Don't just take our word for it. Take a look at this glowing black 1951 Packard Sedan 200 owned by Grover McMurray of Gallatin, Tennessee. If there's one thing Grover likes, it's variety. His barn full of cars includes as a '48 Buick custom, a '57 Olds, and about a dozen others. The unusualness of this car is part of its appeal. "Everybody's got everything except a Packard," he told us.
Packards got an overdue redesign for the '51 model year, updating the hippopotamus-inspired body lines of the '48-50 models to something with trimmer style. Grover's car nudges the styling even further with a few exterior custom touches. The base model was called the 200, and came without the vertical grille teeth or the rear fender trim that other models did, an omission corrected on Grover's car. The driprails have been shaved to clean up the top, and the front and rear door windows—which came from the factory with wind wing vents—have been changed to one-piece glass. The most significant change to the body is the hood. It's been shaved of its ornament and lettering and reshaped with a pair of entirely functional cold air intake scoops.
The Body and Soul Shop, just a few miles from Grover, has a growing nationwide reputation for hot rods and customs. Grover met shop owner Paul Herman through a mutual friend and knew that he was the right guy to build the Packard.
Some mild modifications were made to the original chassis to make sure the car rode just right, and sat with a ready-to-pounce rake. The front suspension was swapped for a Mustang II frontend, including rack-and-pinion steering and coil springs from a Chevy pickup "to get it off the ground," as Grover put it. A Ford 9-inch rearend is packed with 3.73:1 gears, and rides on stock springs and shocks. The factory drums were removed in favor of Wilwood discs with cross-drilled and slotted rotors.
The car's profile is enhanced by the slight big 'n' little look of the tires and wheels. The rear wheelwells are stuffed with 20-inch Billet Specialties five-spokes wearing 275/45R20 Fuzion ZRi performance radials. In front, 17-inch rims and 245/45R17 Fuzions fill the wheel openings.
The engine compartment was no place for an unimpressive powerplant. "I'm a Chevy guy," Grover says, "but ‘Packard and Chevy' didn't sound good. ‘Packard and Hemi' sounds better!" The 5.7L powering the Packard came out of an '04 Dodge Ram pickup that had been totaled at only 10,000 miles. It's been boosted with a ProCharger centrifugal supercharger. "My wife, Melanie, had a Hemi in her Dodge Magnum RT, so I knew they ran well," he told us. I figured we'd put a little windmill on this one to make it run even better." The Hemi is hidden by a custom cover with a 3-inch pipe at the rear, which serves as a plenum, feeding air from the hood vents to the ProCharger setup. Exhaust exits through the stock manifold and a pair of Flowmaster mufflers. A column-shifted Chrysler 545RFE five-speed automatic backs up the 345-horse Hemi.
While prepping the body for paint, the Body and Soul Shop discovered no dings or dents, and only a couple of tiny rust patches. The original green paint, almost 60 years old, was stripped and coats of black base and clear were sprayed in its place. Once it was sanded and polished, it was as reflective as chrome.
Paul Atkins Interiors, about three hours south of Gallatin in Alabama, transformed the inside of the Packard. A custom console separates the modified Pontiac buckets, upholstered in black leather. A bucket-style rear bench was custom built to match the front seats. Paul Atkins created unique door panel inserts. Hydrographic printing was used to create the pattern on the turquoise-colored parts. The stock dash was retained and Dolphin gauges were used to fill the instrument panel. A Billet Specialties GTX01 wheel was mounted on a shifter tilt column from Flaming River. Vintage Air A/C keeps the Packard cockpit cool.
Since the Packard was finished in 2009, Grover has driven it approximately 11,000 miles. He says that as soon as he retires he can spend more time with this car, and the rest of the cars in his barn. His plan is simple: "No wild women. No alcohol. Just hot rods. That's the way to keep peace in the family!"