PROPERTY FROM THE PATRICK S. RYAN COLLECTION
The Ex-Countess Porceri
1930/33 DUESENBERG MODEL J SPORTS SEDAN
COACHWORK BY FRANAY
Chassis No. 2385
Engine No. J-365
Red with tan leather interior
Engine: straight-eight, twin overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder, 420ci., 265bhp at 4,200rpm; Gearbox: three-speed; Suspension: beam axle to front, live axle to rear, semi-elliptic leaf springs all round; Brakes: servo-assisted hydraulically operated drums on all wheels. Left hand drive.
When the Model J Duesenberg debuted December 1, 1928 at the New York Auto Salon held in the Commodore Hotel, it was the sensation of both the general and the automotive press. With its double overhead camshaft straight-eight engine, which, like racing car engines, had four valves per cylinder, it had double the horsepower of any competitor, the nearest being the Kissel 8-126 with 126 horsepower, and the Stearns-Knight J-8-90 and McFarlan TV, each with 120hp.
Many viewers were skeptical of the horsepower claims, but they didn't know Duesenberg Motor Company owner Errot Lobban Cord. After acquiring the Duesenberg company in 1926, Cord vowed to build the biggest, best, most powerful (and fastest), most expensive car on the market. When reports of the Model J's performance started to be published, skepticism turned into amazement and grudging, or envious, admiration.
The chassis was a rugged stamped-steel channel-section frame carried by four semi-elliptic springs on beam axles. Brakes were four-wheel hydraulic which was expected, as Duesenberg had pioneered four-wheel hydraulic brakes on the Model A in 1920.
Typical of the great Classic Cars, Duesenberg chassis were consigned to established coachbuilders such as Derham, Dietrich, LeBaron, Weymann, Rollston and Murphy. A few Duesenbergs were also sent to Europe and bodied by some of the leading European coachbuilders such as Castagna, Hibbard & Darrin, Gurney Nutting, Figoni and Franay.
According to the card index kept by the Auburn Cord & Duesenberg historian Ray Wolffe, this chassis was delivered new to France and it appears to have been first fitted with town car coachwork by the French firm of Kellner. For some reason in this configuration the car was not sold, and in August 1931 new sports sedan coachwork by Franay, with sliding sunroof and skirted rear fenders, was fitted. In this new configuration the car was exhibited at the October 1931 Paris Salon with two-tone paintwork. A year later the car was again back at the Paris Salon, but this time it was painted in just one color. In January or February of 1934 the car was sold to the Countess Porceri.
The Countess Porceri was by birth an American whose maiden name was Mabel Boll from Rochester, New York. It appears that Mabel Boll was something of a socialite and attempted to become the first lady to cross the Atlantic (as a passenger) in 1928. We also believe she was known as The Queen of Diamonds and was a top client of the famous jewelers, Harry Winston. She was a widow (Mrs. Hernando Roacha) before she married the Polish Count Henri de Porceri in Paris, France in April 1931.
A photograph appears in the J.L. Elbert book Duesenberg the Mightiest American Motor Car on page 74 which captions Mlle. Cortesi as the lady standing in front of the Franay. We believe she was a model hired for the Concours d'Elegance Feminine in June 1934. Model Js were often familiar attractions at the popular Concours d'Elegance shows such as Cannes, Nice, Monte Carlo, Deauville, Vichy and Paris. Not only were the cars on display in competition, but they would be accompanied by young ladies dressed by the latest Parisian couturiers with striking ensembles that complemented the vehicles. Another period photograph of the car also appears on page 155 of the Fred Roe Duesenberg book.
Very little is known of the car again until the early 1950s when retired schoolteacher, Henri Beaud of Villeneuve, owned the car. In the late 1950s the car was purchased in partnership between Henri M. Petiet and Serge Pozzoli. Pozzoli was one of the first in France to realize the historical importance of the motor car. Helped by a network of friends and enthusiasts, he saved many cars from destruction and for many years his collection was housed under the banking at Montlhéry. From 1965 until 1971 Paul Badre of Paris was its custodian, at which time Marc Nicolosi brokered the car to Gavin S. Herbert of Newport Beach, California. In 1974 the car changed hands again, selling briefly to Jonnie Bassett before ending up with Ray Egidi of Florida who had the car quickly restored. A year later the car sold to well-known jeweler, Marvin Cohen of Chicago, IL, who carried out a major restoration with some modifications made to enhance the car's overall appearance. The built-in trunk was removed to achieve a fastback profile (a luggage rack was added), and at the same time the hood was lengthened to extend fully back to the windshield. The interior was also enhanced along similar lines to a Murphy Beverly interior with some fine wooden cabinetry with inset original Duesenberg instrumentation. Once finished, Marvin Cohen and the car were regular attendees at concours shows including the Auburn, Indiana ACD meet. Somewhat like the participants in the early French events, Marvin and his wife would often arrive dressed in period costume and jewelry. By 1985, Marvin Cohen was sadly unwell and unable to drive his cherished Duesenberg any more, so he opted to auction the car.
The new buyer that day was Patrick Ryan, who was making one of his first forays into buying Classic Cars. One of the first people to congratulate Pat on his purchase that day was the late Lorin Tryon, one of the famous driving forces behind the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance. On more than one occasion, Lorin told Pat that if the car was freshly restored to Pebble Beach standards, he could envisage it being a serious contender to take the top award in the most elegant closed car class because it represented precisely what Pebble Beach was all about, elegance and style. He said ...its French styling with Duesenberg engineering and power are a superb combination. Certainly J-365 has a tremendous presence and the new owner today will have the opportunity to join an elite group of Model J owners.