Packards Virginia: A History of the First 25 Years

Russell V. Keune

Charter Member

Arlington, Virginia

August 2001

In the Fall of 1975 Robert B. Robb, II, then a resident of Herndon, and Douglas Hayes, Jr. then of Arlington, concluded that it was perhaps timely for The Packard Club to have a region based in Virginia.  Bob and Doug were longtime, active members of The Packard Club, Mid-Atlantic Packards and Old Dominion Packards.  Their review of the Virginia membership lists of these three organizations identified a list of possible members.  Informal personal contacts were made and the positive responses encouraged them to move forward with their plan.

Two other Arlington residents, Ingrid Keune and Peter van Vliet, agreed to join Bob and Doug in forming the initial board and petitioning for a regional charter.  This four-person board held their first meetings at the Robb and Hayes residences in late 1975.

The club Charter was issued in January 1976.  The first formal regional club event was held on a cold Sunday, January 18, 1976, at the Arlington Historical Society’s Hume School Museum on Ridge Road.   Five Packards and 28 individuals turned out and agreed to support this new region of The Packard Club.

The solicitation of members continued throughout 1976 and by the end of the year the club had a respectable 25 individual and family members.  Five of these original members still appear on the membership roles - Rebecca Hayes, Rodney Hobbs together with the Keune, Robb and Sommers families. A preliminary membership inventory indicates that some 140 individuals and families have been club members at some time since 1976.  Club membership at the end of 2001 stood at 53.

An initial review of surviving club records indicates that these 140 members have been the stewards of some 221 Packard automobiles over this quarter of a century.  The oldest car belonging to a club member being a 1917 Twin Six Roadster and the newest being a 1958 Two-Door Hardtop.  The distribution of car ownership by decade indicates the following: 1910-1919, one car; 1920-1929, 11 cars; 1930-1939, 38 cars; 1940-1949, 64 cars; and 1950-1958, 107 cars.

The documentation necessary to launch and maintain such an undertaking commenced and quickly produced a club charter, a constitution, a logo, a membership application, a membership card, and a newsletter, The Packard Virginian.  Later, a club banner would grace club and national gatherings.  Specially designed club name badges would be made available to all members.  

The all-volunteer leadership launched an on-going series of diverse gatherings too numerous to recount.  A representative sampling would include: technical training sessions on subjects ranging from body work, brakes and paint-stripping and repainting; participation in local Independence Day parades; car expositions at a senior citizen retirement center; and meets at numerous historic sites and museums.

Included among these destinations were Virginia’s Woodlawn Plantation, Oatlands, Morven Park, Waterford, River View Farm, Flying Circus Aerodrome, and White Post Restorations; Maryland’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Rose Hill Manor, Smithsonian’s Silver Hill Aircraft Restoration Facility, Oxen Hill Farm Museum, and the Trolley Museum; West Virginia’s Harpers Ferry National Historical Park; and the District of Columbia’s National Building Museum.

Events further afield included club driving tours and visits to Hood, Smithfield, Petersburg and Richmond, Virginia.

The club’s one special project was the successful design, production, marketing and complete production sale of a reproduction “Packard Fuse Kit”.

Throughout its existence, the club has collaborated with other Packard regions as well as other regional, state and local car clubs.  From the beginning members were encouraged to participate in major regional annual car shows such as the June Sully Plantation Antique Auto show and the October Rockville Antique and Classic Car Show.  Increased participation by Packard owners resulted in now long established recognized Packards classes at these shows.  Collaboration with the Chesapeake Bay Region of the Classic Car Club of America resulted in a fascinating 1986 garage tour of antique car collections, particularly those undergoing restoration, in northern Virginia.  Since the mid-1980’s the club has also participated in the annual All Orphan Invitational Car Meet with an array of fascinating back-road driving tours of uniquely scenic portions of Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia.

Collaboration with Mid-Atlantic Packard22s has been particularly close during the club’s history. A long history of joint meets in Maryland, the District of Columbia and Virginia has shared hospitality, friendships and knowledge.  The most significant among these joint regional projects has been the “All Packard Swap Meet” held annually every Spring in Frederick, Maryland since 1996.  This very unique event not only serves the respective club members and is open to all Packard Club members.

Various members have attended the annual National Meets of The Packard Car Club, especially those nearby meets held in Annapolis and in Baltimore.  Many club members have won awards for their judged cars.  Perhaps the largest number of club attendees was at the July 1999 Packard Centennial Celebration in Warren, Ohio.

One can always count on encountering a goodly number of club members during the annual October trek through the flea market fields, car corals and judging show at Hershey, Pennsylvania.

Dining has historically been an integral part of at least two annual club events -- a summer picnic and a Yuletide holiday party.  Beginning in December of 1976, the club annually enjoyed a December dinner meeting held for many years at Arlington’s Powhatan Springs Swim Club. In the mid-1990s the winter annual banquet was moved to the less hectic post-holiday schedule of late January or early February as an annual “Jump Start” event to kick off the coming year’s activities.  Of particular note was the period in which this event was hosted at Paul Delaney’s Bellevue Hotel in Washington, DC in the unique Packard Grille and the basement garage tour to see his fascinating collection of Packards.

The initial summer picnics were held in various public facilities but later were hosted at the homes of the Sommers, Hayes, McCarthy, McVicker and Brooks families.  Their accompanying large sites majestically accommodated the assemblage of Packards.  The interesting and educational tours of the Hayes and McVicker special Packard garages were highlights.  More recently, these picnics have included organized driving caravans of Packards to the surviving buildings in Arlington and Alexandria that once housed Packard dealers.   

The accomplishments of the past 25 years would not have been possible without the sustained leadership provided by members of the Board of Directors.  Those who have served in the roles of Regional Director, Assistant Regional Director, Secretary, Treasurer, Program Director, Editor and/or Membership Director are Jim Beek, Scott Bell, Thomas Bradley, Richard Cates, Paul Delaney, John Getreu, Douglas Hayes, Hal Hermann, Rodney Hobbs, Ingrid Keune, William McCoskey, J.P. McVicker, Richard Milton, Robert B. Robb, II, Ken Thompson and Peter van Vliet.

Having been “seasoned” by the past 25 years of experience, Packards Virginia has embarked on its most significant event, hosting the 2002 37th Annual Packard Club Meet.  Scheduled for July1-5, 2002, it is headquartered at the Sheraton Hotel in Tyson’s Corner, Virginia.