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 Auctions.
Sold for $748,000 at 2010 RM Auctions.
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 Francisco Auto Show in 1929. Original projections called for the production of 500 Model Js in its first run. No one foresaw the stock market crash of October 1929 that triggered 'The Great Depression' and the effect it would have on the luxury car market. A second production run never occurred and it took nearly 10 years to sell the 480 autos built.

Duesenberg went out of business in 1937 and, without question, is the single most sought after collector car in America today.

This 1929 Duesenberg Model J Convertible Coupe has coachwork by Walter M. Murphy and carries chassis number 2198, engine number J179, and body number 824. It is powered by a 420 cubic-inch Dual Overhead Camshaft engine with Schebler Duplex Dual 1.5-inch Throat Carburetor. There is a three-speed manual gearbox and 265 horsepower available. The vehicle rests on a 142.5-inch wheelbase. It was offered for sale at the 2006 Gooding & Company Auction where it was one of the highlights of the auction.

Its first owner was James L. and Olive D. Robers of Schenectady, NY. The vehicle was ordered on July 17th of 1929 making it one of the earlier Model J's to be ordered. The vehicle was ready a month later and the Roberts traveled to Indianapolis to take delivery. The car remained in their possession for twenty years, until 1949 when it passed to its next owner, John W. Howell III. Ownership quickly changed again, passing to Ethan Allen. Mr. Allen had some minor mechanical work done on the vehicle and kept it in his possession for the next thirty-five years.

In 1998 a complete mechanical restoration was commissioned. It is an Auburn Cord Duesenberg Club Level 1 car, meaning that is still retains its original chassis, engine, and body.

In the front of the vehicle is a single Pilot-Ray driving light. Behind the light is a black honeycomb radiator without grille bars or slate. There are dual mounted side spare tires with side mirrors mounted on them. The interior has matching blue upholstered seats and blue carpets.

At auction, the car found a new owner, selling for $902,000.

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 Auctions.
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.

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
Clear Vision Sedan
Coachwork: Murphy
Chassis Num: 2209
Engine Num: J187
Sold for $693,000 at 2006 RM Auctions.
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 through a three-speed manual transmission while vacuum-assisted four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes provided ample stopping power.

The Model J was an exquisite car with a price tag that matched. The rolling chassis would set the buyer back nearly $9000 and a completed versions approaching $20,000. Though this may not seem like a lot in modern times, in 1928 the average car cost $500. In other words, the rolling chassis alone was about 17 times more expense than the typical car.

Each Model J was made specifically for its customers. Murphy bodied many of the Model J's including this one. The 'clear vision' term derived its name from its slim windshield pillars. This not only gave the driver better visibility and eliminated blind spots, it gave the car a sporty appeal.

This car was offered for sale at the 2006 RM Auctions in Amelia Island and later brought to the 2009 Gooding & Company in Scottsdale, Arizona. At Gooding, the car was estimated to sell for $900,000 - $1,300,000.

On September 1st of 1929, a Clear Vision Sedan was delivered to law partners Arnold Lackersby and Noyes Avery of Grand Rapids, Michigan. The next owner, as recorded by the 1982 ACD Certification, was Dr. Woods who purchased the car in 1931 from Duesenberg's Michigan Avenue Showroom in Chicago.

The cars next caretaker may have been R.S. Pruitt of Chicago, Duesenberg's vice president. It was traded in 1935 to the Chicago Factory Branch where he took possession of J297. The car then went through four Illinois owners before being sold in 1953 to Dudley Waters of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Mr. Waters sold the Clear Vision to Dr. Sidney N. Buka of Denver, Colorado. It was retained by Mr. Buka until around 1982, at which time it came into the possession of Paul Lapidus, a resident of New York City. It later returned to Indiana where it joined the collection of Joe Folladori. He kept it until June of 1991, at which time the car joined the Imperial Palace Collection in Las Vegas.

While in the Imperial Palace Collection, the car was treated to a restoration. Upon completion, it was featured by Bob McEwan in Olds Car Weekly. In 1999, the car was purchased by Dean Kruse as part of a major deal including numerous other cars. Shortly thereafter, it was purchased by a renowned classic car collector. It was sold in 2006 to its current owner.

