Packards to pull crowd at airshow

By Catherine Pattison on Thu, 4 May 2017 | Latest News
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This 1932 Packard Twin Six Sports Phaeton will be joining the rally and display at the 2018 Warbirds Over Wanaka International Airshow. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

''Packard people are coming from everywhere,'' bringing their luxury classic vehicles to display at next year's Warbirds Over Wanaka International Airshow, South Pacific Packard Car Club member Robert Duncan said.

He is part of the organising committee collating possibly the best line-up, outside the United States, of Packards over the three days of the airshow from March 30 to April 1, 2018. Among the 52 vehicles coming to Wanaka, 10 are being shipped from the US especially for the event.

They will make their way from Auckland to Blenheim, where they meet up with the New Zealand contingent.

From there they travel south together, with stop-overs in Hanmer Springs, Greymouth, Franz Josef and Wanaka for the Warbirds display.

The cars coming to the rally from the US all belong to members of the Classic Car Club of America.

Warbirds Over Wanaka general manager Ed Taylor said the club has specific criteria about the vehicles its members own.

''You can't just buy any old Packard and apply to be a member of this club. There are strict entry requirements which means cars in the club are really the best of the best.''

Mr Duncan said among the US group, which includes seven Packards, are some ''very, very special cars.''

One has a film star link - a 1936 Super 8 Packard - that was owned by actress Jean Harlow, before her untimely death aged 26 only a year later.

Another rare vehicle is a 1936 V12 Cadillac Town Car from New York, which is believed to be one of only a handful left worldwide.

Joining these 10 cars will be a further eight Packard club members from the US, plus eight Australians, who are borrowing Packards from New Zealand owners to participate in the rally and the Wanaka display.

Mr Duncan said that Packards were ''always regarded as a luxury car, particularly prior to the mid-1930s.''

In the 1920s and 1930s, car buyers could purchase 20 Model A Fords for the same amount as just one Packard.

The value of the cars on display in Wanaka will run into ''millions of dollars worth of cars,'' Mr Duncan said.

''It's fitting that for our 30th anniversary celebrations we have such a world-class collection of cars on display,'' Mr Taylor said.

He added there was a strong link between the cars and some of the World War 2 aircraft which will also be displayed at the airshow.

''During World War 2 the Packard company made an American version of the well-known Rolls-Royce Merlin engine to power fighter aircraft and bombers.

''The Packard Merlin V12 engine was fitted to many aircraft types, including the P-40 Kittyhawk and P-51 Mustang. A number of these will be flying at Warbirds 2018. So we'll have Packard V12 engines both on the ground and in the air,'' Mr Taylor said.