1929 Duesenberg Model J Murphy news, pictures, specifications, and information
Convertible Sedan
Coachwork: Murphy
Engine Num: J262
When introduced, the Model J was the most expensive car in America. The chassis alone cost a staggering $8500; the typical family car cost around $500. The price came standard with ambiance, style, and perfection. It was matched by its performance which included a 265 horsepower engine (325 hp for the supercharged version) and power hydraulic brakes.

The Duesenberg Model J models were excellent candidates for coachbuilders with Murphy providing some of the most desirable and elegant designs of all. Based in Pasadena, California, the Murphy Company was well known for their work with Packards. Their designs were elegant with their trademark being the 'clear vision' pillar which helped eliminate blind spots and improved visibility.

This 1929 Duesenberg Model J Convertible Sedan with chassis number J262 has had several owners since its debut. The original color was grey but by the 1980's it was changed to red. A restoration was undertaken; it was sold in 1989 part way through the restoration process. The next owner, Sonny Abagnale, completed the restoration and had the color finished in black. It was shown in a movie with Mick Jagger. Since that time it has passed through a few more owners.

It was auctioned at the 2006 Meadow Brook auction by RM Auctions where it was estimated to fetch between $750,000 - $900,000. It found a new home at the price of $907,500.

This wonderful car has coachwork by Murphy and is powered by a 420 cubic-inch engine that produces 265 horsepower. It has a three-speed manual gearbox and vacuum-assisted four-wheel hydraulic brakes.

In 2010, the car returned to RM's Auction Vintage Motor Cars of Meadow Brook sale where it was estimated to fetch between $800,000 - $1,000,000. As bidding came to a close, the car had been sold for the sum of $825,000.
By Daniel Vaughan | Aug 2010
SWB Convertible Coupe
Coachwork: Murphy
Chassis Num: 2213
Engine Num: J194
Sold for $825,000 at 2005 RM Sothebys.
Sold for $748,000 at 2010 RM Sothebys.
This example, J194, was sold new by Duesenberg's New York City factory branch in August 1929 to William Durant Campbell, at which time it was finished in black wîth 19-inch chrome wire-spoke wheels. Within a year, on May 23, 1930, the car was resold to a banker named E.C. Converse, also of New York City, who commissioned Murphy to repaint the car in sage green wîth a red undercarriage.

Later, the car belonged to early Duesenberg enthusiast Bob Roberts, of Los Angeles, California, who apparently had the hood louvers replaced wîth side screens. According to noted marque historian Ray Wolff, it was probably during Roberts' ownership that the car's firewall was replaced wîth the one from chassis 2462 (ex-J449).

By 1935, the car still sported its sage green exterior finish and was being offered by the Cadillac Agency in Palo Alto, California, who sold it to an unknown Chinese businessman in San Francisco. In 1943, Robert Thelin bought the car, keeping it until 1954 before selling it to Harry Rau of Tujunga, California. In the late 1950s, the car went to Rosell Moore of Albuquerque, New Mexico and then to noted Duesenberg historian Ray Wolff of Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, who paid $400 cash plus a 1929 Cadillac Touring in partial trade and began the restoration process.

In October of 1960, Wolff sold J194 to Dr. Rufus Reitzel in Michigan for $5,350. Reitzel became another long-term owner, keeping it until he passed away in late 1974 or early 1975. His estate sold the car to Duesenberg dealer Leo Gephardt for $94,000. It passed through three other known owners before going to Courtland Dietler of Denver, Colorado in June 1977.

Dietler kept J194 for five years before selling it to David Kerr of Denver in March 1982. Kerr resold the car to noted Denver-area collector Roger Willbanks in July 1982, from whom it went to William E. Schultz of Los Angeles, California in 1984. Dick Boeshore of Lebanon, Pennsylvania bought it in 1985 and arranged for the car to be inspected by the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg Club, after which J194 was awarded a Level 1 certification (D-010). Afterwards, Boeshore resold J194 to Texas billionaire Jerry J. Moore. The car has been in the O'Quinn Collection since 2005.

Today, J194 presents very well, having acquired a lovely patina since its earlier restoration. The silver and green paintwork is generally quite good, although some minor areas of bubbling are evident on the fenders as well as some chips to door and rumble seat edges. The chrome and brightwork are also quite presentable, although some pieces do show minor rippling and would benefit from re-plating, wîth a higher standard of preparatory work.