In 2009, the car was purchased at the Gooding & Company Auction for the sum of $836,000 including buyer's premium.

In 2011, the car returned to auction, this time in Scottsdale, Arizona presented by RM Auction. The car was estimated to sell for $600,000 - $800,000. As bidding came to a close, the car had been sold for the sum of $742,500 including buyer's premium.

By Daniel Vaughan | Jan 2011
Dual Cowl Phaeton
Coachwork: Murphy
Chassis Num: 2169
Engine Num: J403
Sold for $1,650,000 at 2007 RM Auctions.
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 times. Part of the reason for so many marriages was a loop hole in his trust which stated he was entitled to a lump sum of one million dollars when he married. There was no limitations set on the number of marriages. In the public's eye, this only cultivated his image as a playboy.

This vehicle is chassis number 2169 and carries engine number J403. J403 was originally fitted in chassis 2425 which had a Derham Tourster body and destined for delivery to Gary Cooper. There was a problem with the engine and it was sent back to the factory and replaced with J431.

After repairs, J403 was placed in chassis 2169 which had a Murphy convertible coupe body. The car had several owners during its early years. The first owner was Miss Gale who took possession on September 12th of 1931. It was purchased by a Pennsylvania resident in 1938 and from there, passed through several more owners in the next two decades. In September of 1951 it was purchased by Dr. J.E. Manning in Saginaw, MI who treated the car to a three year restoration. Later in the 1950s it was in the ownership of Richard Bell of Mohnton, PA who sent the car to the Wendling Brothers, a shop formed by former Fleetwood workers, and was given a Murphy Dual Cowl Phaeton body. The extra body was given to the Weldings in payment for their work.

In 1958 Bell sold the car to the Swigart Collection where it would remain for the next 49 years.

Tommy Manville was an owner of the Swigart Murphy Dual Cowl Phaeton. He retained the car for about three years before trading it back to Duesenberg in 1935. The car went through several owners before coming into the procession of Dick Bell.

Even though the restoration was done over fifty years ago, the car still shows well in modern times. There are minor chips and cracks and the paint has lost some of its luster, but considering its 50 year old age, it is in excellent condition. The engine bay is clean and fitted with the correct components. It has the correct updraft Schebler carburetor and the 'sewer pipe' exhaust. A few of the parts are modern and incorrect.

It has been awarded both an AACA and CCCA National First Place award badges which may have been earned during the 1950s or possibly the 1960s. Its list of accessories include six chrome wire wheels, dual side mounted spares, two Guide driving lights, and a rear-mounted trunk with canvas cover.

This 1929 Duesenberg Model J Dual Cowl Phaeton was brought to the Vintage Motor Cars sale at Hershey, PA presented by RM Auctions. It was estimated to sell for $1,200,000 - $1,600,000 and was offered without reserve. The lot was sold for a high bid of $1,650,000 including buyer's premium.

It is one of just three original built Murphy bodied dual cowl phaetons. The other two were J175/2196 and J347/2366. Other coachbuilders offered the DC Phaeton bodystyle but none featured the trademark Murphy styling including the thin pillars and curved body sides. The tonneau is even a marvel, with both the windshield and tonneau split and hinged along the center which allowed either side to fold and lift independently. This improved the entry and exiting of the car.

The list of DC Phaetons produced include 25 by LeBaron, 13 by LaGrande, 11 by Derham and 3 by Murphy. The sale of this Murphy DC Phaeton represented an opportunity not offered in nearly 50 years as the car had been in the same family that entire time.

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' located on the side of the engine that contained trains of precision gearing. These would automatically operate lights on the instrument panel to warn the driver when an oil change was necessary, and when to service the battery. After every 75 miles the timing box opened a spring loaded valve which forced oil onto all chassis lubrication points. During operation, lights would illuminate on the drivers instrumentation panel informing the driver the lubrication was in process.

The Lycoming built engine displaced 6876cc, had 32-valves and produced 265 horsepower in naturally aspirated form. The car was able to achieve 90 mph in second gear, with top speed being achieved at about 110 mph in high gear. 15-inch hydraulically-operated drum brakes on all four corners kept the car in the driver's control.

