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1939 Packard 120 Sedan

"Ask the man who owns... None!"

September 1, 2009 - The sedan has been sitting outside for over a year and a half - and the brakes were locking up enough that I had to drag it out of the neighbor's garage last time I moved it.  Fast forward to to now - the sedan needed to be moved from the driveway into the buyer's trailer.  So I cleaned the plugs and points, and charged up the battery.  Amazingly, the car fired right up last night, and after two small primes of gas was sucking gas from her tank and running steady, and the brakes didn't drag.  It seems that the rings had freed up as well, for while there was a little smoke, there was nothing like the Saturn 5 simulation she'd done before.  She was just as cooperative today when the buyer showed up, and drove up into his trailer with only a couple of sticking brake issues.  While the coupe's departure brought only a sigh of relief, the sedan caused a brief sigh.  I'd actually driven this one around some, and it was a car to me - the coupe was never more than a pile of parts.  We got most of the remaining parts in the trailer and truck, though a few are still in the garage waiting for him to come back with a utility trailer later this month.  The amount of room freed up is amazing - and I haven't even gotten all the parts gone!
August 27, 2009 - I finally admitted defeat and have sold both Packards in a package deal that will not even return 2/3rds of the considerable cash I have put into the project, but it serves me right.  The coupe was just too big a project for me, and I should have realized it from the start.  The coupe is going to be restored by a man in my AACA group who has worked on Packards before, and the sedan will eventually find its way to someone who wants to fix it up as well.  Everything goes - every scrap of paper, every spare parts, every bit of literature.  It's going to free up an incredible amount of space in both the garages, as well as the house!
February 3, 2008 - Wow!  How time flies when you are...  have I been having fun?  In any case, I have NOT been paying attention to the Packard, which has been patiently waiting in my neighbor's garage for over a year.  Rather amazingly, she fired up with minimal fuss after 14 months sitting idle.  The brakes are hanging up in reverse, most likely from sitting so long.   I ended up pulling her out of the garage and down the driveway with the truck, but she drove back up into my new driveway to the double parking pad I had put in specifically for the sedan under her own power.  The intent is that having the sedan out in the open and readily accessible will spur me to get going on the coupe.  We'll see how that works out. 
December 3, 2006 - Winter is finally starting to rear it's chilly head, and I decided I needed to rearrange cars so the Jeepster could get inside.  Which meant relocating the Packard sedan to the neighbor's garage. Once again, the old girl fired up pretty easily even after almost 6 months.  However, even though I let the car warm up, she died the moment I let out the clutch to back up and refused to restart.  Over the next couple of hours, I cleaned the plugs, cleaned and regapped the points, rigged up a new coil, and verified spark and fuel multiple times.  I gave up and let her sit for a while, then came back and gave her one more try - and she fired right up.  This time I got her moved to the neighbor's garage with no problems.  I have no idea what was wrong.  It wasn't flooded, was getting spark and gas, and had a strong battery.  Oh, well - she's moved now and I can see about clearing some work space in my nightmare of a garage.
June 26, 2006 - Geeze - and I thought the 1939 Coupe had been neglected!  The sedan has been sitting idle since September of last year,  I started her up tonight - didn't even have to charge the battery!  That's pretty good for 9 months of no attention at all.
September 5, 2005 - All these months and not much has changed - comparing photos, about all that looks different is the neighbor's car!   That's because I haven't touched the car until today, when I rolled it out to get the Coupe outside for the first time in close to 2 years.  On the plus side, she fired up and ran pretty good for having been sitting so long.  I took her to the gas station and put a few gallons in - I have no idea how much is in the tank, but some high test never hurts.

The sedan is a really nice car - wish I had the funds to restore it.  However, I am at least keeping it intact and running - when I get the coupe far enough along that I can part with the 'puzzle boxtop' reference, someone will get a great driver or restoration project.

