Light Eight sedan (900-553)

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Dave Czirr
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Joined: Tue Jun 16, 2009 5:30 am
Location: New Jersey

Light Eight sedan (900-553)

Post by Dave Czirr » Sat Jun 23, 2012 5:55 am

I had the pleasure of meeting with Mark Silvester with his Packard at Automotive Restorations last Thursday. It's just a lovely original car that seems to run superbly, and along with lots of patina presents many nicely preserved original details. I hope Mark will continue this thread as he works his way thru the various mechanical and cosmetic needs of the car. He's leaning towards a sympathetic restoration, preserving as much of the originality as possible consistent with a presentable appearance. The car does have the automatic clutch feature and Mark notes it works well.
Mark's 900 553 009 sm.jpg
Mark's 900 553 001 sm.jpg

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Re: Light Eight sedan (900-553)

Post by mcsilves32 » Thu Jul 09, 2015 11:51 am

Dave kindly started this for me, so I guess I better bring everyone up to speed on this car:

I purchased my 1932 Packard Light Eight Sedan (Model 900, Serial #5332489, Engine #362380) on 4/22/2011. It was originally delivered on 4/6/1932 by Blair Motor Company, Altoona PA. The car is black (with traces of the original ivory pinstripe), with dual sidemounts, trunk rack, “Donut Chaser” hood ornament, front fender lights, single taillight, Tropic Aire heater, and period correct Firestone driving lights mounted on the bumper brackets. It also came with two sidemount mirrors (attached by straps) but they don’t mount since the sidemounts have covers (solid, no chrome rim).

When I purchased it, the car was “all original” except for normal maintenance, new tires, and a replaced radiator (modern core). The radiator shell was repainted and the grille frame and headlight brackets re-chromed in the process. It also came with a second grille shell, and since then, I purchased an original radiator for possible future replacement. I also purchased a period correct trunk for the rack. It’s a Taylor Made, in very good shape with two of the matching suitcases inside.

Despite needing a complete chassis overhaul (rubber bushings, etc.), the car runs and drives well. Even the automatic clutch works! The exterior body paint is all original, with traces of the original pinstriping, but the fenders have had their share of touchup over the years. The interior is all there, usable, but somewhat tattered. The dash and other simulated wood frames are well preserved. The gauges all work, but I believe they were rebuilt at some point. The odometer showed 24,600 miles but I expect it was changed at some point.

Items I have addressed so far:
- Re-silvered original rear view mirror and chromed bracket (only wanted to remove original glass once)
- Had wipers rebuilt and chromed wiper arms
- Replaced broken tail light stanchion

I found an interesting Packard trunk rack emblem on ebay. The car came with the normal Packard crest, no words. I know they also come with “Super 8”, “V12”, etc. This one says “Light Eight”. It came from the family of a Packard Engineer, and I don’t know if any others exist. So it gives my car a unique identity!

In the fall of 2014, the starter spring broke. I did research and founds a replacement (4SR), but decided to also replace the incorrect oil filter with a Burr Ripley replacement. Before doing that, I decided to drop the oil pan to clean out any gunk from years of sitting. While doing that, I decided to thoroughly clean the entire engine. For gaskets, I was not able to find gaskets for the oil gauge unit on the left side of the oil pan, and also found several gaskets provided were for the standard Packards vs. the Light Eight. Olson’s Gaskets (Port Orchard, WA) was kind enough to use my original gaskets and measurements to develop a full set of replacement gaskets for the Oil Gauge, plus others I needed.

While doing that I decided to replace the entire exhaust (it was a welded “cherry bomb” system with a significant dent in the header pipe). That took some time as the unit I received from Waldron did not fit. I was able to adjust the header pipe (slight twist and shorten), the muffler fit, but the tailpipe was wrong for this car. Waldron worked very well with me, taking my measurements, sending me a replacement, and then sending another replacement when it needed further adjustment. With slight adjustments, I was able to get the third unit to fit. I also had several cracks in the engine pans welded.

Upon completion, I started it up, and found the fuel pump leaking. I left that one in so I could move the car if needed and sent my spare to Hal Houghton (Classic Preservation Coalition) for a rebuild (not restoration). Upon receipt of the repaired spare, I sent him the original one for repair.

So finally on the Spring of 2014, it was back on the road. For a short time. It began coughing, and then got worse. I pulled the plugs and did a compression test and found the gasket blown between #6 & #7. I pulled the head and found it was cracked at that location. Upon further inspection, I found that the engine had undergone major repair at some point. Cylinder #7 apparently cracked and leaked, sat for a period of time rusting, and had then been “repaired”.