The lovely dark green leather interior is in as-new condition, although the top, probably done at the same time and trimmed in matching leather, shows minor discoloration today, and one snap has pulled through. The instrument panel is complete and correct, including the proper and rare marbled shift knob.

The engine bay detailing is older and shows some evidence of road use since restoration. It is generally quite correct, although some minor parts are of incorrect finish. Similarly, the chassis – while quite clean – shows evidence of use. Notably, J194 is fitted wîth both Watson Stabilators and hydraulic shock absorbers, as well as the more desirable downdraft carburetion system in place of the updraft Schebler carburetors fitted to earlier cars.

J194 is exceptionally well equipped, having been fitted wîth external exhaust, twin taillights, twin cowl mounted spotlights, and twin Pilot Ray driving lights. The car is nicely accented wîth 19-inch chrome wire wheels and whitewall tires.

Source - RM Auctions
SWB Convertible Coupe
Coachwork: Murphy
Chassis Num: 2198
Engine Num: J179
Sold for $902,000 at 2006 Gooding & Company.
Introduced in the fall of 1928, the Model J Duesenberg boasted a four-valve per cylinder straight-eight engine that produced more than twice the horsepower of its nearest competitor. This particular Murphy Sports Sedan was featured at the San Francis  [Read More...]
By Daniel Vaughan | Aug 2012
SWB Convertible Coupe
Coachwork: Murphy
Chassis Num: 2134
Engine Num: J-108
Sold for $1,897,500 at 2012 RM Sothebys.
Sold for $2,365,000 at 2013 Gooding & Company.
When Duesenberg introduced the Model J the automotive industry would be shaken. Proclaimed the 'world's finest motor car.' The Model J would be widely acclaimed and coveted.   [Read More...]

By Jeremy McMullen
Clear Vision Sedan
Coachwork: Murphy
Chassis Num: 2209
Engine Num: J187
Sold for $693,000 at 2006 RM Sothebys.
Sold for $836,000 at 2009 Gooding & Company.
This 1929 Duesenberg Model J Clear Vision Sedan has coachwork courtesy of Murphy, Inc., of Pasadena California. It was outfitted with a 420 cubic-inch eight-cylinder engine capable of producing nearly 270 horsepower. Power was sent to the rear wheels  [Read More...]
By Daniel Vaughan | Jan 2011
Dual Cowl Phaeton
Coachwork: Murphy
Chassis Num: 2169
Engine Num: J403
Sold for $1,650,000 at 2007 RM Sothebys.
One of this cars owners was Tommy Manville who was 36 years old at the time. Manville was the heir to the Johns Manville asbestos fortune and lived a life of fortune and luxury. He is also in the Guinness Book of World Records for having married 13  [Read More...]
By Daniel Vaughan | Dec 2007
Convertible Sedan
Coachwork: Murphy
Chassis Num: 2225
Engine Num: J-355
Sold for $522,500 at 2012 Gooding & Company.
The Duesenberg Model J was unveiled to the world at the 1928 New York Auto Salon. The engine was a twin-cam straight eight with a very large crankshaft, with sealed cartridges continuing mercury to eliminate vibrations. There was a 'timing box' locat  [Read More...]
By Daniel Vaughan | Sep 2014
SWB Convertible Coupe
Coachwork: Murphy
Chassis Num: 2154
Engine Num: J132
Sold for $748,000 at 2008 RM Sothebys.
The Duesenberg J chassis cost $8,500 which made it the most expensive car in America. This price tag did not include the coachwork (the body), which often drove the price into the neighborhood of $20,000. This was during the era where most family c  [Read More...]
By Daniel Vaughan | Sep 2008
SWB Convertible Coupe
Coachwork: Murphy
Chassis Num: 2165
Engine Num: J142
Sold for $1,413,500 at 2008 RM Sothebys.
This 1929 Duesenberg Model J wears a Coupe body which was given to it by Walter M Murphy Company of Pasadena, CA. It is chassis number 2165 and is powered by engine J142. It's ACD Category one Certification Number is D-125. There is a known histor  [Read More...]
By Daniel Vaughan | Jan 2009
SWB Convertible Coupe
Coachwork: Murphy
Chassis Num: 2301
Engine Num: J-279
Originally Built For And Owned By Aviation Genius Howard Hughes! The model J was announced in the fall of 1928. But deliveries did not begin until the spring of 1929. This particular car has had a few famous owners including Howard Hughes. It was rep  [Read More...]
Convertible Coupe Roadster
Coachwork: Murphy
Engine Num: J-147
Sold for $14,300,000 at 2017 RM Sothebys.
After E.L. Cord bought Duesenberg Motors in 1926, he decided that he wanted to build the ultimate motorcar. Known as the 'mightiest American motorcar,' the Duesenberg Model J was created to compete with high-end European marques such as Rolls-Royce a  [Read More...]
Dual Cowl Phaeton
Coachwork: Murphy
This car has had single family ownership for nearly half a century. The car carries both AACA and CCCA National First Place badges, dating back to the fifties or sixties. Accessories on the car include dual side-mounted spares, six chrome wire wheels  [Read More...]
SWB Convertible Coupe
Coachwork: Murphy
Engine Num: J-200
The most common Duesenberg J body style was the Murphy bodied Convertible Coupe. Murphy produced some 140 examples of the 472 Duesenberg Model Js produced. Sixty of the 140 Murphy bodied cars were the Convertible Coupe.  [Read More...]
By Daniel Vaughan | Jul 2010
Sport Sedan
Coachwork: Murphy
Chassis Num: 2132
Engine Num: J-151
Owned by such people as Clark Gable, the Duke of Windsor, Gary Cooper and others, Duesenberg certainly exemplified quality and luxury. Advertised as 'the best car in the world' Duesenberg's Model J remains one of the most desirable and collectible of  [Read More...]

