This Packard knows cars from the inside outBy GERRY MILES
New Hampshire Union Leader
August 09. 2012 7:01PM
HOOKSETT - Automobiles are all that Randy Packard, a third-generation member of Superior Interiors on Bypass 28, or Londonderry Turnpike, has ever known.
As a presenting sponsor of the awards for the fourth consecutive year for the Union Leader's Show 'n' Shine, which took place last Saturday, it's simply a way of giving back, staying involved and admiring classic cars.
'We've been fortunate in our business,' Packard said in a telephone interview, 'so you try to do what you can. And it's for a good cause.'
Show 'n' Shine benefits the New Hampshire Charitable Fund and Union Leader Santa Fund.
Packard is pleased that his business has been steady for the past three years because 'everything in my shop is a 'want' and not something that someone necessarily needs,' he said. 'If the car has a tear in the seat covers, it won't change the way it runs. Anything else is just because someone wants it to look good.
'About the only thing I can think of that someone has to have done right away is if they drive a convertible and the top is up. You don't want rain coming in,' Packard said. 'Everything else is a want, and we're out straight.'
Packard's business is not limited to car interiors. The firm also puts in new covers for boats and recovers chairs for medical offices.
'I do all the car dealers, office furniture and doctors,' Packard said. 'I've also got the Derryfield and Aloha restaurants. We do a lot more than people think.'
A few years ago, Packard got the account to recover 50 to 60 couches and club chairs at St. Paul's School in Concord.
'That was interesting because it has to be done when there's a break for a few weeks and the kids are away,' Packard said. 'But the furniture is stellar, and you won't see pieces like that made ever again. It's worth it to recover them and preserve them. It's just gorgeous furniture.'
Packard grew up in the business when it was known as Packard Auto Seat Covers on Valley Street in Manchester. The family still owns the building, which it leases to Sherwin Williams paint.
This was the first year that Packard was able to attend the Union Leader show. 'It's a great place to hold a show with the paper's big, open parking lot. It's perfect for it. Maybe it was just too hot this year not to have more cars.'
Although he's owned many different vehicles, including many a namesake Packard, if he could pick one car to have, he'd opt for a '55 Chevy.
'If I had to have a car, it'd be a 1955 Chevy like the one a guy had at the Union Leader last Saturday. It was a light burnt orange with a cream interior. That guy said he has four of them. I've always had Packards, just to match the name,' Packard said.
'The '55 is the epitome of a street road. The '57 used to be skyrocketing in price, and now the '55 is up there. It's hot and hard to find. My old man used to race stock cars, had a '55, and I think he used to race at Lee. So that's probably why I'd take that one.'
One trend in the industry Packard sees is the move to 'rat rods' or something that was pulled out of the woods, fixed with spare parts in the driveway over time, painted in black primer and runs.
'No one wants to work on cars right now,' Packard said. 'They want the modern technology, but the old-style look. And they want it all turnkey, too. There's a lot of cars with black primer that look pretty cool.
'If you think about spending $20,000 on a paint job, you're not going to cruise up to an ice cream stand and just enjoy the night, because you'd be worried that the paint's going to get scratched,' Packard said. 'With a rat rod, no one's worried about that. You can park it and not worry about it. The rat rods just bang around.'
Packard is next focused on the big car show on Elm Street on the Saturday of the Labor Day weekend.
'It's been taken over by the Manchester Rotary Club, and they've got a few things they're trying, so we'll see,' he said.
One thing is paying a slightly higher $35 preregistration fee to be guaranteed a parking spot on Elm Street. 'That way no one's displaying their cars on the side streets where it might get missed,' Packard said. 'There are usually so many cars, it could take two days to walk up and down and see all of them.'
To accommodate the cars along Elm Street proper, Packard said the vendors might be removed from Elm Street and relocated in Veterans Park. 'It's an interesting idea. We'll see how it works.'
In addition to the car shows, Packard's company also helps out with some bike (motorcycle) runs.
'I've been fortunate,' Packard said. 'I've been on my own for 21 years, and the business is good, and you try to do what you can. Everyone's feeling it. It's nice to help out somewhere. You just do what you can do.'
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Gerry Miles may be reached at email@example.com.