This story began in August, 2014, while attending the 40th annual Frog Follies in Evansville, Indiana. After a long day driving from Corbin, Kentucky, to Evansville, Indiana, and dinner at a nice buffet restaurant, I pulled in the motel parking lot about 7 PM and backed into a space between two other street rods. It was hot and I was ready to check in the motel, go to my room and take a nice shower. As I was pulling my bag out of the rumble seat, a young fellow approached and politely asked, “Sir, is this a 1937, 120 Packard?” I was stunned. Not only did he know the word “sir,” but he recognized my car as a Packard, and not just any Packard, but a 1937, 120 series. How many teen age boys would even know what a Packard is, much less the year and series?
He told me his name was Matthew, that he was 13 years old and he was from Clinton, Indiana. He was attending Frog Follies with his older brother, William, and his parents, John and Nancy, in their 1934 Ford sedan. But Matthew’s favorite cars are Packards.
I was curious as to how a 13 year old developed an interest in Packards. Matthew said that when he was a little boy, 10 years old, he was at a car show in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He was looking at a car and the owner opened the door and invited him to sit in the car. The car was a 1936 or ’37 Packard 120 four door. Matthew instantly became a Packard fan and later bought a 1928 Packard motometer to begin his memorabilia collection.
So I opened the door and told Matthew to get in the driver’s seat. He was afraid he might get it dirty but I insisted and at 9 PM, we were still in the parking lot talking about Packards. John, Matthew’s father, broke up the conversation so I could unload and get to that shower I had been looking forward to.
On Saturday, I saw Matthew and his family at the Frog Follies valve cover races and they were having quality time together. I look for them each year when I go to Frog Follies. And now when I go to the AACA car show in Hershey, PA and see all those “Do Not Touch” signs, I think of Matthew and his experience as a 10 year old at a car show. I question the impression that kids get about old cars when they are told that you can’t touch them.
So the next time you are out cruising in your Packard and a young person asks what kind of car that is, open the door and invite him to sit in the driver’s seat. Tell him about Packards, and street rods. After all, he did ask the man who drives one. You just never know. Some day you may see that person at a car show driving his own Packard street rod.