10-11 October 2013

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Lot 233

1933 Packard Eight Cabriolet by Graber

  • Engine no. 376978
  • Vehicle no. 719-177

Sold for $231,000

120 bhp, 320 cu. in. L-head inline eight-cylinder engine, three-speed manual transmission, solid front and rear axles with semi-elliptic leaf springs, and four-wheel mechanical drum brakes. Wheelbase: 136 in.

  • Offered from the Estate of John O’Quinn
  • Swiss custom coachwork on America’s finest chassis
  • Formerly owned by Sergio Franchi
  • A veteran of many CCCA CARavans

The universal acclaim and prestige that Packard Motor Car Company enjoyed in its heyday is impossible to grasp today. Few American automakers have been able to enjoy broad success overseas with the same models offered to their U.S. customers. Packard did, and for decades, they enjoyed a booming export business with a network of dealers in European capitals.

As with many American luxury chassis, Packards were infrequently imported to Europe as whole, finished cars, as taxes made the cost prohibitive. It was less expensive for a continental customer to purchase a bare rolling chassis and then, once the “mechanical parts” had arrived overseas, have custom coachwork fitted by a local coachbuilder of their choice.

The 136-inch wheelbase “Standard Eight” chassis presented here was bodied by Hermann Graber, who enjoyed a reputation as Switzerland’s finest coachbuilder for decades. Bodies for American chassis were a Graber specialty, with the most prominent being sumptuous cabriolets with thickly insulated, beautifully crafted cloth tops, to shut out the Swiss cold.

In many ways, Graber’s body on this Packard resembles a downsized version of a Mercedes-Benz 500 K of the period, as it has broad chrome beltline molding, sweeping fenders, and a blind-quarter top with landau irons, as well as an elegant rounded trunk. The interior is beautifully appointed, with finely tailored leather upholstery and armrests built into the door panels, so that, with the door closed, the feeling is of the driver and passenger sharing a luxurious love seat. The doors and dashboard are beautifully capped in walnut. The overall effect is of traditional Packard construction but with a distinct European touring flair.

This car was discovered in London in 1972 by American tenor Sergio Franchi. Franchi had become a favorite on American variety shows during the 1950s and 1960s, and he eventually built a recording career that took him to Las Vegas and all over the world. A man with a great appreciation of art and beauty, his passions offstage were sketching, watercolors, and especially collecting fine automobiles. He eventually built an enviable, eclectic collection at his Connecticut estate, including everything from Rolls-Royces to Mercedes-Benz to his personal favorite, Isotta-Fraschinis. Many in the car hobby knew him as a member of the Classic Car Club of America and as a frequent participant in CARavans.

Franchi loved the Packard’s lines and brought it home to the United States with him. A photograph on file clearly shows the car’s complete and solid condition upon its arrival stateside. The Packard was beautifully restored in its present two-tone blue livery by Ted Billing, of Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, who was, at the time, very well-respected for his quality work.

As it felt very modern for its time, and was very reliable, the Graber-bodied Eight became a favorite CARavan car for Sergio and Eva Franchi, and it was enjoyed on the road until Mr. Franchi’s untimely passing in 1991. “We used this car in many CCCA CARavans,” Mrs. Franchi recalled later. “When you ride in the Packard, you forget that you’re sitting in an antique car, because it felt so modern. We had such wonderful times in that car.”

Acquired by John O’Quinn from the Franchi Estate, the Packard continues to wear its original restoration, with such wonderful touches as dual side-mounted spares and chrome trim strips that descend over the trunk and accent the beltline treatment. The wire wheels are painted the period-correct body color, and the car is fitted with dual fog lamps and dual horns, ideal for the touring purposes for which it has so long been enjoyed.

The Graber Cabriolet would be an ideal basis for a fresh restoration, with the purpose of making it a concours competitor, like so many European-bodied Packards of its time. However, it could also, perhaps most aptly, be returned to the road, where it could be enjoyed in the manner of its famous and passionate long-time owner.

Please contact our exclusive automotive transportation partner, Reliable Carriers, for a shipping quote or any other information on the transport of this vehicle.

Alexander Weaver


+1 864 313 6844
California, United States

Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat


+44 (0) 74 1511 4179
United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

Barney Ruprecht


+1 203 912 7168
Ontario, Canada

Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 911. Barney l... read more

David Swig


+1 415 302 2247
California, United States

David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. David is a life-long automobile enthusi... read more

Don Rose


+1 617 513 0388
United States

Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould


+1 954 566 2209
Florida, United States

Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff


+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

Jake Auerbach


+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

Kurt Forry


+1 717 623 1638
California, United States

Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut


+1 805 231 6410
California, United States

A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire


+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Michael Squire joined RM Sotheby’s European Division in the summer of 2016. He comes to RM with a prestigious racing background ... read more

Mike Fairbairn


+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin


+44 (0) 75 0110 7447
United Kingdom

With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill


+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher


+1 519 784 9300
Ontario, Canada

Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. ... read more

Shelby Myers


+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden


+31 653 84 19 60
United Kingdom

Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more