanted to restore and send me a car! I had the choice of either an East German made Trabant or a Yugoslavian made Zastava 750. I had read years ago about the Trabant – a 2-cycle car that few East Germans could afford under communist rule. It had a Duroplast body – made from fiberglass and waste textile product. It is best described as ‘A car that gave Communism a bad name’. The Trabant always smoked like a US Navy destroyer laying down a smoke screen to hide behind. The Trabant was a no-go.
My Zastava in the restoration shop in Serbia
Now the other choice was essentially a Fiat 600 made under license in Yugoslavia for 30 years! Not exactly a power house with a 25 horse power engine, the car, a Zastava 750 had the nick name of ‘Fica’ or ‘City Car’ in Yugoslavia. I wisely chose the Zastava and was thrilled when it arrived in 2014. A good friend, the late Dave English went up to New Jersey and picked it up with his enclosed trailer and pickup at Horseless Carriage Carriers warehouse in Paterson, NJ. Frank Malatesta owns HCC and at his advice, he suggested I have the Zastava forwarded by Fromm America from the pier at NYC to Horseless Carriage Carriers in New Jersey. Owner Mark Fromm was awesome as he facilitated me NOT having to claim the Zastava at the NYC piers!
My Zastava arrives in the U.S.
I have since entered the Zastava in the AACA Hershey Fall Meet in 2015 where the Zastava earned a ‘First Junior’ award – in 2017 the Zastava won a ‘Senior’ award again at Hershey. The car was gorgeously restored to probably better than new from the factory & I am immensely proud of owning it. My 1979 Zastava is also the only Zastava registered in Pennsylvania. Getting it registered was a three month challenging experience but eventually Penn DOT agreed to it being titled and allowed it to have a PA antique license plate. The issue at hand was that there was no such car as a Zastava listed on Penn DOT’s computers, hence the car did not exist. I proved ’em wrong!
This story all but ends on a sad note – Sait finished his Packard truck in April of 2014 but sadly died the next month from his long term battle with leukemia. Sati was in remission for his visit to my home/Hershey in 2010 – that was the reason Sait went directly to bed at 5 pm after his first day at the Hershey Fall Meet. Only shortly before I was told of having a car restored for me and sent from Serbia did I learn that Sait owned a high end antique vehicle restoration business in Belgrade – HAKOS, Inc. Website: http://www.oldcars2.com/en/ Sait is pictured next to a Mercedes Benz convertible as you open the website.
I thought it fitting in 2017 to have Sait’s son Sasha and his wife Branka come over for the Hershey Fall Meet, stay with us and drive the Zastava his father restored onto the Hershey Fall Meet show field on October 7, 2017. With a great deal of pride, and I am sure with tears in his eyes, Sasha and Branka not only drove the Zastava onto the show field, but later learned that the Zastava won the top coveted award for it’s class, a ‘Senior’ award! I could not have asked for more.
Serbian Packard truck – first showing after restoration
Above: 1911 Packard fire truck, Detroit
Above: 1918 Packard truck; Below: 1919 Packard truck
“Made in Detroit for Detroit”: Packard truck and Motor Truck Body Co.
Vintage Kodachrome Snapshots: Gas Stations of the 50s and 60s
Dressed in their Sunday finery, in Dentom, NC. The car is an early ’50s Oldsmobile.