Monday, March 26, 2012

The Count De Sakhnoffsky Cord, L-29, one of one, just sold at RM auction for $2.4 million

Designed by Count Alexis de Sakhnoffsky for Grand Rapids, Michigan’s Hayes Body Company, this “one-off” design statement was conceived and built specifically for international show competition, and today it remains one of the crowning achievements of the Classic Era. The Count, the son of an advisor to Czar Nicholas II, was an automotive enthusiast from his youth. Following the Russian Revolution, he made his way to Paris where he quickly developed an outstanding reputation for his natural design prowess.

Following training in engineering and art school, the young Count applied his talents to some of the world’s finest chassis of the 1920s, including Minerva, Packard and Rolls-Royce. His designs for Vanden Plas in Belgium earned four successive Grands Prix d’Honneur in Monte Carlo from 1926 through 1929. In 1928, Hayes Body Company of Michigan recruited and sponsored the young de Sakhnoffsky’s emigration to America, and Packard’s Alvan Macauley attempted to lure the Count away. Nonetheless, de Sakhnoffsky remained loyal to Hayes, and he quickly displayed remarkable versatility by designing the 1930 Marmon Model 78 line and the contrastingly tiny American Austin, which continued little changed through 1940 as the American Bantam.

Since Hayes was primarily a mass producer of automobile bodies, de Sakhnoffsky proposed a “one-off” coupe based on Cord’s new L-29 to company management as a styling exercise to perhaps win contracts from Cord or more adventurous work from other manufacturers. While the long and low L-29 chassis provided the perfect canvas for the Count’s European design sensibilities, he decried the ‘squarish’ lines and upright windshield of the basic factory-built body design, retaining only the front and rear bumpers and sleek radiator shell and the basic front and rear fenders, which he subtly restyled.

A masterpiece, de Sakhnoffsky’s sinuous and sporting coupe elevated closed-car styling to heights previously enjoyed only by open designs. Unique touches included a dramatically swept hood featuring a pair of decorative creases from the radiator to the flanks of the cowling and horizontal cooling louvers. A valance atop the steeply-raked and low-cut windshield concealed a unique track for the horizontal wiper mechanism, a layout that was in fact the earlier brainchild of Cornelius Van Ranst. Running boards were eliminated by virtue of the lengthened front fenders sweeping beyond the sculpted leading edges of the doors. The hood’s accent creases were picked up by the doors, swept downward in line with the curvature of the windows and then back up to smoothly hug the bottom of the rear window before joining to stretch down the rear deck and terminating in a spear.

photos and info from

This car went with Sakhnoffsky on the 1930 European car show circuit, and won 3 concours events. The first American car to do so. Pairs, Monte Carlo, and Beaulieu in England

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