Every Duesenberg Model J constructed was thoroughly tested for 500 miles on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway before being sent to the coachbuilder. In June of 1929, they opened an in-house body-design department to create new body styles for individual clients and work as a liaise between the coachbuilders and the factory. Gordon Buehrig headed this department from 1929 through 1933. Buehrig skill would later be used on the Cord 810/812.

This Murphy Convertible Sedan is chassis number 2225 and rests on a short (142.5-inch) wheelbase. The original engine was J-204 which was later replaced by engine J-355. Engine J-204 was later installed in chassis #2374, the ex-Wanger chassis. Chassis 2374 made an appearance in the James Dean movie Giant.

Murphy bodied more Model J Duesenbergs than any other coachbuilder. Their craft was applied to around 140 examples. The staff of the Murphy Company included such greats as Franklin Q. Hershey and Philip Ogden Wright.

This car was a long-term static display in a European automobile museum. Its recent years have been spent in Southern California. It features external exhaust pipes which were optional at the time, and twin side mounts. It is painted in black with a tan top.

In 2007 the car was brought to the Bonhams Important Sale of Collectors' Motorcars and Automobilia at the Quail Lodge Resort & Golf Club auction. The car was estimated to sell for $850,000 - $950,000. As the gavel fell for the final time, the lot was unsold.

By Daniel Vaughan | Sep 2014
SWB Convertible Coupe
Coachwork: Murphy
Chassis Num: 2154
Engine Num: J132
Sold for $748,000 at 2008 RM Auctions.
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 cars sold for $500.

The Duesenberg Model J's were impressive vehicles and were bred from Fred and August Dueseneberg's history of racing. The brothers competed in the Indy 500 on 15 consecutive appearances with their first being in 1913. In total there were 70 Duisenberg's that competed on the legendary Brickyard circuit with 46-percent of them finishing in the top 10. The Indianapolis 500 was a 500 mile endurance race and finishing it was a major accomplishment in its own respect. With so many top ten finishes for Duesenberg, their reliability and speed soon became legendary.

In 1921, Jimmy Murphy drove a Duesenberg to first place at the French Grand Prix at LeMans. For 1922, eight of the top ten cars were Duesenberg-powered machines, including the winning car driven by Jimmy Murphy.

In 1925, the Duesenberg Company was purchased by Errett Lobban Cord and added to his growing list of companies. This acquisition was intended to position the newly purchased Duesenberg Company at the height of luxury and to compete with the greatest automobile producers of the era, such as Rolls-Royce, Isotta Fraschini, Bugatti, Cadillac, and Hispano-Suiza.

The short-wheelbase Duesenberg J, accounting for most of the Model J production, measured nearly 12-feet long. The 420 cubic-inch straight-eight engine produced 265 horsepower which promised over 100 mph top speed.

This particular Model J is chassis number 2154 and engine number J-132. It has Murphy body number 830 and ACD Certification Number D-015. It began life as a much different vehicle than what it is now. It was originally a Derham bodied Sedan and was sold new to William E. Schmidt. The next owner was H. S. Kehn, also from Chicago, who later sold it to Paul S. Johnson. While in Johnson's care, the rear portion body was removed with the intent of making it into a truck for his plumbing business. The conversion was never completed and later sold to Keith Brown of LaPorte, Indiana in October of 1957.

The Convertible Coupe body that this vehicle now carries was originally mounted on J-144. It was originally owned by Frank Gill of New York. Duesenberg re-acquired the car on April 30, 1932 and later sold to David Joyce of Chicago. (Joyce later owned J151, a Derham Tourster.)

Brown purchased the Murphy body in 1957 and had it mounted on J132 between 1957 and 1959. In September of 1959, the car was sold to Homer Fitterling. It would remain in his care until being purchased by Ed Weater of Dalton, Georgia in 1989. In 1994, the car was purchased by RM Classic Cars of Chatham, Ontario, Canada and later sold to Berkeley, Massachusetts collector Jim King. It was later traded back to RM for another car. In 2006, the current owner purchased the car from RM.

In 2008 this 1929 Duesenberg J Convertible Coupe with coachwork by Murphy was brought to RM Auctions' Vintage Motor Cars of Meadow Brook. It was estimated to sell for $750,000-$950,000. Bidding reached $748,000, including buyer's premium, which was just under the estimated value but enough to secure new ownership. The lot was sold.