February 15, 2005 - Well, it took me more than 3 months to find my way to the gas station, but I finally got the Packard fueled up and running again tonight.  The points were closed up a bit, so I reset them to the proper .017 and gave them a quick buff.  And I made sure the battery was strong by putting it on charge a couple of days ago.  She started up pretty quickly, but there's a definite miss in the cylinder that has stuck or broken rings.  Still, it's nice to have the old girl running again.
October 31, 2004 - Even though I have decided to sell the sedan, I don't want to it to be a problem car for the next owner.  So I bought good hood parts to replace those I stole for the coupe.  The hood panels I have are restorable, but sprung and damaged - the replacements will make the restoration easier.  I ran the car out of gas when I was running it the other night - I plan to put more gas in her and drive her around the block.  All I have to do to make her drivable is hook the brake lights up - she's been licensed and insured for two years!
October 28, 2004 - It is close to a year since my last update on this - and to be honest, not a thing has been done on the car.  The poor old girl has sat patiently in the garage, not even started in months.  Tonight I actually cranked her over.  After putting a dribble of gas in the carb, she fired right up and ran very nicely indeed.  The car has new brakes, new tires, and is licensed and insured.  Yet the extent of my use has been to drive it ONE time around the block.  Pretty terrible.  I will try to do better with her as I renew my Packard Coupe project.
January 3, 2004 - I took the fuel pump apart - it is all in good shape.  Good thing, as the rebuild kit was something of a rip-off.  You have to get the old diaphragm rods pressed apart at a machine shop!  Oh, well.  Everything cleaned up great and went back on.  Got the car running again tonight.  The smoking problem seems to come and go - always a small amount, but the heavy stuff varies.  Could be a stuck ring.  Just driving the car may make a big difference.  The hoses have all been replaced now, and I flushed and cleaned the cooling system and put in fresh antifreeze.  I am going to try to take her to Merritt Horne's tomorrow - a friend in the car club with a 1940 Packard. 
December 23, 2003 - The voltage regulator was the problem - the car is starting and holding a charge fine now.  Of course, the 65 year-old fuel pump has decided it has done enough, and started leaking.  Happily, I foresaw this and bought a new (not NOS) fuel pump rebuild kit at Hershey last year.  So when I get time (If not tomorrow night, it will have to wait until after Xmas), I'll pull it and rebuild it.  I need to replace the radiator and heater hoses, and put in fresh antifreeze.  With a little luck, that will get me on the road with her.  I keep saying that, I know, but this time it looks very, very close.
December 20, 2003 - Work continues to be a zoo - had to work today, but still managed to spend most of the evening in the garage.  I tracked down the electrical problem to a stuck armature on the voltage regulator.  A little cleaning of the points and she seems to be working properly now.  No spark from the cable when I have the ignition off, and the system is charging fine.  I also fixed a problem with the accelerator linkage - the freeze plug I was using to seal the hole in the firewall was hitting it - guess I need to come up with a different filler.  I need to replace some more wiring under the hood - some of the primary leads to the voltage regulator and generator are bare wire.
December 17, 2003 - The Packard LIVES!  I put the hood back together tonight and put the new battery in- the 'old' one had gone bad sitting since last December.  Cranked her over without priming the carb and she started up with no trouble!  Smoking really bad, though.  Could be a stuck ring.  The big test came when I put her in gear - the car has not moved under its own power since 1959.  Amazingly, the clutch is smooth and full, and the car eased back with no trouble.  The new brakes are good, though the pedal is still soft.  It looked like I was spraying for mosquitoes - the car disappeared in its own cloud.  But I backed her out onto the street and took her around the block.  The suspension is soft, but not bad.  The steering is tight and easy, the transmission shifts smoothly and has no slop at all, and there is no noise from transmission or rear axle at all!  The engine pulls smooth and strong.  I parked her and cleaned out the spot for the 39 120 Coupe which returns home tomorrow after a year and a half of paint and body work.  Then I took her around the block one more time before putting her away - this time she barely smoked at all!  There are still some minor problems to sort out, but the car is incredibly good for a machine that has been idle for 44 years!
