Bob Signom’s passion for the Packard started at an early age, and while the marque is gone, he made sure that America didn’t forget.
Sadly, Signom passed away July 4, but once again, the Packard name will be well represented at the 13th Dayton Concours d’Elegance with four cars from his museum on display.
“Two of these cars were very significant in Bob’s life: the 1928 Packard Six Roadster is identical to one that was owned by Bob’s father,” explained Dan Badger, managing director of America’s Packard Museum, which Signom founded in Dayton in 1992. “The 1934 Packard Super Eight was the one that really started Bob’s Packard journey.”
The story of that 1934 Packard was told in a 1999 article in the Dayton Daily News: Bob Signom was frolicking at Colonel White High School’s senior class picnic in ’63 when a big, old Packard convertible reached out and snared a piece of his heart.
“I had heard most of my life from my father about how wonderful Packards were, but to me they were just big, lumpy cars,” he recalled in the story. Then another student arrived at the picnic at Triangle Park, driving his father’s 1934 Packard.
“It was a gorgeous car that seemed about half a block long,” Signom recalled, the story stated. “That was my first exposure to a real, live, running, driving, get-in-and-sit-in-it Packard.”
Fast forward to today and Signom’s son, Rob, completes the details of the story.
“Dad was into Corvettes and Jaguars at the time, but he fell in love with that Packard and the cars became a passion for him. Thirty-five years after he first drove that Packard, he discovered that the Bronstein family still had the car and they wanted to sell it. That’s what started his collection,” he said.
The senior Signom played an important part in Badger’s life also.
“I met him maybe 15 years ago, and I was familiar with working on antique cars and airplanes, but I didn’t know much about Packards. That changed pretty quickly because Bob was a wealth of knowledge and was willing to share it with anyone who will listen,” Badger said.
“My role as a volunteer here at the museum changed to the role I now have because he shared his passion and knowledge. He certainly was a mentor to me, and much more,” he said. “Whether he knew you for 10 minutes or 30 years, he was generous, he wanted you to have fun and he wanted everyone to be happy.
“Whether it is letting a kid sit in a million-dollar Packard or maybe picking up the check at dinner, that’s the kind of guy he was. He also was an optimist; no problem was insurmountable,” Badger said.
Signom’s son Rob, who lives in New York City, is taking on the role as curator of the museum for the foreseeable future.
“I’ll be in Dayton one week a month as we not only continue the operation of the museum, but also begin to expand it,” he said during a phone interview. “My father grew up in Dayton. He loved the community and he wanted to share his passion for Packards with everyone.
“That’s why we are bringing four cars to the Dayton Concours d’Elegance – to not only confirm our presence but to let the community know that while Bob is gone, the museum will be here and operating for many years to come. We hope to actually grow our participation in other collector car events and concours,” he said.
The cars from America’s Packard Museum that will be shown at the 13th annual Dayton Concours d’Elegance at Carillon Park, 1000 Carillon Blvd., on Sept. 15 include a 1914 Packard Model 48 Runabout, a 1928 Packard Six Roadster (identical to Signom’s father’s car – even down to the actual two-tone paint scheme), the 1934 Packard Super Eight Touring that was Signom’s first Packard and a 1953 Packard Caribbean Convertible.
“Bringing four cars to the concours seemed like the right way to honor him,” Badger said. “Given the significance of two of them, it will feel like he’s there.”
America’s Packard Museum will host a Packard Party at the museum on South Ludlow Street in downtown Dayton on Sept. 13. Contact the museum for further details at 937-226-1710
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