By Daniel Vaughan | Sep 2008
SWB Convertible Coupe
Coachwork: Murphy
Chassis Num: 2165
Engine Num: J142
Sold for $1,413,500 at 2008 RM Auctions.
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 history since new which began with Jarvis Hunt Jr. of Chicago, its first caretaker. The second owner was also an individual from Chicago, a Mr. Joe Neidlinger who took possession of the car on January of 1933. William E. Schmidt became its next owner sometime during the mid-1930s. By 1936, it was owned by Eddie Glatt of Chicago-based Edwards Finance Company fame.

Neidlinger, for a second time, purchased the car but kept it only for a short time, selling it to Mr. Lacey of Oak Park, Illinois. The car was traded to Duesenberg dealer John Troka against the purchased of SJ515. Dr. J. Phister purchased the car in 1938. Soon after, Troka re-purchased the car, only to sell it to Tom L. Grace a short time later. Mr. Grace would be the cars first long-term owner, keeping it for nearly 12 years before selling it to Louis A. Ostendorf of Berwyn, Illinois.

From this point in history onwards, the car was owned by Troka, Nathan R. Swift, John Herriott, James Thorton (kept it for 11 years), and Russel Kenerson (purchased on October 28th of 1968). Kenerson treated the car to its first major concours quality restoration in the early 1970s. For his efforts, the car was awarded a Classic Car Club of America National First Place award in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1974.

The ownership history continued with E. B Jeffries of Carefree, Arizona, Blackhawk Collection, and then to Tenny Natkin of Riverwood, Illinois. Natkin had the car repainted and its interior refurbished. In 1982, the car was awarded a National First Place prize by the Antique Automobile Club of America. It was invited tot he Pebble Beach Concours and was later sold to Jack Denlinger and then to the Imperial Palace collection of Duesenbergs in July of 1990.

J142 was purchased by Charles Cawley in 1999. In September of 2000, the car was sold at RM's New York Auto Salon and Auction to Dale Walksler of Maggie Valley, North Carolina. While in his care, the engine was rebuilt.

This car includes its original TwiLite headlights, Pilot Ray driving lights, scripted sidelamps, chrome wire wheels, and a rear-mounted trunk.

In 2008, the car was again offered for sale by RM Auctions at their 'Sport & Classic Cars of Monterey.' It had an estimated value of $1,400,000 - $1,800,000 and was sold for $1,413,500 including buyer's premium.

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 reported that this roadster was the only one done with an extended windowshield to accommodate the height of Howard Hughes. In the 1960s, Don Williams sold the car to Wayne Newton, but was paid for the car by Bill Harrah, who gave the car to Wayne for performances he had given at the Harrah's Hotel & Casino. Wayne Newton later sold the car to Ralph Engelstad!
Convertible Coupe Roadster
Coachwork: Murphy
Engine Num: J-147
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 and Hispano-Suiza. It debuted on December 1 at the New York Car Show of 1928, represented by a sweep-panel, dual-cowl phaeton, with coachwork by LeBaron. The luxurious and powerful Model J became a status symbol: Advertisements showed wealthy individuals with a simple caption: He - or she - drives a Duesenberg.

The 420 cubic-inch, DOHC, straight-eight engine was based on the Duesenberg brothers' successful racing engines of the 1920s and produced 265 horsepower. . The car was powered by a Lycoming-built straight-eight of Fred's design, with such innovations as twin overhead camshafts operating four valves per cylinder, true hemispherical combustion chambers, and an estimated 250 horsepower, more than double that of its competition. Its top speed was over 100 mph (it could achieve almost 90 mph in second gear). The rolling chassis of the Model J could be purchased for $8,500 and sent to a custom coachbuilder for a magnificent, one-of-a-kind automobile with prices sometimes rocketing high above the average American's yearly salary. In 1929 money, that was the equivalent of 50 Ford Model As, and in today's money, it's about a million dollars. Only 470 chassis and 480 engines were built between 1929 and 1936.