November 25, 2003 - Chip came over and we bled out the brakes properly this time - have a good pedal now.  The battery is dead - I need to find the electrical short.  The car will charge once it is running, so it has to be something minor.  I have the hood center panel fixed, and now need to get the upper side panel hinge bent back down from where it sprung.  Once that is done, I can put the hood back together and the car will be pretty much driveable!
November 19, 2003 - The brake system ended up needing more than a bleeding - the front crossover line to the right side had a pinhole, and I had to make a new line.  However, that appears to have sealed up the system.  I also installed the gas tank, lines, and a fuel filter.  After flushing out the old lines, I cranked her right up on her own fuel pump and gas tank for the first time in probably 44 years.  Some smoke this time, but that may be from sitting since January.  However, she will run and stop.  Now I have to put together a hood, since I stole the sedan's perfect hood for the coupe.  Hated to do it, but the coupe is close to final paint, and it was stupid not to have the best sheet metal on it.  I can get the coupe's hood panels presentable with a bit of work.  And with a hood, the sedan is driveable!
November 7, 2003 - I finally gave up on finding the last brake hose in my garage and bought another new one this week.  NAPA had it on the shelf this time!  Installed it Wednesday night, and added brake fluid tonight.  Bleeding is a bit of a problem - the bleeder valves are flat (no nipples) which means I need someone to help.  I tried some modern bleeder valves, but they are about 1/8th of an inch short and won't seal.  Still, I managed to get fluid out of all four wheels cylinders and even got a partial pedal!  Gonna have to get help to get a full pedal, but for the first time in probably 40 years, the old girl has working hydraulic brakes!  I have the gas tank ready to install - put in the sending unit and have the straps ready.  Once the brakes are bled out and the tank is installed, she should be able to move around on her own.
October 21, 2003 - Been quite a lot going on - car shows, a 3-week tour across country in a 1932 Packard, major work disasters, even a hurricane!  All of which means that I haven't touched either Packard in months.  However, I am finally getting going on the sedan, since the coupe is approaching final paint. 
The sedan is very close - I have been getting parts together for both cars even though I haven't had time to work on them - the last new brake hose vanished in my garage, so I need to get another.  Anyway, one of the biggest problems I faced with the sedan was replacing the rear freeze plug.  there was maybe an inch between the back of the engine and the firewall, which meant I had to either pull the engine or cut a hole in the firewall.  Ummm - 3 guesses what I did?  (No fair looking at the pictures above.)   It took a night to clear the inner firewall of the radio, speaker, heater, and other odd bits so I could lift the sound deadening panel.  Then tonight, I bought the hole saw (2"), measured three times, and started cutting.  Happily, I was pretty much dead on.  After agonizing over the stupid thing for months, the actual repair took maybe 20 minutes.  I used a 2" rubber freeze plug to fill the hole in the firewall - it will be covered by carpet anyway, and makes a neat, watertight seal.  I'll order a new brake hose tomorrow, and start on getting the gas tank in.  I picked up a gas tank sending unit to replace the rotted original, and a strap kit.  So I might have the car drivable in a few days.    Yeah, as always, I'm an optimist.
June 24, 2003 - Got the fenders back - some lead filler in the fronts and a bit more rust in the wells than I thought, but still very nice.  They have a good coat of marine self-etching primer to protect them until I get the whole car painted.
June 22, 2003 - The sidemount fenders are at Flatlanders getting cleaned and primed.  I found out that the 1940 fenders do fit the 1939 120 with no modification.  They should be ready by the end of the week.  I got the rear brakes done, and made new metal lines where the axle lines were both crushed down.  I only have to rebuild the left front wheel cylinder and the brake system will be done.  The popped freeze plug will require cutting a hole in the firewall - there is not enough room to slip in one of the rubber bolt-in types, and even dropping the transmission mount won't get enough clearance.  Then the gas tank needs to be reinstalled.  After that, the car will be drivable - ugly, but drivable.

