1940 Packard 120 4-Door Sedan

1940 Packard 120

Condition: Used
Make: Packard
Model: 120
Type: Sedan
Year: 1940
Mileage: 51,285
VIN: 139216827
Color: Packard Green
Engine: 282 cubic inch straight-8
Cylinders: 8
Transmission: 3-speed manual
Interior color: Tan Cloth
Vehicle Title: Clear
Item location: Cleveland, OH, United States
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Description for Packard 120 1940

This 1940 Packard 120 Touring Sedan is one of the reasons why Packard survived the Great Depression without the assistance of a parent company. That alone is a pretty significant fact, but the truth of the matter is, the 120 is likely the best-driving pre-war Packard of all, regardless of cost. There are many who say the 120 was simply a “discount” Packard, but I think that does these fine automobiles a grave disservice, because they provide arguably the best suspension, the best brakes, a legendary Packard straight-8 engine, and traditionally formal Packard bodywork that’s instantly identifiable, all at a very reasonable price. If that doesn’t entice you to give this 120 another look, then perhaps you’re in the wrong hobby.

This 1940 Packard 120 Touring Sedan has obviously had a great deal of money spent on it recently, the kind of money that is all out of proportion to its very reasonable sticker price. We believe the 51,285 miles shown on the odometer are authentic, so it has obviously led an easy life. It was recently repainted in lovely dark Packard Green, so dark that in most cases it looks black, but in the sun and up close, it’s just beautiful. This was obviously a clean, straight car before the paint work began, as all four doors fit flush, the hood opens and closes without any effort, and the reflections in the paint surface speaks to the quality of the steel underneath. The finish is a very high-gloss single-stage paint, which accurately reproduces the 1940 paint without any metallic flakes or other distractions, so it looks quite correct. All the chrome and trim was obviously removed for the paint job, as there are no masking marks to be found, and when it went back together, they took their time getting everything aligned just right. It's not perfect, as it has been driven and enjoyed and there’s a small dimple in the right rear fender where it was bumped by something in the garage (not visible until you’re a few inches away), but we have to say we’re rather impressed by the work, especially with the car being so reasonably priced. We have far more expensive cars in the showroom with paint jobs that aren’t this nice.

Speaking of the chrome, it is in excellent condition throughout, again indicative of a car that’s been well maintained and recently had a bunch of money spent on it. The grille, bumpers, and hood side panels are in excellent shape with almost no evidence of pitting or other issues. The hood ornament is beautifully rendered with crystal clear “wings,” and the stainless rub strips along the running boards and down the sides of the body shines up beautifully. An accessory grille guard up front looks dressy and there are fog lamps that have been recently installed but are not currently connected (new cloth-covered wiring is included to finish the job). Lenses, glass, and even the weather-stripping is in good order and the car runs down the road without any notable squeaks or rattles. Nice!

The interior is largely original, again indicative of a car that’s always been prized. The seats might have been re-covered at some point, but it was some time ago and right now everything has a very consistent, all-of-a-piece look that’s very pleasing. The door panels are beautifully preserved and please take a moment to admire the beautiful woodgrained garnish moldings and dashboard, which are all in fantastic condition. The carpets are likely original and are protected by rubber mats, and the seat frame is obviously original, as there is some wear on the high-wear area where a driver would slide into the seat as well as on top where someone might grab the seat back while climbing into the rear seat area. The headliner is slightly discolored the way original headliners get, but it is not split, torn, or sagging, so it, too, should be left as-is. The dashboard is beautifully presented with proper woodgrained patterns and plastic knobs that appear to be original but they’re just so nice we think that perhaps they’ve been replaced—77-year-old plastic never looks this nice. That goes double for the steering wheel, which has one or two small cracks but nothing major, and the chrome spokes, horn ring, and center button remain in excellent shape. All the gauges appear to be functional and there’s an accessory radio in the center of the dash, although it is missing its buttons. The only other notable demerit is that the passenger door does not open from the outside, but it simply seems to be a lock issue that could be resolved by a locksmith, not a damaged mechanism. The heater works, the wipers work, and it shifts cleanly using the column-mounted shifter. There’s also a good-sized trunk with a full-sized spare that’s useful for touring.

The 282 cubic inch straight-8 is as smooth and torquey as any Packard powerplant of the Classic Era and it moves the 120 with aplomb. Recently and extensively serviced (more than $5000 in receipts are included), it starts easily and runs smoothly with that familiar swell of torque that’s available at almost any speed. The head was removed and the valves were ground, there are new tune-up parts throughout, and the cooling system was serviced, so it runs like a Packard should and never gets fussy. The car has been a reliable tour car for many years and aside from an electric fuel pump for priming, it remains completely unmodified. The engine was detailed a bit during the recent freshening, including Packard Green engine enamel on the head, new hoses and correct clamps, and a few other details that make it look its best. There’s 30 PSI of warm oil pressure at idle, no smoke from the exhaust, and a general feeling of sturdiness that’s hard to articulate but you’ll notice it the moment you hit the starter. This car feels like it could run forever. And with so few miles on the bottom end, there was just no need to go in there beyond dropping the pan to clean it out and install a new gasket.

The 3-speed manual transmission shifts easily using the column-mounted shifter, which Packard called “fingertip control.” There’s a new clutch in there, so it’s smooth and effortless and thanks to 4.36 gears out back, it’s a very comfortable cruiser around town where the engine’s torque can pull it around in high gear, eliminating a lot of shifting. We’ve had it cruising at an indicated 60 MPH and it feels happy, quiet, and comfortable at that speed, making it an ideal tour car for just about any occasion. The undercarriage is not restored, but its condition again suggests that this is a low-mileage original car and there’s certainly no sign of rust or rot anywhere on the chassis. A correct exhaust system has a nice 8-cylinder hum to it, the suspension is firm and well-damped without being harsh, and the brakes were also just serviced, so they feel strong and confident. Yes, it’s a little grungy, but for a car of this vintage to look that good is pretty remarkable; obviously it wasn’t ever subject to harsh winter weather. And just last summer it was fitted with four new 6.50-16 BFGoodrich Silvertown wide whitewall tires that look right and really dress the 120 up nicely. 

Every time someone discusses the 120, it seems like there’s an asterisk next to it, mostly because it hasn’t been granted Full Classic status by the CCCA. To me, that seems like it does the 120 a huge disservice, because in the world of old cars, Packards are still very, very special. To have a fully-sorted and beautifully presented pre-war Packard is still a big deal, and this lovely sedan offers comfort, performance, and style that few other cars of the era can match. If you’re in any other club other than the CCCA, this car will be a star wherever it goes, and after some time behind the wheel, you may realize that even the guys who spent ten times as much on their Packards probably aren’t enjoying the drive as much as you are. That is what makes this car so special. Call today!