This example sports a striking convertible coupe body by the Walter M. Murphy Co. of Pasadena, California. It is one of only about 25 convertible coupes by Murphy with a standard, 'non-disappearing' top. It was originally owned by CBS executive H. Leslie Atlass of Chicago, Illinois, and can boast a string of other well-known owners. Its recent owners have had it expertly restored to its original condition.
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, a pair of Guide driving lights and a lovely veneered and varnished rear mounted trunk with a canvas cover.

Murphy built just three original dual cowl phaetons. Other coachbuilders offered the dual cowl phaeton style, none offered one with the panache of the Murphy design. The car features Murphy's trademark thin pillars and gracefully curved body sides and the design of the tonneau is ingenious. Both the windshield and tonneau are split and hinged at the center, allowing either side to fold and lift independently, easing entry and exit. Equally important, the split windshield design allowed Murphy to rake back the outer edges, forming a graceful V. It was a simple idea, but a masterpiece of design, making Murphy's dual cowl phaeton both unique and beautiful.

The Murphy Dual Cowls are rarely seen as their great beauty and rarity has made them among the most highly prized automobiles.
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.

This car, engine number J-200, is the 100th Model J produced and still retains its original v-shaped radiator and does not have the added louvres of the later cars. It has a non-disappearing top. It has a 1950's restoration and has been in storage for many years. When new, the car cost $15,000.

In 1959, owner Arthur L. Montgomery - the president of Atlanta Coca Cola Bottling Company - donated this car to the Museum of Science and Industry.

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 all Duesenbergs.

Another such fine example of a Duesenberg Model J was to cross the block at RM Auction's Monterey event on the 17th of August in 2012. The example up for auction would be a Model J Sport Sedan by the Walter M. Murphy Co. and was estimated to draw between $800,000 and $1,000,000 prior to auction.

The model offered at the auction is actually the first of just two examples that would be bodied by the Murphy company and is also one of the earliest Model Js known to be built. Designed by Walter M. Murphy Company's Chief Designer Franklin Hershey, chassis 2132 would feature Hershey's ground-breaking door-into-the-roof design and would boast of such design elements as opposing doors, back window pull-down blinds, and the elegant 'V'-shaped cowl that contours along with the windshield.

Chassis 2132 actually had been featured by Duesenberg in the San Francisco Salon in 1929. Not long after that exposure the car would be sold to the Norris family. The Norris family had an extensive portfolio of holdings mostly in Chicago and Colorado Springs. One of those holdings included the famous Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs and this is where the Duesenberg would spend most of its life.

It wouldn't be much after having been purchased by the Norris family that the car would be returned to the factory to have some changes and updates made to the car. The car would originally leave the factory with its Auburn gas pedal but it would return to the factory to be fitted with those striking and aesthetically-pleasing chromed shutters. In addition, the carburetion would be changed to a downdraft Stromberg.

With the Stromberg conversion, the 420 cu. in. eight cylinder engine would be capable of producing some 265 bhp. This would give the sport sedan 100 more horsepower than its nearest competitor, and therefore, would also have a top speed faster than any other pre-World War II road car.

This stout, elegant performer would remain with the Norris family until 1985, at which time it would be purchased by the noted John Mozart. Mozart would then take the Murphy-bodied Model J to Pebble Beach in 1986 where it would receive Second in Class. Ownership would then transfer to Jerry Moore of Texas in 1991. The car would again be sold a few years after Mr. Moore took ownership. It would again change hands right around the beginning of the new millennium and would go through a thorough restoration a couple of years later.

Complete with a dark blue livery and blue leather top, chassis 2132 remains stunning and very active to this very day. In 2007, 2008 and 2010, the car would take part in Duesenberg tours arranged by Mr. Sam Mann and would remain cared for by marque expert Brian Joseph.

Strikingly-beautiful and exceedingly rare in so many points, chassis 2132 would certainly be one of the highlights of the auction and an important piece of history to behold; a true legend within the mythical Model J line.

'Lot No. 142: 1929 Duesenberg Model J Sport Sedan', (http://www.rmauctions.com/FeatureCars.cfm?SaleCode=MO12&fc=1). RM Auctions. http://www.rmauctions.com/FeatureCars.cfm?SaleCode=MO12&fc=1. Retrieved 30 July 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 30 July 2012.

