1929 Duesenberg Model J Murphy
|Model History||Auction sales research||Specifications||Body styles and Chassis Data|
Each and every Model J evoked an aura of nobility and extravagance. However, the 1929 Duesenberg Model J offered at the RM Auctions' Monterey event in 2012 could be just as coveted for its simplicity.
While each Model J would be unique in its own way, chassis 2134 would be unique in a way unknown to all previous Model Js. Duesenberg J-108/2134 would be unusual when it was purchased by the wife of the department store tycoon Mr. Harry Robinson. Instead of purchasing the whole creation, which would include the custom coachwork, the Robinsons would purchase just the rolling chassis. By the time they came to purchase the chassis, the Robinsons had owned more than one Duesenberg and were quite accustomed, by that point in time, with what they were looking for in a design and in a 'practical' car.
Even by 1929, the Model J and the Duesenberg name were synonymous. And while many would just have fantasies about the car, the Robinsons would be quite intimate with the quality and the whole world of Duesenberg. Therefore, after purchasing the chassis it would be sent to the familiar coachbuilder Walter M. Murphy Co. based in Pasadena, California.
The rolling chassis, complete with the 265 bhp, inline eight cylinder engine and three-speed manual transmission, the hydraulic drum brakes and bean-type front and live rear axles would be delivered to the coachbuilder Walter M. Murphy Co.
Although the Model J already had some distinguishing features that would be incorporated into each and every design, despite being custom-designed, it is almost certain that either or both of the Robinsons had a hand in influencing the sketches for their Model J. As a result, the Model J Disappearing Top Convertible that would result would be quite unique for its time. Featuring such elements as a steeply raked windshield, front-hinged doors, rounded side panels and a crowned rear deck lid that suggests a vestigial tail fin, it would be little wonder that the car would be an attractive Model J that would even make its way into the movies.
After the car returned from the factory where it would have radiator shutters and a Stromberg downdraft carburetor installed, the car would end up being used in the 1934 film, The Gay Divorcee and would be driven by the famed Ginger Rogers.
Not long after making its debut in the movies, the Model J would be sold and would become the property, it is believed, of Mrs. Cody. Soon afterward, the car would again be sold and would become the property of Marshall Merkes of Glendale, California. It would remain the property of Marshall Merkes until 1947 when it would come under the ownership of Mr. Ed Griffin. The car would remain with Griffin until 1960 when it would be relocated to the estate of Mr. Gerald Strohecker in Oregon.
While with Mr. Strohecker, chassis 2134 would undergo restoration. Mr. Strohecker would enlist Mr. Charles Norris of Portland, Oregon to help. This would prove to be quite fortuitous for Mr. Norris as it would be willed to him upon the passing of Mr. Strohecker. In fact, 2134 and two other Duesenberg Model Js would be willed Mr. Norris at that time.
Chassis 2134 would go quiet for a number of years until it would become the property of Ken McBride some time in the early 2000s. During McBride's period of ownership the expert Brian Joseph would be enlisted to perform some important maintenance, which would include a rebuilding of the differential, a high-speed ring and pinion, a rebuild of the lower chain, a porcelain coating of the exhaust manifold and a number of other rebuilds and replacements. But that would not be the end of this car's restoration process.
The current owner of 2134 would come to own the car after a number of years under the ownership of Mr. McBride. The current owner would then make the decision to restore the car to concours quality. As a result, Fran Roxas would be commissioned to perform a full concours restoration to the car. This would take some time but would be finished in 2010.
Roxas would remain true to form with the Disappearing Top Convertible Coupe Model J. Throughout the full restoration he would maintain the car's original look. When he finished the work it would emerge with matching white with a white chassis. The interior, with its camel leather and tan carpeting, would look absolutely gorgeous.
Thankfully, because of the condition of the car prior to restoration, everything that would make this car clearly a one-off Murphy custom coachbody would remain. From the dual side-mounted spare tires with pedestal mirrors to other design aspects on the coachwork not seen on any other Murphy coachbody, 2134 remains a rare Model J beauty to which there is not another.
Its singleness, and the quality of the restoration, would be fully appreciated when, in May of 2012, it went on to earn the Best of Show award at the second annual Celebration of Automobiles, which was held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on the opening day of the Indianapolis 500 race. Besides awards, the car has been featured in publications, such as Fred Roe's Duesenberg: The Pursuit of Perfection and the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg Club newsletter.
A truly remarkable and exceptional example of Duesenberg's Model J, its prospective owner will not only come to own a highly-desirable Model J, but a one-off custom Murphy coachbody design that makes it amongst the rarest of all Duesenbergs.
The 1929 Duesenberg Model J Disappearing Top Convertible Coupe by the Walter M. Murphy Co. was estimated to draw between $1,800,000 and $2,400,000 prior to the start of the auction.
'Lot No. 229: 1929 Duesenberg Model J Disappearing Top Convertible', (http://www.rmauctions.com/FeatureCars.cfm?SaleCode=MO12&CarID=r209). RM Auctions. http://www.rmauctions.com/FeatureCars.cfm?SaleCode=MO12&CarID=r209. Retrieved 7 August 2012.
'1929 Duesenberg Model J News, Pictures and Information', (http://www.conceptcarz.com/vehicle/z13531/Duesenberg-Model-J.aspx). Conceptcarz.com: From Concept to Production. http://www.conceptcarz.com/vehicle/z13531/Duesenberg-Model-J.aspx. Retrieved 7 August 2012.
'1930 Duesenberg Model J', (http://www.supercars.net/cars/468.html). Supercars.net. http://www.supercars.net/cars/468.html. Retrieved 7 August 2012.
By Jeremy McMullen
The Duesenberg chassis sold for $8,500. Trading was halted on the New York Stock Exchange to announce its introduction. The car carried an eight-cylinder engine with double overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder, which produced 265 horsepower. It was the 1929 equivalent of the corporate jet.
This example, J-108, is believed to be the first Murphy bodied disappearing convertible top. The car was featured in the movie 'The Gay Divorcee' in 1934, starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. With its raked windshield and raised spine it is one of the most striking Duesenbergs in the world.
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