Howard “Dutch” Darrin was a flamboyant Hollywood designer. And he had a vision. He had sold a few of his custom cars to celebrities of the silver screen, namely Clark Gable and his crowd. From that success, he proposed marketing his custom convertible as a glamour leader for the Packard brand. The Packard 180 made its debut in 1941 in New York and was to be a replacement for the legendary Packard Twelve. The Packard 180 had a modern, deco design with headlights integrated into the fenders, which was an innovation for the time. The interior was equally as modern, with a dash fascia molded almost entirely in a revolutionary new material called plastic.
Near the close of the 1930s, Darrin created a series of special-bodied convertible Victorias atop the Packard chassis. They were distinguished by their “vee” windshields, long hoods and the famous “Darrin dip” in the beltline near the rear of the doors. The popularity for these cars quickly rose and in response, Darrin set up production in Connersville, Ind. They carried a price tag of a whopping $4,595, which was more than the average income of workers at the time, clearly making it a luxury car. All of the 50 example cars produced were sold, with 15 being assembled in 1942, before World War II ended production.
The factory would not restart. The company sold its tooling to the Russians. But the car would not die. A Packard was used in the filming of the 1970s television detective series “Banacek.” The Darrin-bodied Packard Model 180s rode on a 127-inch wheelbase and were powered by a 356 cubic-inch straight-eight engine offering 165 horsepower. They had a three-speed transmission with overdrive. The bodies were modified by coachbuilder Hess & Eisenhart in Cincinnati. The LeMay collection car is one of only three built by Rollston, Inc.