By Jeremy McMullen
Dual Cowl Phaeton
Coachwork: Murphy
Chassis Num: 2196
Engine Num: J175
Duesenberg Automobile and Motors Company was an American manufacturer of luxury automobiles located in Auburn, Indiana. Duesenbergs were built between 1913 and 1937, and they were some of the most luxurious and innovative cars of their time.  [Read More...]
SWB Convertible Coupe
Coachwork: Murphy
Chassis Num: 2134
Engine Num: J-108
Sold for $1,897,500 at 2012 RM Sothebys.
Sold for $2,365,000 at 2013 Gooding & Company.
E.L. Cord purchased Duesenberg in October of 1926. He wanted to use the Duesenberg brothers engineering skills and their well-known brand name, to produce and market luxury automobiles. Specifically, he challenged Fred Duesenberg to design an automob  [Read More...]
Convertible Berline
Coachwork: Murphy
Chassis Num: 2307
Engine Num: J288
Sold for $704,000 at 2011 RM Sothebys.
Sold for $725,000 at 2013 Barrett-Jackson.
This Convertible Berline with coachwork by the Murphy body company of Pasadena, California is a long-wheelbase chassis that measures 153.5-inches. It was built with the shutter front radiator, hydraulic shock absorbers, 8-into-1 exhaust manifold, and  [Read More...]
By Daniel Vaughan | Oct 2011
Convertible Sedan
Coachwork: Murphy
Chassis Num: 2225
Engine Num: J-355
Sold for $522,500 at 2012 Gooding & Company.
Chassis 2225 is equipped with motor J-355 and wears a Convertible Sedan coachwork by Murphy. The wheelbase measures 142.5-inches and the 420 CID DOHC engine offers 265 horsepower.   [Read More...]
By Daniel Vaughan | Sep 2014
SWB Convertible Coupe
Coachwork: Murphy
The first Duesenberg motorcars were offered in late 1920 by the Duesenberg brothers, Fred and Augie, who had made a name for themselves on the race track, particularly the Indianapolis 500.  [Read More...]
Sport Sedan
Coachwork: Murphy
Chassis Num: 2163
Engine Num: J-139
Sold for $792,000 at 2012 RM Sothebys.
In 1920, Frederick and August Duesenberg founded Duesenberg Automobile & Motors Company, Inc. The brothers were great engineers and produced many high performance marine and racing engines before starting to produce cars in the early 1920s. Duesenber  [Read More...]
Dual Cowl Phaeton
Coachwork: Murphy
Chassis Num: 2201
Engine Num: J-183
Sold for $682,000 at 2013 RM Sothebys.
This Duesenberg has lived three lives. It was originally a traditional formal car. Later in its life, it was converted to a race car. In recent years, it has been accurately restored and finished in a Dual Cowl Phaeton in the style of Murphy. It ride  [Read More...]
By Daniel Vaughan | Aug 2013
Convertible Sedan
Coachwork: Murphy
Chassis Num: 2194
Engine Num: J-173
The Walter M. Murphy Company of Pasadena, California produced bodies for a number of expensive automobiles, including Rolls-Royce, Mercedes-Benz, and Packard - but they are most famous for their work on the Model J Duesenberg, a chassis for which the  [Read More...]
By Daniel Vaughan | Oct 2014
SWB Convertible Coupe
Coachwork: Murphy
Chassis Num: 2212
Engine Num: J192
When E.L. Cord acquired Duesenberg, Inc. Fred Duesenberg was instructed to create an automobile which would have immediate elite status among the motorcars of the world. As introduced, the Model 'J' had a whopping 265 horsepower making it the super c  [Read More...]
Clear Vision Sedan
Coachwork: Murphy
Duesenberg built the Model J from 1929 to 1937 in Indianapolis Indiana. The car was powered by a straight 8 double overhead cam 420 CID 265 horsepower engine, three speed transmission with overdrive. Power assisted hydraulic brakes. These cars were t  [Read More...]
Convertible Coupe Roadster
Coachwork: Murphy
Chassis Num: 2551
Engine Num: J-119
Sold for $1,540,000 at 2016 RM Sothebys.
Around 60 Convertible Coupe bodies were produced by the Walter M. Murphy Company of Pasadena, CA for the Model J Duesenberg chassis. The disappearing top models were all fully custom and were individually built for their original owners. This history  [Read More...]
By Daniel Vaughan | Sep 2016

