Our Very Own Cars at Kanter!
Passion for Packards
One Packard in particular stands out in Fred and Dan’s collection. The car is a 1930 734 Speedster.
This car first made its way into the Kanter brothers’ lives back in the early 60’s when Fred was attending Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. Fred recalled that it was a warm spring afternoon and the urge to skip philosophy class was too great. While out and about on the streets of Bethlehem Fred stopped at a local news stand and picked up the latest issue of Car Life, as he had done many times before. The issue featured William Harrah’s Packard model 734 Speedster. Fred quickly made his way back to the dorm to read about this rare beauty. Even though Fred was a Packard fanatic at the time this was his first glimpse into the Speedster Series. With the article completed…
Fred set out to make use of the remaining spring day. This afternoon he strayed from his normal route and made a fateful turn down one street. Sitting modestly out in the open in a awful shade of green that was brush painted no less, was a Packard 734 Speedster. Fred could not believe his eyes. Just a few hours earlier he was reading an article about this very model of car. The Speedster was parked outside the junior high school and the owner of the car was the school administrator who, on this beautiful day, had decided to drive one of his collector cars to work.
Fred and Dan stayed in contact with the owner of the speedster and became friendly over the years. They tried persuading him for over a decade to sell the Speedster. In 1973, when Fred and Dan finally had the money to reach his asking price, a deal was struck and the car was theirs. Over the next decade and a half the car was driven sparingly to shows and various swap meets. The car yearned to be released of its brushed paint job and Fred and Dan knew it deserved better.
In 1988, the Kanters committed to a full blown restoration of the car. Even though they had made their living buying and selling parts for these types of classic cars, they knew a person with specialized skill would need to do the restoration. The car was sent to Jim Cox, who was put in charge of the momentous task.
Surprisingly for a 58 year old automobile the Speedster was in good shape. In 1955 it became a victim of hurricane Diane in Pennsylvania that required the engine to be disassembled and dried out. Also, at some point during its long history the car was in an extensive accident as described by Fred. “I was underneath the car once and there was some white paint on the left frame rail, I took some kerosene and wiped it. It said ‘Packard Motor Car Company, 11th Avenue and 55th Street, New York, New York.’ And the left frame rail was a different color from the rest of the frame. Obviously, the left frame rail was replaced. Another time, I was under the cowl and noticed that the right-hand side of the cowl from the middle of the ventilator all the way down to the bottom was made of galvanized metal and the other half was made of plain metal. So, that car was in one hell of an accident to need a frame rail and one half of a cowl.”
The original owner of the Speedster was a gentleman by the name of Tommy Hitchcock Jr. He was a well known polo player of the time and played an even more prominent role in World War II as a fighter pilot who aided in the development of the P-51 Mustang that; not so coincidentally sported the Packard built; Rolls Royce designed V-12 Merlin engine. Tommy was instrumental in getting the original Allison engine replaced by the Packard built engines. The Speedster originally sported a rather colorful paint scheme. It had a turquoise body, dark green fenders and body reveal moldings in a cream-color.”
Fred and Dan opted for something different influenced by the one-of-a-kind Gurney Nutting Duesenberg SJ Speedster. They tracked down the restorer of that iconic car and learned that a Mack truck orange color was used–and so Mack truck orange it was to be for the Speedster.
(Side note: The employees around Kanter Auto Products affectionately know it as the “Pac-O-Lantern” because of its bright orange and black paint scheme.)
Since the completion of the restoration, the Kanter brothers have enjoyed many happy miles with the Speedster. It has graced many car shows, local cruise nights, and even a few concours. Just to think, it all began with a magazine, a love of Packards and deciding to take a different route one day.