Locally Restored Packard Wins Prestigious James Nance Award
It took Gil and Bruce Girdauskas, Wautoma, two-and-a-half years to complete the job, but their hard work and dedication has shown their skills are among the best.
Gil Girdauskas, owner of Vintage Vehicles Company, Wautoma, a restoration facility, and his son, Bruce, restored a 1934 Packard Eight Classic Limousine which has won many top honors in several national competitions.
In the fall of 1987, the Packard won the prestigious national James Nance Award - 1987 Chicago Meet Winner - the 1934 Model 1102 Limousine. The car is owned by John Arps, Milwaukee.
The Girdauskas completed restoration of the Packard in the spring of 1983 and since then the Packard has won the following honors in national competition: Antique Automobile Club of America, 1st Junior and Senior 1983; 1st Grand National 1984; Classic Car Club of America - 1st Primary 1983; 1st Senior 1984; 1st Senior Emeritus 1986; Best in Class - Meadow Brook and Concours d'Elegance 1985; and the 1987 Chicago Meet James Nance Award.
Arps purchased the car from a couple in Muskego, who had begun a partial amateur restoration of the vehicle, Arps said.
After attending the 1980 National Packard Meet in Kansas where Ted Bunnell's 1934 1108 Sedan was awarded the James Nance Award, Arps began plans for a total restoration of his 1934 Packard. The competition is held in a different location throughout the United States each year.
Arps said on a nice fall day in October of 1980, he drove the Packard to Vintage Vehicles Company, to the Girdauskas who were friends of his.
As the restoration began, it became evident there were to be many trials and tribulations to be endured.
The previous owners had completed the reconditioning of the chrome in many areas. Arps said one problem was the work performed was unacceptable for a car being prepared for major competition.
Both headlight shells along with the radiator shell were warped beyond repair. Many months were spent advertising and searching swap meets for these parts along with the handheld dictograph which was used to communicate with the chauffeur, Arps said.
There were also lighter moments encountered during the restoration, one of which occurred while researching an aspect of the automatic shock absorber system. Research uncovered the system was introduced in 1931 on the Ninth Series automobiles and came under immediate scrutiny by the customer for an inscription on the activator knob.
Arps said to activate the system, the knob read "in-hard", "out-soft". Shortly after production had begun, the company hastily changed the inscription on the knob to read "Ride Control" eliminating any reference to the mechanical function of the system.
Arps said the motto used throughout the restoration of the car was "Authenticity and Detail". To adhere to the motto, numerous contacts were made with Packard parts vendors, Packard experts, and owners of 1934 Packards.
Arps said in every contact, the person was extremely helpful and contributed significantly to the success the car has achieved.
Girdauskas' other son, Paul, has now joined in the family restoration business to assist his father and brother.
The facility is located on 20th Drive near Little Hills Lake, east of Wautoma.
Vintage Vehicles Inc.
N-1940 20th Drive
Wautoma, Wisconsin 54982
Weekdays: 9 AM to 4 PM