Background

The Duesenberg Company produced high-end, luxury automobiles and racing cars from 1913 through 1937. It was created by the Duesenberg brothers, Fred and August, who formed the Duesenberg Automobile & Motors Company, Inc. in Des Moines, Iowa with the intent on building sports cars. Just like many of their time, they were mostly self-taught engineers and had only constructed experimental cars up to this point.

Duesenberg's place in history was officially solidified in 1914 when Eddie Richenbacker drove a Duesenberg to an astonishing 10th place finish at the Indianapolis 500. Duesenberg later went on to win the race, capturing overall victories in 1924, 1925, and 1927. A Duesenberg was used as a pace car for the Indianapolis 500 in 1923.

Starting with the companies first appearance at the Indianapolis 500 in 1913 and continuing for a consecutive 15 years, there were a total of 70 Duesenberg racing cars entered in the race. Thirty-two of the cars finished in the top ten. In 1922, eight of the top ten cars were Duesenberg-powered. Many great racing names, such as Eddie Rickenbacker, Rex Mays, Tommy Milton, Peter DePaolo, Albert Guyot, Ralph DePalma, Fred Frame, Stubby Stubblefield, Ab Jenkins, Ralph Mulford, Jimmy Murphy, Joe Russo, and Deacon Litz raced in a Duesenberg.

Duesenberg's racing pedigree was not just reserved for the United States; in 1921, Jimmy Murphy drove a Duesenberg to victory at the French Grand Prix at the LeMans racetrack. This made him the first American to win the French Grand Prix. It also made the Duesenberg the first vehicle to start a grand prix with hydraulic brakes.

The Duesenberg headquarters and factory was relocated in July of 1921 from New Jersey to Indianapolis. Part of the purpose for the move was to focus more on the production of passenger vehicles. The Company had a hard time selling their Model A car. This was a very advanced car with many features not available on other vehicles being offered at the time. The engine had dual overhead cams, four-valve cylinder heads and was the first passenger car to be equipped with hydraulic brakes.

The Duesenberg Company produced 667 examples of the Model A, making it their first mass-produced vehicle. The Model A was powered by a 183-cubic-inch single overhead camshaft inline eight-cylinder engine. The strain of racing, moving, and lack of selling automobiles sent the company into receivership in 1922. After a few years, it's debts had been resolved, thank in-part to an investor group. The company re-opened in 1925 as the Duesenberg Motors Company.

