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The Duchess Project: 1940 Super 8 Convertible Sedan
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Joe Santana
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Mine is an early car, sold Aug 20, 1939 to a San Francisco attorney, Oscar Kennedy Cushing. He was a big wig Democrat whom FDR appointed to arbitrate the longshoreman's strike in 1934. My step-dad, Herbert Ignatius Maguire, purchased the car from Cushing's widow in 1948. In 8 years it had only 8,000 miles, all trips to Palm Springs, chauffer-driven.

I've had The Duchess, my 1940 160 convertible sedan, since 1959, when I was in high school. I sold the car in 1964 for $800. I had a brand new Mustang. As the tail-end tipped over the hill on California St in San Francisco, my heart sunk. Then a year later I received a notice from the DMV to renew my plates. I called the new owner. He had also fallen in love with another car, much more expensive, and was afraid to inform his wife of the Packard acquisition. He had taken it to a shop, bought a 120 sedan for parts (not great for that purpose), and had some work done. He offered it back to me, along with the Packard sedan and the shop billed paid for exactly what he paid, $800. I couldn't resist. I kissed the ground. I drove it almost everyday until 1984, putting on well over 325,000 miles when it became unsafe to drive. My kids grew up in it.

My eldest son, John, and I dismantled her in 1986. We made progress on the engine and stripping. Purchased rubber and wiring. She was stored in 1993. In 2002 we brought her home. I took a class in vintage auto restoration at our local community college in 2004 and began restoration activities in November.

In 2005 I wrote to club members with 1803 1377s and received photos to help guide further restoration. More work was done on the engine, the addition of stainless steel parts. Most of the chrome was redone. Other parts purchased. I took doors and fenders to a body shop for repair and metal replacement.

My wife died of breast cancer in the Fall of 2005. I moved the car to a DIY restoration facility nearby, but wound up hiring the owner to work on the car. He became ill and could not work on the car, so, after a stint at a wood shop to build a new top box, I brought it home.

This summer I started working on the car myself in earnest, several evenings a week plus weekends, and began to discover the other aspect of the hobby, the joys of restoration.

1960 Bellarmine Prep, San Jose, CA yearbook. Metallic rootbeer by Spraycraft,
later model cormorant and 15" wheels and hubcaps.

1964 Hillborough, CA, a whole summer of work at minimum wage provided new vinyl upholstery. Fortunately it was such a cheap job they left the original upholstery underneath.

1973 photo for Meier&Frank (now Macy's).

1967 at the Oregon coast. Having the oil changed. Son John, under the car in the center, rebuilt the engine 20 years later.

1983 Elaine and I in San Jose. I called Convoy about the shipping cost which was $50 per 100 miles. They had stations all the way down I-5, so I thought I'd see how far I could get (Elaine drove our Volvo), then give the Duchess to Convoy to take it the rest of the way to San Jose. It went 623 miles non-stop (repair stop). We took it to Santa Cruz with the kids.

In 1981 we went to the Columbia Gorge historic hotel for New Year's Eve. It snowed and snowed. The hotel turned the outside lights on so we could see these huge flakes falling. A most beautiful New Year's Eve.

In 1982 the communications managers at Tektronix had an offsite meeting at the coast. We went for some wild rides on the sand.

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Posted on: 2010/10/20 13:37
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Re: The Duchess Project: 1940 Super 8 Convertible Sedan
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Home away from home

Joe Santana
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The first step was dismantling the Duchess. As one person comment Gee, it didn't look that bad before you took it apart. This was from a fashion shot for Anne Klein with Crown Point on the Columbia Gorge in the background. But the car was worn out. It was unsafe. I felt responsible.

My son and I pulled everything off. All the large parts were loaded in his pick-up and taken to the stripper in Oregon City where vast tank of chemicals took everything off.

We borrowed a steam cleaner and stripped away 45 years of dirt and grime from what was left.

I brought all the small parts into the basement for cleaning, organizing, and prep for rebuilding. We kept a book of everything we did as we did it. We noted issues we'd have to deal with later, missing parts, incorrect parts, parts so worn they'd have to be replaced.

Under the vinyl upholstery, was the original red leather.

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Posted on: 2010/10/20 22:51
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Re: The Duchess Project: 1940 Super 8 Convertible Sedan
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Joe Santana
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In 1986 we bought a home in Lake Oswego. In the meantime many parts were repaired, rebuilt, cleaned and painted. The generator and starter were rebuilt. The radiator as well.

I made a computer listing of just about every part on the car, without the benefit of a parts book adding the price from Packard vendors wherever one was listed in a catalog. I still have a printout, but the file on a 5.5" diameter floppy disk is long gone.