Some brief history:
I had tried to find out the history of my car, but got no help from the previous owner (he had stored it since the late 1990’s), and hit a dead end at a broker in Alabama. However, I had written a history of my family’s dealership, Silvester Motor Company, in Princeton, NJ. This was published in Collectible Automobile (April 2012) and The Cormorant (Spring 2014). A reader in Pittsburg contacted me to thank me for the article, and I mentioned my Packard. He asked about the history, and I told him it came from Altoona. He put me in touch with a friend in Altoona that provided some background.

According to this person, in its early life, the car was owned by Deacon Litz. Deacon was a famous race car driver from DuBois, PA (near Altoona). He competed in 12 Indy 500’s from 1929-1941, and also raced at many board tracks, including Altoona. At some point in the mid 50’s the car was stored in a local garage, and sat there until the mid-80’s. That’s all the history I was able to obtain to date.

So I suspect that the engine stopped running in the mid 50’s (due to the cylinder crack and leak) and in the mid-80’s someone performed the repair. The rust was ground out around the valves, the valve set further down due to the rust removal, the cylinder sleeved, and the crack adjacent to the sleeve plugged with copper screws (“Stitched”). The rust probably occurred due to weak antifreeze (as a result of adding water) and water sitting for 30+ years, and the crack may have been the original cause of the leak or due to freezing. I also believe that at some point “Stop Leak” was added, since when I pulled the head I notice it clogged the passages around #6 & #7. Further, at some point the original “dual” thermostat was replaced with a modern one, and the bypass hole was not covered, allowing the majority of coolant to flow directly to the radiator rather than thru the head. I believe this caused it to overheat locally and crack the head (at no time did I ever notice overall high engine temperature). So I believe the engine ran fine after the cylinder repair, but eventually the ‘Stop Leak” and lack of full coolant flow caused the head to crack. With a repaired head and the coolant bypass addressed, it should run fine again assuming the cylinder repair holds.

So I had the choice of just repairing the head or swapping out the whole block. What I chose to do is have the head repaired, put the engine back together, and monitor the situation. However, as insurance, I purchased a replacement used block (and head) from John Ulrich, which I will clean and store, and install at a later time after it’s machined and I have the time.

I have now had the head and water jacket repaired by Steve Babinsky (Automotive Restorations), which also included replacing the “sand” plugs. The engine is back together, runs well, and seems to have more power now that the exhaust flow is resolved.

I also fixed the Packard “Tropic Aire” heater in the process, since it has to be removed to get the head off. I expect this was a dealer installed item, since every installation seems to be different. Mine has the heater inlet coming from the water neck at the base of the water jacket and through a tube mounted to the manifold side of the head (apparently the tube is a Packard part, the only one I have seen done this way), and the outlet going to a copper “T” fitting with the temperature gauge sending unit at the back left corner of the head. The actual heater has a Packard label on it, and the dash control has a Tropic Aire back plate with a switch that lights a red arrow pointing to “LOW” or “HIGh” positions.

I'll provide some additional photos soon.....

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Re: Light Eight sedan (900-553)

Post by Ozstatman » Thu Jul 09, 2015 9:54 pm


Thanks for filling us in with your detailed story on the Light Eight. Looking forward to seeing the pic's when you post them.
Currently - '50 Packard Eight Touring Sedan
Previously - '41 120 Club Coupe(Sold October 2017) & '38 Eight Touring Sedan(Sold July 2009)
Bowral, Southern Highlands, NSW Australia

"Out of chaos comes order" - Nietzsche.

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Re: Light Eight sedan (900-553)

Post by DrMorbius » Sun Jan 07, 2018 10:26 am

Mark, how's your Light Eight coming? People are interested, you know!


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Re: Light Eight sedan (900-553)

Post by Silvester900 » Tue Apr 10, 2018 7:39 pm

I'm back! I retired a while ago and had not realized my old login was not working due to wrong email. I have now fixed that and can get on the forum now. I haven't had time to do much additional work on "Peanut" since the last entry. However, I did notice some coolant leak to #7 after the repair, probably seepage from the "stitching" repair done many years ago. Working with Steve Babinsky, I added his form of what I call "Stop Leak". That seems to have helped. I will verify after the next oil change I plan to do soon.

I drive her quite a bit, driving her to town nearby whenever I have errands in good weather. However, she needs more choking when cold than she did in the past. I plan to send the carb out for rebuild as soon as I can. I need to find a shop that will rebuild without losing the original patina. I was able to do that for the fuel pump rebuilds, trying to keep her as original as possible. Recommendations on carb rebuild shops are welcomed.

I am also moving at the end of the month to the other side of the river, so it will be a while before I can do significant work on her (want to start the mechanical chassis "rebuild"). But I am getting a larger garage, so that's a plus! One Saturday I also hope to meet Jim Pearsall at Steve's so we can get the my 900 and his 901 side by side for comparison!

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