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.

This is one of only three Dual Cowl Murphy-bodied Phaetons. Murphy was a popular choice for Duesenberg owners. In the 1920s, the cars came as a rolling chassis and the owner sought out a coachbuilder to create a custom body to their liking.

The Model J Duesenberg was regarded as the most outstanding motor car of the day; the chassis alone cost $8,500. It was by far the most expensive car in America. Depending on the coachwork, the price could reach $20,000; A staggering sum at a time when a new family car cost around $500.

This 1929 Model J Duesenberg Dual Cowl Sport Phaeton was originally owned by Wm. 'Roxy' Rothafels of New York theater impresario and entrepreneur. It has been owned by the current owner since 1954 (for an asking price of $4,000), quite possible setting some sort of record for single Duesenberg ownership. It has an all-aluminum body designed by Murphy Coach Works of Pasadena, CA, and is a unique one-off prototype. Three more similar, but not identical, bodies were produced for owners in the early 1930s. What distinguishes this particular car is the complete absence of any outside door handles, hinges or other ornamentation. The result is an uninterrupted flow of the long graceful fender and body lines. It was recently treated to a well-deserved, comprehensive restoration.
SWB Convertible Coupe
Coachwork: Murphy
Chassis Num: 2134
Engine Num: J-108
Sold for $1,897,500 at 2012 RM Auctions.
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 automobile that would simply be the best in the world. The result of this challenge was the Model J.

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.
Convertible Berline
Coachwork: Murphy
Chassis Num: 2307
Engine Num: J288
Sold for $704,000 at 2011 RM Auctions.
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 an updraft carburetor. It left the Murphy factory with Pilot ray driving lights, dual side-mounted spares with chrome wire wheels and wide whitewall tires. It was finished in ivory with a tan top and silk mohair upholstery and a rear-mounted instrument panel with a speedometer.

The vehicle was delivered new to L.H. McCormick of Chicago, Illinois via the Los Angeles Duesenberg Factory Branch. The second owner was Ms. Gertrude Lucille Ludlow of Walkerton, Indiana, who registered the car in Indiana in 1934. After Ms. Ludlow's ownership, the car went to Chicago Duesenberg dealer John Troka. Two more Chicago owners followed (T.W. Botts and O'Toole) before the car returned to John Troka. Troka sold the car on November 19th of 1940 to Oscar Unterscheutz, then bought it back from him in the early 1940s. In 1943 Troka sold the car to D. Cameron Peck, also of Chicago, who painted the car dark grey and fitted it with silver leather.

Two additional short term owners followed before it was purchased by its next long-term owner, Richard F. Van Horne of Ohio, who eventually sold it to Sylvester Rugg of Newark, Ohio. Mills b. Lane of Atlanta, Georgia bought it in 1961 from Mr. Rugg. In 1964, it was sold to dealer Dr. Don Vesley, at which point it showed 81,000 miles. Two weeks later Vesley sold the car to Ed Jurist's Vintage Car store in Nyack, New York.

Harold Harmon became the car's new owner on April 11th of 1966 and retained the car for six years before selling it to a partnership of Bob Adams and Leo Gephart in June 1972. David Block of New York City became the next long-term owner, buying the car in July of 1972 and keeping it until 1986 when he sold it to dealer Tom Barrett of Chicago, Illinois, who quickly sold it to Detroit-area collector Richard Kughn.

In 1988, it was sold to Don Williams' Blackhawk Collection. In 1990, it joined the Imperial Palace's Duesenberg collection. Dean V. Kruse purchased the car in November of 1999 as part of a 34 Duesenberg purchase. In 2003, it was back in the Blackhawk Collection, where it remained until the vendor purchased it in 2005. While in their care, the car was given a full engine rebuild along with other mechanical components.

In 2011, the car was offered for sale at the St. John auction presented by RM Auctions. It was estimated to sell for $750,000 - $850,000. As bidding came to a close, the car was sold for the sum of $704,000 including buyer's premium.

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.

The Walter M. Murphy Company of Pasadena, California employed legendary designers such as Frank Hershey and Philip Ogden Wright. They were Duesenberg's preferred coachbuilder and bodied more Model Js than any other firm, dressing approximately 140 cars. Their designs featured iconic raked front screens with narrow chrome posts which were uniquely low and long for the time.