Something I will try to do on this blog is record the costs suffered thus far for my passion. Whether you think, Gee, he got a deal, or That was stupid, it's okay. It is what it is and I wish someone had told me at the time whether I was paying too much or getting a bargain. So at least it might be interesting to neophytes.

The radio was sent to Michigan. I asked how long it would last being rebuilt with vacuum tubes, instead of transistors. The answer was 15 years, so I chose vacuum tubes. When it was finished I tested it with the battery and tuned in some pre-set Portland stations, for the radio was out of a Portland car and had the station call letters from here. It crackled as I tuned it, fulling expecting to hear the Andrews Sisters singing a war years tune. I knew I made the right decision.

The front top wooden bow had to be returned for addition knock outs for the hold downs.

The move to Lake Oswego and a 3-car garage was like putting on my first pair of relaxed fit slacks and Rockports. My son John started rebuilding that big 356 engine and I continued working on small parts, taking for example, nearly two hours to loosen the handle cylinder of my vent windows in order to replace the rubber.

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Posted on: 2010/10/21 21:43
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Re: The Duchess Project: 1940 Super 8 Convertible Sedan
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I think most of us just grin, bear and grimace. Thinking about the cost just depresses.

Posted on: 2010/10/21 21:45
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Re: The Duchess Project: 1940 Super 8 Convertible Sedan
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Joe, you are off to a wonderful start. I have to tell you, I am really enjoying the history and images you have posted. No matter how much this might cost, the history and memories are priceless. I will follow with delight, as this thread will be very helpful in better understanding what goes where.

BTW, I love the image of your car full of people in 1960. Absolutely priceless!

Posted on: 2010/10/21 23:35
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Re: The Duchess Project: 1940 Super 8 Convertible Sedan
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West Peterson
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I, too, am enjoying watching your progress.
I know that Jim is very interested in making sure every part on his car is as correct as possible. If you'd like some insight on certain items, just say so. Otherwise, I will just sit back and enjoy.
Also, if you're in need of any parts, make your wishes known and I'll see what I can do to help find them for you.

Posted on: 2010/10/22 6:45
West Peterson
1930 Packard Speedster Eight Runabout (boattail)
1940 Packard 1808 w/Factory Air
1947 Chrysler Town and Country sedan
1970 Camaro RS


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Re: The Duchess Project: 1940 Super 8 Convertible Sedan
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Joe Santana
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Jim, West, Kev and Howard (?), thanks for the positive reinforcement. I filled out more of a spreadsheet I'd started last year. There are a few more items to add, and of course a couple of major chunks of work to go (paint and upholstery), but I easily cruised to $32k, and I'm missing a few receipts from yesteryear. As soon as I finish it, I'll provide a link to the file.

Like the Mose Allison song goes, If you live, your time will come. So that's my hope, to live long enough to enjoy my car. There was a Packard at the local car show here I hadn't seen before and asked about it. A friend said Yes, that car has been in restoration for over 10 year and this morning I saw the owner just barely able to stand up by the hood and dust it off. That was scary, but still I don't care if I get so small and frail the people will think the Duchess is equipped with that new automatic driverless control technology because I'm so low in the seat with my hands grasping that banjo steering wheel like monkey hangers on a Harley. I'll have a huge Packard mechanical advantage.

I'm compressing 25 years of half-hearted effort into a few weeks. And other remembrances pop up, so there may be a few digressions.

Thanks for interest.

The spreadsheet doesn't include some costs. The front wood bow. Radio R&R. But most costs are listed.
Here's the link to the spreadsheet on costs.
Duchess Spreadsheet

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Posted on: 2010/10/22 10:11
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Re: The Duchess Project: 1940 Super 8 Convertible Sedan
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Joe Santana
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I cleaned parts and ordered additional parts at the new house. I had some parts chromed. I wire-brushed the body above and below. The doors and fenders were in storage at first.

The stripped doors were primed, but the inside bottoms of the doors would need attention again... meaning rust cut out and new metal welded in. When rubber goes bad, the little strips of rubber on the doors at the exterior bottom of the windows, water gets in there in a major way. It's such a small item, but without it, you get a world of hurt. For 15 years, the car wasn't garaged, in Oregon.

I'm not a mechanical person, but I did discover in the course of correcting mistakes, such as the route of cables for hand brake and overdrive, that had resulted from repairs which kept my car on the road, but weren't always done according to Hoyle, the beauty to putting something back the way it was engineered. Sometimes there were missing guides, or guides that were bypassed. I spent an inordinate amount of time cleaning off and removing a guide and replacing it so a cable could pass through it, for instance. But there is a reward to having it right again.

