MODERN medicine embraces many forms of therapy, from acupuncture and herbal treatments to visiting-dog services and swimming with dolphins. But when a head-on crash in 1978 nearly ended his life, Ralph Marano found his own alternative for persevering through a lengthy recovery: a 1937 Packard.

Weeks before his accident, in which a speeding drunken driver smashed into his Dodge Challenger, Mr. Marano had placed a deposit on a Packard 120 coupe, a gleaming black beauty with a silver stripe down its side. “It had all the gingerbread — eight cylinders, extended rear trunk and rack, dual sidemounts and a ‘flying goddess’ hood ornament,” he said.
Despite the car’s charm, the deal was later called off, its $12,000 asking price judged to be too high. But the Packard returned to Mr. Marano’s thoughts while he lay on the operating table after the accident, fully conscious, as a battle-hardened surgeon who had served in Vietnam reconstructed his face. Unable to speak, Mr. Marano scribbled instructions to his father to go ahead and buy the Packard.