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Classic Cars and Old Friends


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His name is George. No, not the car's owner, the CAR's name is George. Has been for nearly 35 years.

He's named for a former owner, George Jepson, one of the charter members of the Classic Car Club of America in 1952. My friend, and George's current conservator, is Don Peterson, who graciously invited me to accompany him to a meeting of the New South Region of the CCCA yesterday, in place of his wife Edie, who isn't fond of BBQ, the meal that was being catered.

Don and I are old friends, even though he has kids my age (six boys!). He was our best man in November, 1977. In 1978, Don and I were the editorial staff of <span style="font-style: italic">Car Collector</span> magazine and I was lucky enough to accompany Don on the week-long 1978 Revival Glidden Tour in the Poconos. And in this very car, then unrestored since the early '50s. That tour was in September, 1978.

Now, thirty years later almost to the day, I got to take only my second ride in George, now fully restored and probably worth in excess of seven figures. I believe this car, with its provenance, is one of the top three or five desirable Packards of all time. It certainly is for me.

How Don came to own this car is a great story. Don joined the CCCA in 1954 and in 1958 at some car meet (a CCCA Caravan tour?) first saw this 1930 Packard Speedster boattail. He was smitten immediately, the proverbial love at first sight (something I have experienced firsthand, though involving a person not a car). He simply had to own the car. For years he hounded owner Jepson in the nicest possible way to sell him the car. Finally, George told Don that he would grant him first refusal on the car when he was ready to sell it. So Don stopped hounding and began gently reminding...

In 1974, George called and said he was ready to sell, as he was retiring from the Shell station he had run in Hillsdale, NJ, for many years. He actually gave Don his choice of TWO 1930 Packard Speedster series cars, the boattail and a Speedster Phaeton. Don says, "Ten years earlier, I probably would have selected the Phaeton, as some of the kids still were around. But in 1974, we were empty nest so I choose the boattail." Don also indicates that, uncharacteristically, he didn't make a counter offer when George named his price.

The plaque propped up on George's windshield in the picture above reads:

"Between June 6 and July 9, 1995, this 1930 Packard 734 boat-tail speedster was driven 9,638 miles through all 48 continguous states by Donald R. Peterson. He was accompanied through portions of the trip by his sons Wyatt and Ryan Peterson, and his wife Edie.

Engine: 385cid/145hp Straight 8

Wheelbase: 134"

Fuel Economy: 12.6mpg

Total mileage on the car is over 300,000."

So Don drives George, though admittedly a bit less since he was restored a decade ago. But starting next week, Don and a son or two will be putting 3,000 miles on the car in about three weeks, going from Dayton, OH, to Hershey, PA, and THEN on a week-long CCCA Caravan tour. Gotta love it. Don's the guy who surprised me at a fast food restaurant I was running many years ago by appearing in the drive-thru one morning in a 99-3/4 point Duesenberg sedan asking for me. As I said, he drives his classics!

The radiator mascot is quite unusual. It is a Schneider Trophy seaplane, if you know your aviation history. As the car goes down the road, the propeller spins, at least at anything over 15 mph. Don says it makes a racket and at speed is like the clock ticking in the Rolls-Royce: the loudest noise one hears! The car wears a Don Sommer repro mascot, as the originals are sterling silver. Don has a original one gracing his mantle and says that the going price for a real one seems to be $4,500 at the present time!

About the gathering itself, the local New South Region of the CCCA met annually in recent years at a theme restaurant at a small local airport. The restaurant recently went out of business so a new meet location had to be found. The site selected was pretty unusual.

There is a parking deck attached to a high-end (read: posh) office tower situated on the highest point in the Atlanta area, well, inside I-285, if that means anything to you. One single lane on one level is uncovered, facing downtown Atlanta about five stories up. The view was terrific, as my hazy picture will hopefully show.

And that's where the meet was held. Not a bunch of cars, but some nice, nice stuff. 1930 Pierce-Arrow that was a Broadmoor Hotel car. 1948 Jaguar Mk IV (LHD!) originally sold in Morroco. 1948 Packard limo with less than 16,000 miles. 1932 Packard shovel-nose. 1924 Lincoln V8. And several others.

In case I haven't made it clear, this was a fun, fun day, all the more so because it involved both old cars and old friends. For me, the two are absolutely inseparable.




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I'll add a further story Don related to me yesterday.

When he had George at Pebble Beach (I dunno exactly when, but it has to be within the last couple of years), the car was parked beside a Duesenberg and as I suspect is always the case, Jay Leno (who owns a couple of the cars himself) appeared several times to check out the Duesey.

Don had not met Leno and after a time, noticed that the crowd that usually surrrounds him had thinned and that Leno was in conversation with another collector that Don did know. So he walked over to join the two men.

Don's friend introduced him to Jay as "Don Peterson" and Jay replied, "Hey, I know you: you're Westley Peterson's father, aren't you?"


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