A 1927 Packard once owned by the late John B. Fillauer and recently purchased in Cleveland by local car collector Allan Jones is undergoing a complete restoration.
Jones said his aim is for the automobile to be included in the city’s annual Christmas parade.
“This Fillauer Packard is the most historic car in Cleveland that we have found,” said Jones, a native philanthropist who founded Check Into Cash and serves as the business’ chief executive officer. “There may be others out there that are just as historic, and we would love to hear about them.”
The 1927 model was originally purchased new by Fillauer, a popular entrepreneur whose father helped organize Merchants Bank in 1902 and served as the bank’s first president.
John Fillauer worked in the leather-tanning business. He and his brother, William H. Fillauer, built the Fillauer Brothers Building, located in downtown Cleveland in 1911.
The building, now on the National Register of Historic Places, housed the city’s first licensed movie house called the Moneta from 1913 to 1919. The Moneta featured silent movies and live musical entertainment.
The building was also home to Fillauer Hardware, as well as a grocery store and other businesses through the years.
Bank of Cleveland purchased the Fillauer Brothers Building in 1987 and restored it to its original condition at a cost of $1 million.
“We are carrying on the tradition started by Bank of Cleveland by completely restoring John Fillauer’s treasured Packard,” Jones said.
The Fillauer family also owned the Fillauer Lake Recreation Area in northeast Cleveland which featured a pool and a lake. The area was the city’s most celebrated social gathering area for many years and was ideal for swimming, picnicking and boating.
The Fillauer pool was the first public pool in Cleveland. The family bought the land — then called Thompson Springs — from the Craigmiles family. The area is now closed to the public and is adjacent to Mayfield Elementary School.
Fillauer passed away in 1959 and had no children. The Packard was then acquired by his nephew, W. K. “Bill” Fillauer, the Cleveland mayor from 1959 to 1966.
Bill Fillauer’s son, William Keys Fillauer II, a retired teacher and coach in Oak Ridge, remembers seeing the car in his great uncle’s garage.
“I have no memory of ever seeing John actually driving the car, but I remember admiring how beautiful it was,” Fillauer said.
Bill Fillauer eventually sold the Packard to Cleveland resident Phil Newman in the late 1960s. Bill Fillauer passed away in 2000.
Newman drove the Packard less than 500 miles and kept it safely tucked away in a garage.
“We drove it once a year to the Holly Ball and to the Museum Gala, but that was about it,” Newman said. “When I bought the Packard, it had all of its original operating and repair manuals. There was even a gas-rationing stamp on the windshield that is still there today.”
Also found in the Packard were a woman’s blue swimsuit in the dash and a half-smoked cigar. While no information exists regarding the origin of the swimsuit, Keys Fillauer was not surprised to hear of the cigar.
“John always had a cigar in his mouth,” Fillauer said. “I don’t think I ever saw him without one. He was quite a character. I’m glad he was a part of my life.”
The Packard changed hands again when Newman sold the luxury automobile in 2009 to Cleveland automobile restoration expert Ron Bird, who also kept it in storage.
Bird had no plans to sell the Packard until he was approached by Jones who said he wanted to have the car completely restored so that it could run again. Jones acquired the car in February with an odometer reading of 57,058.
“This will be a full restoration project, taking the car down to its base material and rebuilding each component,” Jones said. “The restoration will take place without taking the body off the frame.”
The Packard, an American luxury car, was built in Detroit by the Packard Motor Car Company. The first Packard appeared in 1899 and the last car was manufactured in 1958.
“When the Fillauer Packard was manufactured in 1927, the Packard company was regarded as the top producer of luxury cars in America, as well as in 61 other countries,” Jones explained.
He pointed out Packard automobiles were known for introducing several innovations, including the first 12-cylinder engine, the modern steering wheel and the first air-conditioning in a passenger car.
The businessman wants Cleveland residents to be able to see and enjoy the restored luxury car.
“My expectation is that it will be finished in time for the 2012 Christmas parade,” he said. “We will work very hard to make that happen. The people of Cleveland deserve it.”
Keys Fillauer was thrilled with the news.
“I am looking forward to seeing the Packard running again,” Fillauer said. “I can’t wait to take a ride in it.”