Inverness man's passion was restoring Packards

 
By Eileen O. Daday
Daily Herald correspondent
Updated 6/16/2011 5:32 PM
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  • Courtesy of Joette DuranThomas A. Moretti of Inverness poses with the 1932 Packard Twin Six 905 Coupe Roadster that won first place in the 2009 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance after he restored it.

    Courtesy of Joette DuranThomas A. Moretti of Inverness poses with the 1932 Packard Twin Six 905 Coupe Roadster that won first place in the 2009 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance after he restored it.

An Inverness businessman ran a successful carpet store for more than 40 years in Palatine, but his reputation spans the globe for a completely different pursuit: restoring 1930s-era Packards.

Thomas A. Moretti was a renowned authority on the classic luxury automobile, and a regular exhibitor at the Classic Car Show on Father's Day at Oakbrook Center.

His specialty was restoring the road cars, built by the Packard Motor Car Co. of Detroit and later by the Studebaker-Packard Corp. of South Bend, Ind.

Over the years, he was a five-time first place winner in his class at the prestigious Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance in California.

Mr. Moretti, a 26-year resident of Inverness, died Tuesday of lung cancer. He was 71.

His daughter, Joette Doran, a Hoffman Estates attorney, says her father loved the elegance and beauty of the Packards. With his son-in-law Mark Doran running Unique Carpet in Palatine, Mr. Moretti had time to compete around the country, as well as drive his cars.

Mr. Moretti began restoring Chevrolets back in the 1960s, but after he saw his first Packard, he never looked back.

"Winning first place at the Pebble was like winning the Super Bowl," Joette Doran says. "It's that prestigious."

Mr. Moretti earned his first win in 1997 for a 1936 Packard Twelve LeBaron-bodied town car. Subsequent titles came for a 1936 Twelve convertible coupe in 2000, and a 1934 Packard Twelve Victoria in 2003.

In 2007, he won with a 1934, seven-passenger touring car previously used by the city of New York as a parade car.

Mr. Moretti's most recent title came in 2009 for a 1932 Packard Twin Six 905 Coupe Roadster once owned by Clark Gable. The latest award got him in the cover story of Hemmings Classic Car Magazine last year.

"He did (all the restorations) by himself -- and he was competing against professionals," Joette Doran adds. "He only worked on one a year. It was a labor of love."

At the time of his death, Mr. Moretti was in the process of restoring a 1934 Packard Twelve Touring Sedan, which brought him back to his first love, road cars.

"I always wanted a Victoria; that's the body style I like," Mr. Moretti said in an interview with car specialist Chuck Derer in 2003 after winning his second Pebble. "It's more of an elegant car than a sporty convertible coupe."

Beyond restoring the Packards back to their auto showroom level, as if they had just rolled off the manufacturing line, Mr. Moretti loved to drive them.

"It feels like you're in heaven," he told Derer, "if you're an old car nut like me."

Besides his daughter, Mr. Moretti is survived by another daughter, Suzette (Jim) Roppel and two grandchildren.

Visitation will take place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday at Belmont Funeral Home, 7120 W. Belmont Ave. in Chicago.