1929 Duesenberg Model J
|Model History||Auction sales research||Specifications||Body styles and Chassis Data|
E.L. Cord purchased Duesenberg from the Duesenberg brothers Fred and August. Cord wanted the name and the engineering talent of the brothers in order to make luxury road cars. Cord wanted his new company to produce what would be considered the best cars in the world and he challenged Fred to design such a car. Cord wanted the biggest, fastest and even the most expensive car in the world. After twenty-seven months of design work, the Model J was born.
How ironic Duesenberg gave its Model J the added name 'Phaeton'. The origin of the word is Greek and tells of a mythological story where Phaeton, son of Helios and Clymene, took his father's sun-chariot but ended up crashing it and almost set fire to the earth.
The Model J debuted at the 1928 New York Auto Salon to much acclaim. It was the star of the show that year. Duesenberg's Model J was so popular that Duesenberg order enough parts to make 500 examples. Delivery of the first models didn't take place for another six months as the company wanted to thoroughly test its concept to ensure it would meet its standards for quality and performance.
The first Model Js were delivered to the public just five months before the stock market was rocked by 'Black Tuesday'. As a result of the depression coming to grip America at that time, Cord's businesses were struggling to stay afloat during the very trying economic times. Cord's dream of the biggest, fastest and most expensive was beginning to fade away with reality. However, the true disparity of the Great Depression actually saved the Duesenberg Model J.
While all were affected, those with wealth and means were by no means as largely impacted as those who were middle-class or poorer. Those who had wealth continued to enjoy it, and, therefore, the Model J. This does not mean the Model J survived totally unscathed. Cord had expected Duesenberg would sell 500 examples. In the end, only about 300 had been built.
However, very soon, nothing exemplified or typified wealth as the Model J. This also led those who were without, when they saw one, to be reminded of where they were and what they were facing. For many, the Model J became an object of desire. For others, the Model J could have become an object that led to feelings of despair.
If there is one example of the Model J that could evoke such messages, feelings and emotions, the example that crossed the block at this year's auction would have been it. A Duesenberg Model J in all its elegant beauty is always something to behold. But the model that was offered at this year's auction was even more special, even more-rare.
This number Model J is one of only two short-wheelbase Model J Phaetons ever built by the coachbuilder Derham. Derham started out, as did many, building coaches for carriages. After the First World War, and the death of the father, a dispute broke out amongst the remaining brothers. One left to start his own company. The other two were able to overcome the dispute and actually became quite noteworthy, even more so than before the war had begun. Just as with concept car designers throughout the years, the Derham brothers realized they would achieve greater success building only a few models of coaches. In itself, this makes any Derham built car extremely rare.
The design of the 2136 chassis is nothing short of perfection and elegance. However, the car, itself, has gone through quite a lot in its history. The car was sold in 1930 to Charles Hooper Crosby of Piedmont, California. From that moment on, 2136 experienced quite the celebrity life. The car had many famous owners, or, passengers. Though only a distant relation, Bing Crosby had ridden in the car. Bruce Kellog, of Hollywood, had, at one point in time, owned it. This wouldn't be the last time Hollywood came beckoning for the car.
After the late 30s, and throughout the Second World War, the car fell into some incredible disrepair and was even slated for the wrecking yard. After being saved, the car exchanged hands many times until it was restored at some point during the 1960s. The restoration was quite complete, enough that Hollywood came knocking and contracted it to appear in an Elvis Presley movie. Elvis left his own mark on the car when he damaged the underside of the front grill. Besides having the dent repaired, Presley even made an offer for the car, but it was refused.
The car was taken in an asset seizure in the late 1990s, but was then purchased in 2004. The car was then sent to RM Auto Restoration for a complete show-quality restoration. It was found that when it was originally restored back in the 1960s many of the components were correct and were in rather good condition. The entire chassis went through a painstaking process looking for cracks in any of the metal, decay in the wood or damage to any other part of the car. The entire car, at some point in time, had been dismantled and cataloged to check for authenticity and need for repair. Great care was taken in restoring the car. Soon, its elegant beauty began to be reflected again.
The interior went through another painstaking process. Pieces for the restoration of the interior were cut to original pattern dimensions. The entire wood work inside the interior was refinished.
The car's engine, gearbox and suspension members were completely torn down and rebuilt to factory specifications or better. The suspension and brake system was entirely torn down, checked, repaired and reinstalled.
The car emerged in time to be part of the 2007 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, which had a special focus that year called 'The Year of the Duesenberg'. What emerged though was a wonderful and storied Model J Phaeton. The car was finished in superb tones of grey, which only highlights the beautiful chrome. This Model J has a three-speed transmission and vacuum-assisted four-wheel hydraulic brakes. The car sports a four-wheel semi-elliptical leaf spring suspension and a front beam and live rear axle. With its restored 265 bhp, 420 cu. in. inline eight-cylinder engine, and the iconic beautiful exhaust pipes that exit out the sides of the engine cowling, this Model J looks 'like a Duesy'.
A Model J is a cornerstone for any collection. The grace and styling of this Model J Phaeton represents the intentions of Mr. Cord very well. It exemplifies luxury and privilege. It typifies the elegant and exclusive detailing that many associate with that day and age. The graceful lines of the body design, as well as, the simple, but classic leather interior evokes and exudes the very definition of American royalty.
It clearly states the disparity of the late 1920s and 30s. It is the object of desire, the dream, in the imagination of the poor man and the very definition of quality those with means came to expect. Clearly, the Duesenberg Model J Phaeton, perhaps more than any other car in America, can cause such a flood of emotion and feeling. That is because even its design and appointments are expressions of those emotions and feelings. The car has the ability to say and express so much, and that is what makes it such a classic and defining motor car.
'Buy: Feature Lots (Lot 219: 1929 Duesenberg Model J Dual Cowl Phaeton)', (http://www.rmauctions.com/FeatureCars.cfm?SaleCode=AZ11&CarID=r149). RM Auctions Arizona. http://www.rmauctions.com/FeatureCars.cfm?SaleCode=AZ11&CarID=r149. Retrieved 4 January 2011.
'Phaeton', (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/phaeton). Dictionary.com: An Ask.com service. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/phaeton. Retrieved 4 January 2011.
Wikipedia contributors, 'Duesenberg', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 30 December 2010, 21:57 UTC, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Duesenberg&oldid=405065125 accessed 4 January 2011By Jeremy McMullen
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