The early history of 2225 is not fully known. At some point the original motor for this car - J-204 - was replaced by the motor now found under its bonnet. Engine J-204 was then fitted to Model J chassis 2374.

Much of this vehicle's life has been spent in one of Europe's most prestigious automobile museums. In 2010 it received some necessary attention, including the trimming of a new leather interior in a natural saddle shade. The coachwork was painted red to contrast the black fenders. There are chrome wheels, exterior exhaust pipes and a tan convertible top. Period options include Pilot-Rays, dual chrome-wrapped side mounts, and a black metal luggage trunk.

In 2011 the museum decided to sell the vehicle so it was sent to the US to be sold. It briefly resided in a Los Angeles collection where it saw minor maintenance, including the fitting of six new tires.

In 2012, the car was offered for sale at the Pebble Beach auction presented by Gooding & Company. The car was estimated to sell for $550,000 - $700,000. As bidding came to a close, the car had been sold for the sum of $522,500 inclusive of buyer's premium.

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.

In 1926, the company was acquired by E.L. Cord, who announced shortly thereafter that it would offer 'America's Mightiest Motorcar.' The new Model J featured a dual overhead camshaft, in-line eight-cylinder motor that developed 270 horsepower from its 420 cubic-inches. The car was capable of 90 miles per hour in second gear.

Duesenberg Inc. built the chassis only, which sold for $9,500. Bodies were supplied by a variety of coachbuilders, who worked with Duesenberg. Body costs ranged from $3,500 to $10,000.

This Duesenberg Model J Convertible Coupe is owned by its fifth owner. It is a very original example that has its original chassis, engine and body and has been certified by the ACD Club in Auburn, Indiana.

In 1929 it was the Paris and London Auto Salon show car. Past previous well known owners include the original owner, Sir Geoffrey Duveen from London, England. The second owner was Walter Pratt, a very wealthy papermill owner from New York. Ray Parkes, who headed up Parks Communications and Duncan Hines, was the third owner.
Sport Sedan
Coachwork: Murphy
Chassis Num: 2163
Engine Num: J-139
Sold for $792,000 at 2012 RM Auctions.
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. Duesenberg was bought by Errett Lobban Cord in 1926. Cord challenged Fred to create a luxurious car to be an American answer to cars such as Rolls-Royce, Hispano-Suiza, etc. and the Model J was born.

Ownership of these powerful cars was the province of the rich and famous. The chassis alone sold for $8,500. Coach work was additional and ranged from $3,500 to $12,000. This 1929 Model J Sports coachwork by the Walter M. Murphy Company of Pasadena, California. Murphy is known as the most successful coachbuilder for the Model J chassis, a fact evidenced by the simplicity and elegance of the body. Its sharply vee'd windshield is reminiscent of wooden boats of the same era. It is considered one of the most beautiful of all closed Duesenbergs. The engine in the Model J was one of Duesenberg's, and America's best. The Lycoming Straight 8 420 cubic-inch double-overhead-cam with four valves per cylinder produced 265 horsepower. The powerful engine drove the chassis through a Warner 3 speed transmission. To stop the car, Duesenberg designed hydraulic brakes with a vacuum brake booster. The level of assistance could be adjusted via a knob on the dashboard.

This Model J Sport Sedan is one of only two built and has sported the original engine, chassis and body from day of manufacture.
Dual Cowl Phaeton
Coachwork: Murphy
Chassis Num: 2201
Engine Num: J-183
Sold for $682,000 at 2013 RM Auctions.
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 rides on the large, 153.5 inch wheelbase and is powered by a 420 cubic-inch eight-cylinder engine.
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 company built at least 125 bodies.

The Convertible Sedan was the most popular body styles offered for the Model J, with approximately 50 individual bodies built in total. The open body style became so popular that, by the early 1930s, Murphy had begun to construct these bodies 'in the white' so that customers seeking a Murphy Body would not have to wait months to receive coachwork for their new Duesenberg.

This particular example with engine number J-173 was originally used as a demonstrator, either by the factory, or - more likely - the New York distributor.

