Car fancier: Attorney owns vintage Cadillac and Packards

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By Sheila Pursglove
and Brian Cox
Legal News

Attorney John MacArthur is looking forward to this year's Woodward Dream Cruise on August 15, where he plans to drive his 1972 Cadillac Coupe deVille.

"I've attended a variety of cruises over the years including the epic Woodward Dream Cruise," says MacArthur, a partner at Nunneley, Hirt, & MacArthur PLLC in Mount Clemens.

Although MacArthur is a self-described "Packard Guy" and currently owns a 1955 Packard 400, he often cruises in his Coupe deVille that still has just over 24,000 miles on it. The '55 is having some work done on it.

"Cruising is a more recent phenomenon of the old car hobby in general - a hobby I've watched for nearly 50 years," he says. "I like all aspects of the hobby from the Michigan Brass and Gas tours where the newest car is a 1912, to the customs, the street rods and the muscle cars of the 60s and early 70s.

"You meet a lot of great people and never run out of topics in such a varied and diverse hobby. So just keep cruisin' - because there is something for everyone just about every night of the week."

A former president of the Packard Motor Car Foundation, MacArthur serves on the Packard Proving Grounds preservation committee, where he is involved in saving the Proving Grounds and related structures.

A love for Packards runs in his genes - his grandfather, Fredrick MacArthur, started as a draftsman at the car company in 1928 and worked his way up to chief body engineer until he retired in 1956.

For MacArthur, the cars are a connection to the past and to his roots in much the same way his law firm is. Nunneley, Hirt, & MacArthur, a Michigan Centennial business, was founded by his maternal great-great-grandfather, Bert Nunneley, in 1903, the same year, coincidentally, that Packard moved its automobile operation to Detroit.

MacArthur bought his first Packard, a 1950 sedan, in 1983. Since then, he has possessed several, including one his father owned, a 1910 Packard that was found shut up in a chicken coop in western Pennsylvania.

He's also owned a couple of 1956s, a 1946 Packard that once belonged to the governor of New Jersey, and a 1930 Packard, of which there were only two left in the world; the other was owned by Otis Chandler, the late publisher of The Los Angeles Times.

Classic cars like the Packard can sometimes be a great leveler, bringing together people from disparate backgrounds and lifestyles, notes MacArthur, who as a kid assisted dusted off vehicles in a neighbor's classic car collection.

"A neat thing about the old car hobby is that you have this interest and it doesn't matter where you come from," he says. "You can have a special car and some gazillionaire has the same car and you have something in common."

MacArthur's vintage wheels are no trailer queens, pampered cars transported by trailer from car show to car show and only driven on and off the trailer. MacArthur prefers to take his cars on the road.

"They were built to be driven," he says.

If MacArthur could have any car he desired, he'd get his hands on a 1930 734 Speedster, the first car his grandfather worked on.

But that classic American hot rod, of which only 11 are believed to still be around, is a little pricey, exceeding the $300,000 mark at auction.

"The law practice is okay, but it's not that good," MacArthur says with a smile.

He currently owns a 1933 Packard Super 8 Club Sedan and a 1948 Packard Super 8 Convertible that had only 36,000 miles on it when he purchased it.

Over the 18 years MacArthur has owned it, the '48 Packard - which features a cormorant hood ornament, flow-through styling, original French blue exterior and 5-inch white wall tires - has served as a wedding car for several of his friends and family.

When returning from one of these weddings and still wearing his chauffeur's cap, MacArthur pulled up at a stoplight in his black 1946 Packard Limousine. A teen-ager leaned out of the car in the next lane and cracked, "Excuse me, sir, do you have any Grey Poupon?"

A prepared MacArthur didn't miss a beat.

"But of course," he said, popping open the glove compartment and removing a jar of the mustard.

When he drove on, the kids in the car were still at the light, howling with laughter.

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