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Amelia Earhart’s Packard Car at Warbirds Over Wanaka

Amelia Earhart’s Packard Car

Wanaka: A motor car originally owned by famous American Aviatrix Amelia Earhart has been confirmed as one of the 50 classic Packard cars which will be on display at the 30th anniversary Warbirds Over Wanaka International Airshow next Easter.

The 1935 Packard Super 8 coupe is being brought to Wanaka by its Australian owners Ross and Robyn Marshall. It will join at least ten Packards from the United States and others from around New Zealand in what’s believed will be the best collection of Packards ever assembled outside the US.

Ross Marshall says he first heard about the existence of the car during general conversation over the bonnet of an old car at a Tennessee car show back in 2007. He was told about a retired judge in Dallas, Texas who had a number of vintage Buick cars plus an old Packard.

“At the time I had an original 1933 Buick doctor’s coupe. The thought occurred to me that if the Packard had any value it might be a nice exchange for my Buick. When I got hold of the retired judge he confirmed that the car did exist but that it was totally dismantled in a million plus pieces. It had been under restoration for the past 50 years or more and was far from completion.”

“The judge had acquired the Packard from the rear of a storage garage adjacent to Love Airfield in Dallas, Texas. It was later that documents and pictures provided by the judge confirmed this car had obviously been built especially for its first owner, Amelia Earhart, possibly as a gift from the Packard Motor Corporation as Amelia was a spokeswoman for the company at the time. The car still bears her initials.”

“Following her disappearance while flying across the Pacific in 1937, the car was kept by Amelia’s husband George P. Putnam. It was eventually sold to a Dallas used car dealer who on sold it to a notorious Dallas gangster until it stopped running around 1948. The judge came into possession of the car in 1950” says Ross.

Ross says after he bought the car he loaded all the bits onto a pickup truck and trailer and set off for home in Tennessee where he was living at the time. The trip would not be without incident.

“We were travelling along at around 110kph on the interstate, it was winter time, dark, raining and cold. All of a sudden there was a deafening noise and a huge spark display as the trailer coupling came apart. Somehow I managed to dodge the traffic and steer the vehicle and trailer to a stop on the side of the road. The trailer was only hanging on by the two heavy safety chains I had put on.”

Ross started work on restoring the vehicle in the United States but it wasn’t until he had moved back to Australia that work really got underway in earnest.

Ross hopes that one day the Packard will end up in the Smithsonian in Washington DC, along with other Amelia Earhart memorabilia.

Amelia Earhart was an American aviation pioneer. She was the first female pilot to fly across the Atlantic Ocean and set many other records. It was during an attempt to fly around the world in a Lockheed Model 10-E Electra in 1937 that Amelia Earhart disappeared. She had left Papua New Guinea bound for Howland Island but failed to arrive. Fascination with her disappearance continues to this day.

The 30th anniversary Warbirds Over Wanaka International Airshow is being held on March 30th, March 31st and April 1st.

Information and tickets are available from


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