1937 Packard 115-C Expanded Brand’s Customer Base

TORRINGTON, CT – It was a memorable slogan that suggested exclusivity and owner passion back in the early days of automobiles: “Ask the Man Who Owns One.” It was applied to the Packard brand, which began in 1899 in Warren, Ohio and lasted until 1958.

“They were extremely well made for the time,” said life-long Packard aficiondo Harold Pantely of Torrington. “They were considered a luxury automobile; pretty much in line with the Cadillacs of the period.”

Packard Was Originally A Luxury Brand

While largely forgotten today having ended production 66 years ago, Packards were initially intended for the wealthy. It wasn’t until the 1937 model year that Packard introduced a family-oriented, medium-priced car aimed more at the masses. 

Harold Pantely and his 1937 Packard 115-C

The new offering was the 115-C model or Packard Six as it came with a 237-cubic-inch six-cylinder motor. The “115” referred to the model’s wheelbase of 115 inches. The model had a base price of $795 in 1937.

Pantely bought a 1937 Packard 115-C slightly more than two years ago, but his loyalty to the marque dates back to his youth.

Pantely’s Love Of Packards Goes Back To His Youth

“When I was a boy – 9,10 years old – we lived on Watertown Avenue in Waterbury, right next door to the Packard dealership at the time. Mr. Loveland was the owner. Very nice man,” he recalled. 

“I was a kid and I would hang around the garage and the mechanics would say, ‘Hey, kid, come here. Let me show you this.’ ‘Here, hold this wrench.’ ‘Can you do this, do that?’ I’d sweep the floor and I got to know everybody, and, of course, I became infatuated with Packard automobiles at a very early age.”

1937 Packard 115-C

When Pantely was a little older, his father purchased one which cemented his love of them. “My dad bought a 1955 Packard (Patrician) back in 1960 when I was in high school, and I was interested in car mechanics then so I started working on it,” Pantely said. 

Prior to getting the 1937 Packard, he owned a 1955 Patrician model for nearly 20 years. “I kept it as original as I could,” he said. “They kind of wear after a while and they show the wear and the years, and I decided I really didn’t want to restore it; have it all completely restored. I figured let the next guy do that if he wanted to do it.”

Packard Acquired “Quite By Accident”

Pantely came by the 1937 “quite by accident” in January 2022. “I was kinda missing Packards because I always grew up with them. There was an ad on Facebook for this car up in Winsted,” he said.

At the time it belonged to Doug Griswold who had gotten it in 1963. It had been sitting for roughly 10 years after Griswold decided that he was too old to drive it. Pantley said the Packard had been willed to Griswold by a friend whose family had bought it new. 

“It was never meant to be a top-end automobile like a 120 Super Eight of the same year,” said Pantely of the 115-C. “This was more affordable and, being a six cylinder, it didn’t have the power, of course, of the eights and so on.”

See the 1937 Packard 115-C in action in this YouTube video…

Owner Harold Pantely talks about his 1937 Packard 115-C

Upon arrival, the Packard needed attention. “Well, yeah, I had to do quite a bit of work to it; a lot of the electrics needed work; frayed wires, things like that. Some of the connections weren’t correct; some of the dash gauges weren’t working,” Pantely said.

“Body-wise, the paint job was not very good on it. It was very heavy paint. Looked like somebody used a garden sprayer on it.”

Bringing Back The Shine Took Work

Pantely took some fine sandpaper and wet sanded the exterior of the car, and then buffed it, which brought the color back. He also the dyed the fabric on the interior door panels to improve the looks. The car still needs to have some trim elements re-chromed and the headliner re-done.

“It was a pretty simple automobile when it was built and that was the purpose of it. It wasn’t meant to be high-end. When I did get it, though, the mice had completely destroyed the interior. I just kinda set about doing it myself; doing the upholstery and so on,” Pantely said.

The Packard 115-C has a soft top and an appealing hood ornament based on the Greek goddess of victory, Nike. She is holding a wheel in front of her.  “That’s called the Goddess of Speed. That was an option,” he said.

With suicide doors and running boards, the Packard 115C certainly is reflective of many cars made in the 1930s.     

“This one is pretty much all original so it rattles and bangs a bit. It’s got nylon tube tires on it so you feel every bump in the road. It’s very different than driving a modern car, but I was surprised how easily it steers. It’s not power steering but it steers really very easily. I was very surprised when I first took it out on the road,” said Pantely.

He does get a chuckle when people ask him about the Packard when he takes it out. “Most people say, ‘Oh, my god, how old is it?’ And I’ll say, ‘1937’ and they’ll say, ‘Oh, are you the original owner?’”

Hardly. The Packard 115-C is 87 years old. Pantely’s only 78.

(A version of this story originally appeared in the “Republican-American newspaper on March 2, 2024.)

About Bud Wilkinson

Bud Wilkinson writes the "RIDE-CT" motorcycle column and the "My Ride" classic car feature in the "Republican-American" newspaper in Waterbury, CT. A graduate of Vermont Academy prep school, he holds a B.A. degree journalism from Ohio Wesleyan University. He is the recipient of a Scripps Howard Foundation National Journalism Award in 1992 and a 1991-92 regional Emmy Award for commentary. He currently rides a 1987 BMW R 80 RT and a 2014 Triumph Bonneville and drives a 2010 Mazda MX-5 Miata.

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