A 1934 Packard 1108 Twelve Dietrich Convertible Victoria, entered by Joseph and Margie Cassini of West Orange, N.J., wins Best of Show at the 2013 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.
Joseph Cassini feels like lightning struck twice.
His 1934 Packard 1108 Twelve Dietrich Convertible Victoria won Best of Show at last year’s 2013 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. In 2004, another of Cassini’s exceedingly rare and expensive cars, a 1938 Horch 853A Erdmann Rossi Sport Cabriolet, also took first place at the annual event held in Pebble Beach, Calif.
“It’s such a thrill. It’s even more exciting and emotional the second time,” Cassini said to an electrified crowd just after accepting the coveted trophy. “It’s almost an impossible dream to have lightning strike twice.”
The Pebble Beach Concours is arguably the most exclusive and highly regarded automotive competition in the world. Simply getting a vehicle into the Concours is tough, let alone impressing the panel of scrupulous judges enough to win Best of Show.
More than 35,000 Packard Twelves were built from 1933 to 1939. Cassini’s 1934 model is one of a kind. “There are other Packard Dietrichs, but there’s none that looks and is bodied like this one,” Cassini said.
It has a semi-custom body that features unique “pontoon” fenders with a teardrop shape, and it bears rear-mounted double spare tires with steel covers, instead of the usual exposed side-mounted spares. Also making it unique is that it uses the longest of three body styles Packard offered at the time — denoted by the number 1108 in the car’s name, as opposed to 1106 or 1107 — but has two doors instead of four.
“There are so many rare things about this car,” said Caroline Cassini, Joseph’s 21-year-old daughter, who collaborated with her father on the car’s restoration. “It has an American style but a very European elegance to it.”
She helped him coordinate the interior and come up with the deep gray hue for the car’s exterior. “My dad and I have a really good eye for colors, so we both kind of put our two cents together. I know he wanted kind of a little bit of a green, but I kind of wanted a little bit of a gray. So my dad and I call it an ‘olivine gray.'”
The car was in rough shape when Cassini, who lives in West Orange, N.J., bought it from a restorer in Ohio three years ago. The restoration took two and half years and was completed less than two weeks before the Concours.
“A ground-up restoration like on the Packard that won can be hundreds of thousands of dollars,” said Ken Gross, who has been a judge at the Pebble Beach Concours for 24 years.
It’s important to get the restoration right, because judges reward originality and authenticity. When Joseph Cassini first acquired the car, there were concerns about whether the modified body was original. But they were soon allayed. “We did our research and found out that this car was bulletproof,” he said, “and by that I mean its pedigree was traced back to the beginning.”
The Packard’s original owner was a wealthy Puerto Rican judge, who had it shipped to the island. “It spent over 30 years in Puerto Rico, and then it was brought back to the United States by a service man in ’68,” Cassini said.
The Pebble Beach Concours generally features about 200 vehicles, though last year there were close to 250 cars. Aston Martin, Lamborghini and Porsche, which all celebrated anniversaries last year, were among the highlighted brands.
To be considered for Best of Show, a car must first win its class, which in the Packard’s case was American Classic Open Packard. Besides looking for the most original vehicles, judges also seek out the most elegant ones. That often puts post-World War II cars at a disadvantage, because they simply can’t match the elegance of prewar cars. Postwar cars have won Best of Show only six times.
“People still ooh and ah over old cars,” Gross said. “That’s what wins here, something that’s elegant, beautiful, with lines that seem to stretch into infinity.”
The 2012 Pebble Beach Concours D’Elegance Best of Show winner was a 1928 Mercedes-Benz 680S Saoutchik Torpedo. The last American car to win Best of Show was a 1935 Duesenberg SJ Special in 2007.
Matthew de Paula wanted to be an automotive journalist ever since reading his first car magazine in grade school. After a brief stint writing about finance, he helped launch ForbesAutos.com and became the site’s editor in 2006. Matthew now freelances for various outlets.