Jack Gerrity (1895?-1980?)
Your letter inquiring about Jack Gerrity was received last Thursday. I first met Jack in 1921 when I was the body designer for the Walter M. Murphy Co. in Pasadena and he was the body designer for the John B. Brokaw Co. in the old building of the Earl Carriage works in the 1200 block on South Main Street in Los Angeles. That was a short lived venture with no significant contribution to custom automobiles. However Jack was a clever designer, perhaps five years older than I.
About two years later Harry A. Miller announced that he was planning to offer a passenger car and he came to Murphy for body design which I made for him. It was a rear drive car. I still have one of the original drawings. In 1925 he invited me to work for him. At first I made drawings for the development of the first 91ci supercharged racing cars. Then I made sketches for the front wheel drive passenger cars and eventually made the very first chassis layout for the "Auburn" front wheel drive passenger cars. In the meantime Errett Cord acquired the services of C.W. Van Ranst and Tommy Milton. The latter was frequently at the Miller shops at 2652, Long Beach Blvd. (really a dirt road along side of the Lour track system of the Pacific Electric route to Long Beach). In this turn of events I was superceded by Milton and Van Ranst as of course they were older and more experienced.
In the 1930s when I was the custom body designer at Packard, Milton and Van Ranst were employed to design and engineer the Packard 12 cylinder front wheel drive and I was assigned to the pair to design the body for it. This was in the Packard Diesel Aviation engine factory building.
In the latter Murphy days Harry A.S. Perch was a salesman for custom bodies and also was personally the agent for the Mercedes automobiles. When I returned from Detroit to Los Angeles I renewed contact with Perch. When he decided to leave the area he gave to me some of his custom body files on January 16, 1937. Among the items were these drawings of Jack Gerrity. I do not know how many others he may have made, but Harry Perch was Gerrity's emissary to E. L. Cord in the very beginning of the project. The reason he could not do business directly was that he made these drawings in an immobile state and needed a personal representative. Nevertheless I recommend due credit for a very talented designer. However as with Alexis Sahknoffsky, the designs of neither man could be translated to the full dimensions required for practical seating in an automobile.
W. Everett Miller, Editor
Dear Mr. Miller:
Thank you very much for the information on Jack Gerrity.
It is interesting to learn of your involvement in the chassis layout for the "Auburn" front wheel drive passenger cars. Were you paid by the Auburn Automobile Company for this work? I'm also interested in your sketches of front wheel drive passenger cars? Were they similar to the actual L-29 Cord?
Also, in regard to Gerrity, were his sketches prior to the production of the L-29? Were they to be considered for production models or strictly as custom bodies? This man displays a great talent it's unfortunate that he was restrained. You mention Harry A. S. Perch in your letter. Is it possible to contact him?
One last question please. How much influence did Alexis Sahknoffsky have on the design of the L-29? I believe Alan Leamy deserves credit for the actual production model design. Do you have information that would alter that fact?
The story of the "Auburn" front wheel drive is very interesting. I appreciate the information you've provided and the time you've taken to answer my questions.
Dan Burger, Staff Writer Auburn-Cord- Duesenberg Museum
To answer your questions: I was paid by the Harry A, Miller Engine Works, he being under contract to the Auburn Automobile Company. The FWD layout that I made included an Auburn body and radiator. The Cord name was not ready for disclosure.
The sketches I made of front wheel drives for Harry Miller's cars were shorter and in a broad sense had some characteristics of the Cord which appeared two years later.
Yes, Gerrity's sketches were before any Cord production. These were "preliminary designs" submitted for production. However Gerrity could NOT be present in the organization to fend for his concepts, a. very necessary ingredient for the successful promotion of ideas.
Unfortunately Harry Perch can not be interviewed. If still living he would be well over 100 years old.
I worked With Sahknoffsky at Packard. He was a fascinating person. He made only one Cord design, for his own car, at Hayes Body Company. While it was an interesting design, it made no visible impact on Cord styling.
I would not dispute Leamy's credit for Cord production design.
W. Everett Miller, Editor
A custom sport roadster designed by Jack Gerrity for the motion picture "TOPPER", Originally it was planned for the Cord 812, but actually was built on a Buick chassis by Bohman & Schwartz.
It was Jack Gerrity (shown with the car) who also set the overall styling concept for the L-29 Cord (see Post's book "Cord, Without Tribute to Tradition". The originals are owned by W. E. Miller), Also several of Gerrity's fanciful designs were published in Esquire magazines attributed to "Anthony".
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