May a Packard Convertible be the grandest dame to grace Heritage Tour 2021?
George, Garden Route, South Africa – Sept 2021 – The Southern Cape Old Car Club (SCOCC) Heritage Tour, proudly supported by Recollection Rides, takes to the road from September 23-26. And possibly the most venerable of the event’s participating automobiles is a Packard Convertible One Twenty 1941, this year celebrating 80 years since being the last of its kind to roll off the production line.
The year 1941 was Packard’s final complete production year; manufacturing ceased on February 9, 1942, after America joined the Second World War effort the preceding December. Of the four Packard One Twenty convertibles imported to South Africa from the States during the 1941 production run, this special Heritage Tour ‘21 participant is one of the sole survivors.
Sep Serfontein resides in Wilderness and acquired his first Packard - a 1941 One Twenty Sedan - in 1982. So smitten was he with this rare collector’s item that a decision to focus on Packards and the 1940s was made there and then.
Sep, the registered restorer of the Packard Convertible along with son Louis Serfontein, tells a tale that spans four decades, when recounting the journey since that mid-1980s day when the classic car was discovered in a Cape Flats garage.
“Famed old-car collector Bertie Bester is rumoured to have swapped the wreck for a restored 1938 Dodge coupe. We acquired the Packard during a consequent and complicated exchange in 1987, after which it spent a quarter century in storage in Pretoria,” says Serfontein.
During this time, several unsuccessful attempts were made to start restoring the car. A number of 1941 sedan wrecks were bought for their parts and stripped; a roof frame was only tracked down in 1991. The engine was rebuilt by Pretoria-based connoisseur Jan Snyman during the course of 1998.
The search for parts in SA and the States continued throughout – a quest made more challenging by the fact that President Roosevelt donated a vast quantity of Packard bodywork castings and parts to his wartime ally, and Packard enthusiast Joseph Stalin.
As a result, Serfontein and his collaborators had to physically recreate some of the parts during a procurement process that spanned 20-odd years. The Packard finally made its way to Wilderness in 2009, to form part of a collection of contemporaries, all dating back to the 1940s.
“Interestingly, most South African cabinet ministers in the 1930s and ‘40s chose Packards as official transportation,” he says. Be sure to meet the co-owners Sep and son Louis Serfontein, and their unique automobile when they set off on this year’s Heritage Tour on September 23.
The SCOCC also organises the popular George Old Car Show, scheduled for February 12 and 13 next year. For more information, visit www.scocc.co.za