The car was delivered to its first owner, Alice McCollister, in 1930. It remained with Ms. McCollister until the mid- to late 1930s, when it was sold to Peter Saladino of Jamaica, New York. It would remain in the Saladino family for six decades.

In 1998, the Saladinos sold the car to Bob Bahre of Paris, Maine. Mark Johnson of Rice Lake, Wisconsin acquired the car in 2000. In 2001, it was invited to take part in the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance where it was placed in the Preservation Class. It was awarded with a Class Award and it earned the FIVA award for the best-preserved and regularly driven automobile.

The current owner acquired the car in 2011.

The ACD Club has confirmed this as a Category One car - retaining its original chassis, engine, and coachwork. It was issues a FIVA passport with the A2 classification.

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 car of the day. This car has a 142.5-inch wheelbase making it a short chassis model. The coachwork is an 800 series convertible coupe body constructed by Walter M. Murphy Coachbuilders then located in Pasadena, California. As the 87th car built it retains some features of the early production cars like the exposed V-core radiator, concealed horn and a single windshield wiper. The original purchaser, Carolyn May Hoopes, wife of a Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, steel company executive was a person of discerning taste. When she saw the car for the first time she immediately sent the delivery driver back to the factory in Indianapolis to have the tan canvas top replaced by a black leather covering which, in fact, is the very top still on the car.
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 the most powerful American built car until Chrysler produced the Hemi engine cars in the 1950's. It was known as 'The Mightiest American Motor Car.'

The original owner of this car was Harold F. Pitcairn, the developer of the Autogiro and founder of Pitcairn Aviation, which became Eastern Airlines. He purchased the car in July 1930 and sold it in 1933. This car is one of very few Duesenbergs which came with factory installed overdrive.

The Walter M. Murphy Company of Pasadena California built five of the exquisite Clear Vision Sedan bodies for Duesenberg. This body design incorporates the distinctive bronze windshield frame used on all the Murphy open car bodies, which provides a very narrow windshield post allowing a 'Clear Vision' forward and to the side. The large rear quarter and rear window also contribute to the 'Clear Vision' all the way around the car. Four of the five cars still exist and each Clear Vision Sedan was individually styled and no two are alike.
Convertible Coupe Roadster
Coachwork: Murphy
Chassis Num: 2551
Engine Num: J-119
Sold for $1,540,000 at 2016 RM Auctions.
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 of this particular example began in Chicago in 1934 with one of the earliest Model Js built. The car had returned back to the Duesenberg Factory Branch in that city by its original owner, O.W. Hunke, to have its Derham Sedan body updated and mounted on a new supercharged chassis. The remaining gently used chassis and engine required new coachwork. For this, the Los Angeles Factory Branch adapted a Murphy 'Disappearing Top' Convertible Coupe body, number 922, which was in stock at the time. It had several unusual specially ordered features which included a full trunk instead of a rumble seat. The interior of the luggage compartment was finished in polished woodwork. Since that time, the car has since been reconfigured with a rumble seat.

After the Murphy body was installed, the car was sold to P.P. Willis. Over the years, it would be owned by several other Chicago-area owners, included the used Duesenberg dealer John Troka. In the late 1940s, it was purchased from James E. Hanger III of Leonardtown, Maryland, by Melvin Clemans. In need of restoration, the Murphy Convertible Coupe was rebuilt with frame number 2551 and firewall number 2577.

In 1963, ownership of the Duesenberg passed to Elmer DiPiero of Ohio, then through the hands of Allen Bittner and Dr. Patrick J. Frank in Pennsylvania. It later spent several years in New Jersey, including time in the collection of Gifford Oborne.

The Model J was eventually acquired from Mr. Oborne by Eric Bardeen of Deland, Florida and retained the car for over a quarter-of-a-century. In 2010, the Duesenberg was driven from Florida to Auburn where the ACD Club was celebrating the Year of the Duesenberg. After returning back to Florida, the car was given a restoration, which included new maroon paintwork and a fresh leather interior.

Recently, the car has been treated to a comprehensive serving.

By Daniel Vaughan | Sep 2016


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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Grand Prix Racers
Model A
Model J

1930 Model J Murphy Image Right1930 Model J LeBaron Image Right1930 Model J Image Right
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