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Packed With History

The Personal Car of Al Capone

Story Bill Holder / Images Phil Kunz - September 06, 2012 10:00 AM

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One look at this ‘47 Packard Custom Super 8 Sedan quickly tells you that it’s got a lot going for it. The list of credentials is incredible.

It was actually used as the model for a period advertisement in The New Yorker magazine and considered the best self-restored Packard in North America.

There’s the fact that it has been professionally appraised at an amazing $275,500. It was displayed for 15 years at the “Citizens Automobile Museum”, a large collection of vintage Packards and has been rewarded by the Classic Car Club of America with its highest award of “Full Classic”.

Further inspection finds that it carries every option that was available that model year.

The original owner must have really loved the idea of owning this car. In fact, history shows that the original owner had had many Packards before this one.

This was the personal car of Al Capone!

Unfortunately, in the world of classic cars, you’ll find unsubstantiated and inaccurate claims. If that is what you’re looking for, you’ve come to the wrong place. The current owner has notarized paperwork to prove it.

The acquisition of the magnificent machine is probably just as interesting as the Packard itself. Don’t worry, we have the room to tell both of the unique stories.

George Holinga of Grove City, Ohio, is the proud owner of this magnificent Packard. He acquired the car in 1980, and then accomplished the brilliant restoration.

He explained, “This was actually one of two identical cars bought by Capone, something he always did in order to confuse the police about his location. Even the license plates were the same on both … as the old gang members were making them.

“This car remained in Chicago, even after Capone’s death, in the hands of his chauffeur and bodyguard, ‘Motorcycle Mike’, who kept the car in his basement while he served the balance of his sentence at Joliet Prison. Going down to see the car the first time was a real experience and a trip back to the crime world of the 1930s.”

The car had been in that location for about 32 years since Capone’s death in 1947. “But the things that really got my attention were the Thompson machine guns and ammunition canisters all over the place. As I think back, I should have bought some of that stuff too. Mike was 96 years old at the time I made the purchase and was an unlimited source of gangster stories.”

When Holinga made the Packard purchase, the car’s interior was in near-factory condition, but there was work required to repair some significant rust. Fortunately, it had been stored inside. Unfortunately, it was a damp basement.

The original interior was protected with factory-installed silk seat covers and door panels. They were ordered by Capone, who hated the feel of wool, but loved the feel of silk.

Amazingly, the powerplant didn’t require rebuilding, not much of a surprise since Packard’s quality and engineering excellence were well recognized in the automotive industry. The large 356cid straight-eight engine produced 165 horsepower at 3,200rpm. It has nine main bearings, hydraulic valve lifters, and a two-barrel Carter carburetor.

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