The manifolds were magnafluxed, but I knew they would rust again. I ultimately sent them out for a ceramic coating that has the appearance of cast iron, but retains its look, done by Finish Line.

In the early 90s, as the kids headed off to college, we moved to smaller quarters and the car went into storage. For 8 more years it sat.

When we moved here in 2002, the car came home.

Stripped doors, lightly primed.
The original dash did not have a radio, but an altimeter. I big hole was cut in the center of the dash to accommodate it by Mr. Cushing's chauffeur. The plastic was shot, as you might imagine. It cooked when the convertible top was down. I replaced it with a dash from a 120 painted 1 color. But years ago my friend Vaughn found a dash with good plastic. I saved it. This is the dash I will woodgrain (or attempt to...it's looks so easy in the videos...with a kit from Grain-It Technology.
The back end, the trunk, was rusted through where the left and right brackets attached to the frame. It was no longer connected. The very back moved up and down opening up the homes for the bumper brackets. All that has been repaired.
Son John welded up all the holes I had drilled through the firewall in order to install Brand X heater hoses and mounting screws. Undoing a life of crime is not that easy.
I had a few more items chromed, but not much more.

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Posted on: 2010/10/25 0:54
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Re: The Duchess Project: 1940 Super 8 Convertible Sedan
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Hi Joe.

Greetings from South Africa and congratulations with your project and keeping this car for so long. It must be part of the family by now! I am sure you are going to get your investments worth back again in future. Money wise as well as enjoyment wise! It will be worth it.

Keep at it!

Posted on: 2010/10/26 2:29
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Re: The Duchess Project: 1940 Super 8 Convertible Sedan
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Joe Santana
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Once the Duchess came home, she spread out and made herself at home in all 3 ports. I managed to squeeze her into 2 so one ordinary car could get out of the weather. Shelves were procured, cabinets filled.

The engine was refreshed and hardened against unleaded fuel.

I located an AAV-26 Stromberg carburetor and bought a kit. I looked at the instructions. Daunting. I'd never attempted anything like this before. And what if it didn't work? I needed some carburetor cleaner and the old guy (younger than I) at the Carquest auto supply store offered this advice. Get a sheet and spread it across your bench. Grab a bar stool. Make yourself a cup of hot coffee because the longer you stay at it, the less you'll forget. Try to give yourself enough time to finish it. Take your time. Things you take off one side, place it on the sheet on that side. Have your parts diagram and follow the order. Then replace parts in reverse fashion. I was on pins and needles. I made notes in a journal as I took off the pins and needles, screws and float parts, everything looking and feeling a lot more delicate than I imagined. I took pictures as I progressed. Before I knew, I was finished. No left over parts except replaced ones. I installed the new carburetor and it worked great.

I took the grill apart in preparation for chroming. I ground off the shoulder rivets. Probably shouldn't have done that. Originally I thought some of the shutter bars were ok, but in the end, decided to have them all rechromed.The grille which had been chromed in 1971 and didn't look that bad, but it had ripples in it from an accident in 1964. Another story. I sent it in, too.

My longtime friends, Bill and Nancy, who moved to Seattle 30 years ago were visiting and he taunted me into pulling it out of the garage on its own power for a test run. I humored him because they visit infrequently.

Another visitor, now a successful engineer in Silicon Valley, whom Elaine and I sort of adopted since his own family was in India while he was attending school here, stopped by over Memorial Day. When I told him about taking the car out with Bill, Nelson wanted to go for a ride, too. "Let's do the Indy 500 around the patch of lawn below the house." With no fenders or doors, or hood or trunk lid, seats, she looked like a junkyard dog of a car, but we paraded around the neighborhood anyway. When I got to the bottom of the roundabout, I nudged the pedal and couln't believe the response. It was like Holy Cow, Nelson! We were laughing like crazy. The stripped down rod with a 356 engine had awesome power. Nelson looked a little panic and was glad to get back to the garage.

I won't be doing it this year because I pulled my steering column out to prep and paint it that brown color. But in 2 years past, I pulled the car out in the driveway by the front door on Halloween night. I dressed up in one of the kids' graduation gowns, some boney gloves, a mask from the crypt and a pirate's hat. I sat out there very still. When the trick-or-treaters came to the door and no one answered, they would cautiously approach the car...a halloween display. Then I would speak in a strange ghostly voice..."Do you know the way to I-5?" "I took a wrong turn and now I can't get back to the cemetery." I gave them their candy and had a camera with me and asked the parents accompanying the kids to take a picture. I have a bunch of great photos...not to give anybody else any ideas of what do to do if your car isn't quite finished.

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Posted on: 2010/10/28 20:55
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