June 8, 2003 - Some progress on the car - got the right rear brake setup rebuilt, and new tires and tubes on cleaned-up rims on the right side.  The hubcaps and trim rings cleaned up pretty well.  Unfortunately, the wheels I got from Hershey last year turned out to be 1935-1936 versions with smaller hubcap openings.  I can use them as spares, but have to have the tires swapped off so I can get the tires and hubcaps on the left side. 

I got the left rear hub off today - took less than a half-hour, as opposed to three weeks for the right side.  The brakes were obviously rebuilt just before the car was laid up in 1959.  The shoes show almost no wear, the drums are shiny and smooth with no ridge, and the wheel cylinders are clean and dry.  So far, I've been able to rebuild them all with a light honing and bead-blasting.

May 17, 2003 - Haven't had a lot of time to work on the cars, but I did manage to get a set of wheels stripped and painted for the new tires,  and picked up the socket I need to get the rear hubs off. Now, if I can find one of the THREE sledge hammers I have buried in the garage!  I came back from the Old Dominion Meet in Richmond, where the eternally generous Merritt had yet another surprise for me - a complete 1939 Packard deluxe radio setup.  A birthday present, according to him - after the fenders, I figure I now owe him about 30 years of mechanicing!  This 'parts car' is getting fancier by the moment - next weekend, I will be getting a complete overdrive transmission setup from a 1946 Packard!
April 14, 2003 - We got the fenders out of the church tonight - they are amazingly clean and solid for sitting in the basement for 30+years.  At left, Merritt with the fenders.  Once I make sure they will fit the car (they may be 1940 fenders, but 38-40 appear to be identical), I'll have the fenders blasted and primed.  I picked up the fourth wide whitewall and a set of new tubes at the big Charlotte Auto Fair to get the old girl new shoes - I don't quite trust the tires that are on it - they are at least 44 years old!

March 29, 2003 - Merritt Horne, a friend in the TRAACA who owned my coupe in the late 1960s, has been prodding me to look at some sidemount fenders he bought 30+ years ago for the coupe.  While I decided a while back that the sidemounts would be too much on the coupe body, I was very interested in them for the sedan.  A warm day and the first free weekend I have had in months prompted a call, and we went over this afternoon to where he has had the fenders stored.  The fenders are off of a 1939 Hearse, which had hinged covers.  However, Merritt has obtained standard slip-over wheel covers - all that has to be done is to fill the hinge mounting bolt holes.  The fenders are in wonderful condition - very straight, with only some light surface rust.  One wheel well has a little rust in the bottom, but it can be cleaned up easily.  The best part is that they are free!  Merritt is trying to clean out things from the storage area - we are going to work a barter - I will help him with his cars (I'd have done that anyway), and will do my best to even things out a bit in the form of parts, labor, etc.  However, I am very excited about the fenders - the plain fenders on the sedan are in good shape, but have some dents and dings.  The sidemount fenders need only a good blasting and paint, and will add a real touch of class to the car.  Now, to find space for them somewhere...

March 28, 2003 - A few days after the last post, a pipe in my attic burst and destroyed four rooms in the house - that put all car projects on hold until last week, when I finally got the last of the repairs done.  Not that I haven't made progress - Lots of goodies found on eBay, and I think I successfully patched the gas tank.  I also got the right front wheel cylinder rebuilt, and the bearings cleaned and repacked with a new grease seal.  Three wheel cylinders and a line flush to go, and the brakes will be done.  Still have to figure out that %#@! freeze plug.

January 18, 2003 - Pulled the right front wheel and discovered that the brakes were obviously rebuilt very shortly before the car was parked.  Clean and dry, with new-looking shoes and a turned drum that has no ridge at all.  The wheel cylinder had a mess of goo inside - the rubber had liquefied, and the brake fluid was like molasses.  Happily, the bore and pistons look fine, and the rebuild kits contain everything else.  One thing for sure, I need to flush the brake lines out.  Oh, and despite having sat for more than a week and 20-degree temperatures, the car started right up and ran great!