In 1926, Errett Lobban Cord purchased the Duesenberg Company. The company appealed to E.L. Cord, owner of the Cord and Auburn Automobile Company, because of its history, the engineering ingenuity of the products, brand name, and the skill of the Duesenberg Brothers. The purpose was to transform the company into a producer of luxury automobiles.

Duesenberg Model J and Model SJ

Fred Duesenberg was a master of creating engines and was a creative designer. He had a talent for conceiving new ideas and ways of doing things. The engines he constructed were beautiful, mechanically sound, and advanced. E.L. Cord gave him one task: 'Create the best car in the world.' This was a very tall order and came at a very difficult time in history. The onset of the Great Depression and the Stock Market crash was just around the corner. Competition in the luxury car segment was fierce and involved all facets of the automobile. The cylinder wars that began in the 1920s and continued into the 1930s had marque's trying to outdo each other on the bases of their engines output, number of cylinders, and the speed of their ultra-luxury automobiles. Styling continued to be very important and often outsourced to the greatest designers and coachbuilders of the time. Maruqee's such as Cadillac, Packard, Rolls-Royce, Hispano-Suiza, Isotta Fraschini, Bugatti, and others were all trying to out-do each other and continue in business during this difficult point in history.

The Duesenberg Model J was first unveiled to the public at the New York Car Show on December 1st of 1928. Only the chassis and engine were shown and it still impressed enough to make front page news. The wheelbase was 142-inches making it nearly 12 feet. The chassis had a six cross-members made it very sturdy and able to accommodate the heaviest of bodies. The engine had dual overhead camshafts and eight-cylinders with four valves per cylinder. It displaced 420 cubic-inches and produced an impressive 265 horsepower in un-supercharged form. The engine had been designed by Fred Duesenberg and constructed by the Lycoming Company, which had been recently acquired by E.L. Cord. There was a brilliant lubrication system which automatically lubricated various mechanical components after sixty to eighty miles. Two lights mounted on the dashboard indicated when the lubrication process was transpiring. After 750 miles, lights mounted on the dashboard would light-up indicating the oil required changing. After 1500 miles, the lights would illuminate indicating the battery should be inspected. Top speed was 119 mph and 94 mph in second gear. With the use of a supercharger, the top speed increased even further, to nearly 140 mph. Zero-to-sixty took around eight seconds with 100 mph being achieved in seventeen seconds.

Each chassis was driven at speed for 100 miles at Indianapolis before being delivered to the customer or coachbuilder.

The coachwork was left to the discretion of the buyer and the talents of the coachbuilders. Prominent coachbuilders from North American and Europe were selected to cloth the Model J and Model SJ in some of the grandest and elegant coachwork ever created.

The cost of a rolling chassis prior to 1932 was $8,00. The rolling chassis usually included all mechanical components, front fenders, radiator grille, bumpers, running boards, dashboard, and sometimes a swiveling spot-light. After 1932, the price was raised to $9,500. After the coachwork was completed, the base price was $13,500 with a top-of-the line model fetching as much as $25,000 or more. To put this in perspective, the entry level Ford Model T in the early 1930s cost around $435 with the most expensive version selling for about $650. Many individuals in very prominent careers, such as doctors, made around $3,000 annually. The Great Depression meant the number of individuals capable of affording an automobile of this caliber soon dwindled. Those who could afford one often bought modest vehicles to avoid public uprising and ridicule. The pool of marques who catered to the upper-class of society did all they could to attract buyers; prices were lowered and incentives were made just to attract another sale. Needless to say, competition was fierce.

After the New York Show, Duesenberg ordered enough components to build 500 Model Js. Specifications and drawings of the chassis had been sent to prominent coachbuilders six months prior to its unveiling at the New York Show. This had been done to guarantee that a wide variety of bodies were available after its launch. Duesenberg ordered bodies in small quantities and offered the completed cars to have on-hand incase the customer wanted to take delivery immediately. The first customer took delivery of their Model J in May of 1929. This was just five weeks before Black Tuesday.

The Model SJ, a supercharged version of the Model J, produced 320 horsepower. The supercharger was located beside the engine with the exhaust pipes beneath through the side panel of the hood through creased tubes. The name 'SJ' was never used by the Duesenberg Company to reference these models.

