By Rick Stiebel
You may have seen this eye-catching example of automotive history cruising the streets of Ladysmith. Here’s the story of the vehicle and the people behind the wheel.
Long-time ladysmith residents Bhagwan and Gail Mayer are the proud owners of a rare 1934 Packard five-passenger sedan, one of only 52 produced that year equipped with a V-12 engine.
“A good number of those were purchased by the syndicate that ran Chicago’s illegal activities back in the day,” said Bhagwan, who has done more than a little research on the vehicle the couple.
The Mayer’s Packard, which first sold for around $5,000, was originally purchased by Victor Smith, a Denver, Colorado resident and former director of both the Packard Car Club and the Classic Car Club of America.
“His family sold the car by auction in the 1940s and it ended up in California, where it was painted teal over the original grey,” Mayer explained.
It was then purchased off the lot by J. Hubert Craft, a resident of Vashon Island in the Seatle area.
“He used it very rarely and it was put in storage on the family farm in Kent, Washington near Renton,” Mayer said.
The Mayers bought it from that family’s grandson, J. B. Ruth, who received it in his grandfather’s will
After the Mayers purchased it in 2009, Bhagwan’s good friend, Ernie Crutcher, a renowned Packard mechanic who lives in Maple Valley, Washington, set to work making the car roadworthy.
“Ernie got it running in one day, even though the car had been stored for over 30 years,” Mayer said. “All we’ve done is replace the upholstery to meet ICBC’s requirements for a Collector’s Plate.”
The Packard, which has a total of about 109,000 original miles, caught the judges eyes at the Vancouver Island Motor Gathering. The Mayers’ Packard won the Best Classic Pre-War Trophy at the event, which featured 600 cars and 10,000 admirers.
The VIMG raises funds for the David Foster Foundation and the Cowichan District Hospital Foundation.
This year’s show at the Vancouver Island Motor Sport Circuit on Sept. 18 raised $150,000, with the Mayers contributing all of their $500 prize to the Cowichan Valley District Hospital Foundation.
“We’re happy to support such a worthy cause,” they said.