January 13, 2003 - Located a fan for the furnace, and also determined that there might be room to put in a new freeze plug after all - either that, or I can use one of the rubber expansion plugs.  So I am warm in the house, and feeling much better about the Packard.

January 12, 2003 - The house furnace died yesterday, and there is no place to replace a 54 year-old blower fan on a weekend.  On top of being cold and HAVING a bad cold, I decided to add some antifreeze to the Packard and heard it running out the back.  The Packard's rear freeze plug is lying on top of the bellhousing - the freeze plug one inch from the firewall.  THAT should be fun to replace!

January 5, 2003 - Have the master cylinder redone and installed, and have been starting the car.  It runs great - for a carbureted car it starts almost immediately.

January 4, 2003 - Pulled the brake master cylinder for a rebuild.  As you can see by the picture )right), the insides were garbage, but the bore is still perfect!  It has been sleeved in brass - apparently sometime in the 1950s.  Better yet, the local NAPA got a full set of rebuild kits in for the car overnight - for less than $50!

January 1, 2003 - Appropriately enough, the Packard started and ran great today!  Took about an hour to isolate and repair all the bare wiring at the main harness junction, but I got power to the coil.  Added gasoline to the carb, and she fired right up!  No gas tank, so I have a pickup tube on the inlet side sucking gas from a jar.  No smoke, ran smooth, and seems to have good oil pressure.  Even the charging system is working!

December 28, 2002 - Did a complete tune-up with a new distributor cap, condenser, and wires.  The plugs and points looked good, so I just cleaned them up and adjusted them.  Still no power to the coil.  There is a bad section of the main wiring harness where it comes out of the firewall - I will clean that up and see if the short is there.  Took the gas tank to a repair shop, but they turned me down.  The top is thin, and has a hole in it - it will have to be sent out to a specialty shop and coated inside and out - $300+, so that will have to wait.  I'll probably try to clean it out as best I can and patch the quarter-sized hole with epoxy. Also cleaned the overspray off the windows - that helps a lot.  We moved the car into the garage - had to push it out of the driveway, turn it in the street, and push it back.  Did you know these cars are heavy?

December 14, 2002 - Finally!  A chance to get out and get a good look!  Work, meetings, and weather have conspired to keep me from giving the old girl a real look-over.  Happily, the only surprises are pleasant ones.  The seats had been removed, but the person who took them out had thoughtfully rethreaded the hardware into its holes.  I was able to get the interior back together in less than an hour.  Also, the keys have been long lost, but an old key from a long-departed 1937 LaSalle works fine for the ignition switch!  I put a new battery in it, and got the car to crank easily.  There seems to be a short in the electrical system somewhere, and the coil isn't getting power.  But the lights work!  So far, the car still looks to be a great candidate for later restoration.

December 9, 2002 - The beast is home!  With great thanks to the generous efforts of friends Dewey Milligan and Doug Campbell, I went up to Ellicott City, MD today and brought the old girl home.  The car turned out to be pretty much exactly as described - better than I expected in some instances.  Turns out that the car was being driven regularly by the original owner until his death in 1959.  The car was then put in storage by different family members who never titled the car or drove it again.  It appears that the 62K miles showing may be original.  The car rolls easily (for a 2-ton+ vehicle) and the parking brake is smooth and works fine.  The engine turns by hand with no problem.  Overall, the car is compete and very solid, and looks to be an easy restoration project after the coupe is done.  I even have the original 1940 new title for the car!

December 4, 2002 - Well, it had to happen.  I found out about a 1939 Packard 120 sedan in Maryland that was part of an estate.  A ONE-OWNER, complete, solid car with radio, heater, defroster fan, banjo wheel, and other options.  Just the thing to guide me in my reassembly of the coupe, and also a source to match up parts I can't identify, and provide the few I am missing.  Afterwards, it looks to be a good restoration project itself.  However, I won't know for sure until Monday the 9th - I haven't seen anything more than these pictures and a printed appraisal.  With luck, it will be in my driveway that afternoon!

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