Even though the Model J had received much attention from the press and promotional material was well circulated, sales were disappointing. The Duesenberg Company had hoped to construct 500 examples per year; this figure was never matched with a total of 481 examples constructed throughout its lifespan. Duesenberg did find customers such as Gary Cooper, Clark Gable, Greta Garbo and James Cagney. Monarch, kings, queens, and the very wealthy accounted for the rest of the sales.

Production continued until the company ceased production in 1937. Little changed on the Model J over the years. The four-speed gearbox was replaced by a unsynchronized three-speed unit which was better suited to cope with the engines power. The last Model SJ's produced had ram-horn intakes and installed on two short-wheelbase chassis. Horsepower was reported to be as high as 400. These examples are commonly known as 'SSJ' in modern times.

In 1932, Fred Duesenberg was involved in a car accident which claimed his life. Development on the Model J had come to a halt which was not a problem at the time, but within a few years had become antiquated in comparison to the competition. An entirely new design and updated mechanical components were required for the Duesenberg name in 1937 in order to stay competitive. The cost and development time was too much for E.L. Cord to consider, and so he withdrew his financial support and the company dwindled.

August Duesenberg tried, unsuccessfully, to revive the Duesenberg name. Fritz Duesenberg tried again in the mid-1960s but again without success.
By Daniel Vaughan | Feb 2007
The Duesenberg Automobile & Motors Company, Inc was founded and operated by Fred and August brother's who began their company in 1913. From the start their company has been a US based luxury automobile company with a standard to build the very best hand-built vehicles during the time period. Duesenberg vehicles lived up to this standard until 1937 when the company closed.

Created to build sports cars, the Company began its life in Des Moines, Iowa by two men who were self-taught engineers that produced various experimental vehicles. Unfortunately the brothers did have much selling capability, and due to this the company claimed bankruptcy and closed in 1922.

Purchasing the Duesenberg Company in 1926, Errett Lobban Cord, the owner of Cord Automobile, Auburn Automobile and several other transportation companies acquired the Duesenberg Brothers' engineering skills along with a brand name. Setting out to produce the Model J, Cord hired Fred Duesenberg to design both the engine and the chassis that would eventually be the best in the world.

Displayed at the New York Car Show of 1928, the Model J (Judkins) Duesenberg was indeed impressive. While only the engine and chassis were put on display at the show, the body and interior of the vehicle would be eventually custom-made by an extremely experienced coachbuilder to the owner's specification. Coachbuilders in both Europe and North America were responsible for the extensive bodywork. The finished product was the grandest, largest and most beautiful vehicle ever before created. The base model cost around $13,500, while the top of the line model sold for an extreme $25,000.

With a lack of supercharged form, the Model J was renowned for it incredibly 265 horsepower, straight-8 engine, and dual overhead camshafts. Able to reach an impressive top speed of 119 mph, and 94 mph in 2nd gear, the Model J was a success.

While other top of the line vehicles of the time period could barely reach 100 mph, the Duesenberg models were definitely turning some heads. The 1932 SJ was estimated to reach 104 mph in 2nd gear, a top speed of 135-140 mph in 2rd, and turned around 0-60 in 8 seconds. The supercharged Model J came with 320 HP and the supercharger placed alongside the engine, with creased exhaust pipes to make room it. The SJ models were easily recognizable due to their shiny creased tubes, a trademark by E. L. Cord. Weighing around two and a half tons, due to the large array of custom coachwork available, the Duesenbergs were not any heavier than their fellow competition.

Rapidly becoming of the most popular vehicles in the world, the Duesenberg was a status symbol for the elite. Such famous owners of the Duesenberg were Clark Gable, the Duke of Windsor and Gary Cooper.

Advertised to be the ‘best car in the world', Duesenberg's have held up to their status for numerous years. Following world-beating performance along with high regard and standard for quality, the Duesenberg continued to hold the reputation for opulence.

A total of 481 Model Js and SJs were produced between 1928 and 1937. Following E. L. Cord's financial empire collapsing, Duesenberg ceased production in 1937. It is estimated that approximately 50% of these classic cars are still on the road today. Both Duesenberg Model J's and SJ's are among the most desired collectible classic cars in the world.

Jay Leno owns four Model J Duesenbergs.

By Jessica Donaldson
 
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