1915 Packard Model 3-38 Six Gentleman's Roadster
Engine no. 76440
Body no. 76306
Although 97 years have passed since its delivery as a new car, this wonderful 1915 Packard 3-38 Gentleman's Roadster remains in highly original and authentic order. Adding to its appeal, the car's sleek body incorporates an exceptionally rare configuration that provides auxiliary rear-deck seating for a third passenger. Also worthy of note: more than eight decades have come and gone since this remarkable and most impressive vintage automobile was last offered on the open market.
Founded in 1899, Packard was by 1915 well established as one of America's greatest marques, with adherents around the globe. One of "the three P's" of American motordom (Pierce-Arrow and Peerless being the others), Packard famously advised would-be purchasers to, "Ask the Man Who Owns One."
In late 1911, Packard introduced its mighty Model 48, a large car powered by a new and massive six-cylinder engine. Only slightly smaller in size, the Model 38 Six added in 1913 brought a Delco electric starter/generator system, and left-hand steering, to the prestigious marque. An unusual and advanced feature of the new 38 was its driver "control center." Credited to then Packard President Henry B. Joy, this innovation placed most of the car's operating controls into a convenient unit mounted atop the steering column.
Packard's sixes were redesigned for 1914, although displacement of the 2-38 series engine remained 415 cubic inches. Horsepower was increased from 60 to 65 for the 1915 3-38, which, with its 3-speed sliding-gear transmission, could cruise at more than 60 mph. The 3-38 line's 140-inch wheelbase, which was only four inches shorter than that of the Model 48's, was unchanged from 1914.
The 1915 3-38 featured new headlamps that incorporated smaller auxiliary beams, for city driving, into their design. The early four-lamp high/low beam system was continued for several years on the Twelves that superseded the big sixes. The '15s were also the only Packard sixes to have a panel of push-button switches for the electric lighting added to their driver control center.
The "Gentleman's Roadster" with auxiliary mother in-law seat, as presented here, was a derivative of the standard 2-passenger 3-38 roadster, a style Packard officially called a "Runabout." One Packard history states that the availability of the auxiliary seat on the 1915 3-38 could not be verified. However, this recently rediscovered, wonderfully original and unquestionably authentic Gentleman's Roadster provides proof positive that at least one 3-38 so equipped was produced.
The signature fold-down auxiliary seat of the Gentleman's Roadster is designed into the rear deck, with convenient access provided by dual side-entry doors. Typical of earlier Packard Gentleman's Roadster styles, the 3-38 edition's dual rear spares are mounted upright at the rear of the chassis. On the standard 3-38 two-passenger Runabout, the spares were stacked horizontally on the rear deck.
During 1915, Henry B. Joy began to transition day-to-day management of Packard to Alvan McCauley. Together, they introduced the first Packard Twelve in mid-1915, as a 1916 model. The new Packard 1-35 Twelve (later renamed the Twin Six) spanned a 135-inch wheelbasea five inch reduction from that of the preceding 3-38 Sixes.
Production of the 3-38 Six series totaled 1,801 cars, each and every one indisputably a grand automobile. Among the few cherished examples that remain, the Gentleman's Roadster is unmatchable in its scarcity. Honored with a "Worn But Not Forgotten" award during the 2012 "The Elegance at Hershey" event, this car represents a perhaps once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience the authentic quality, performance and prestige of one of the finest Packards produced during the Henry B. Joy period.