Sold for $852,500 at 2015 RM Auctions. To many, Duesenberg represents the pinnacle of American automobile art. Fred and August Duesenberg were master mechanics and metal aritisans, whose names have lived on long after their company closed. This car was built for an associate of E. L. Cord who saved Duesenberg after the depression. The super charged SJ's are extremely rare and desirable cars. This one has been featured at Dusenberg gatherings at Meadowbrooke.
In the Classic Era, it wasn't uncommon for an owner to have a favorite coachbuilt body, which would be reconditioned and moved to a new chassis every few years, rather than buying an entire new automobile at tremendous cost. Duesenberg President Lucius B. Manning was no exception, and had at his disposal a 'sweep panel' Dual-Cowl Phaeton, designed by Gordon Buehrig and built under the 'LaGrande' label by Union City Body Company.
This 1935 Dueseneberg SJ has coachwork by Union City Coachbuilders and has the coveted supercharged version of the Duesenberg/Lycoming straight eight engine. It carries s/n 2592 J-562 and is one of four chassis that was equipped with the LaGrande Phaeton body on a long wheelbase frame. The vehicle was first owned by the Vice President of Cord, L.B. Manning. Mr. Manning enjoyed the vehicle so much that he had the chassis fitted to a different chassis on four occasions. The other three chassis were sold to customers who had them fitted with custom bodies.
This vehicle shown is the third in the series constructed. It was originally sold to a customer with a Willoughby limousine body which had an adequate wheelbase to accommodate this LaGrand Phateon body.
This vehicle was shown at the 2006 Palm Beach International, a Concours d'Elegance where it was awarded the 'Most Elegant Car' award.
Convertible Coupe Coachwork: Walker Chassis Num: 2405 Engine Num: J-530
Duesenberg Model SJ Convertible Coupe by Walker-LaGrande
There are times when creations take on a persona and an identity never given to them by their creators. Perhaps one of the best reflections of this notion would have to be Duesenberg. Such was their quality and extraordinary character that it would obtain its own word from the English language that would forevermore be associated with the company. However, even within Duesenberg there would be a couple of initials that would be never uttered together that would come to take on a life of their own and that would help to solidify Duesy's reputation. Those initials would be—SJ.
It's hard to change an icon, especially when it has already created a vocabulary all its own. By the 1930s things were really beginning to change. Aerodynamics was becoming a very serious part of engineering and design. Propelled by advancements in aviation, aerodynamics and much more efficient designs were beginning to take precedent over artistic styling and stately designs. But to take away such elements would be to take away the heart and soul of many of the custom-built coaches, especially the Duesenbergs.
Duesenberg had approached the difficulty from the standpoint of continuing to build cars boasting of far-superior reliability instead of merely building cars with designs reflecting the times. However, this would change somewhat when J. Herbert Newport took over as Duesenberg's designer.
Duesenberg had always had a reputation for performance. In fact, a Duesenberg had won the Indianapolis 500 in 1924, 1925 and 1927. Jimmy Murphy would pilot a Duesenberg to victory in the French Grand Prix in 1921. So, it was clear Duesenberg had the performance. There would be a saying, in fact, that went, 'The only car that could pass a Duesenberg was another Duesenberg—and that was with the first owner's consent.'
What gave the Duesenberg its incredible power was another innovation that would come to take on a name of its own—introducing the SJ.
Built by Lycoming, the straight-eight model J motor was based off of the racing engines of the 1920s. But then Fred Duesenberg would introduce a factory supercharged unit that would dramatically see the engine power increase until the two initials 'SJ' would become synonymous with performance and speed.
Newport knew he had a lively, energetic engine upon which he could build for the future. However, the Duesenberg design, its lines, were showing its age and were in terrible need of a face-lift. Therefore, Newport would set about designing a body-style that still encapsulated everything Duesenberg Model J, but with a modern approach that welcomed in streamlining and considerations of aerodynamic efficiency. The result would be what many would consider 'arguably the most beautiful convertible coupe on a Duesenberg chassis.'
Production being handled by the Indianapolis-based A.H. Walker Body Company under the pseudonym 'LaGrande', Newport's convertible coupe would have to be considered an instant classic. Still obviously a Deusenberg with the bright chrome exhaust pipes porting out of the right side of the car and still sporting a tall, stately radiator, the convertible coupe would be an incredible blending of classic and modern as the fenders would make use of deep skirts and the steep waterfall design at the back of the car would instantly blend took the car into a more modern age.
However, one of the greatest achievements and innovations would come with the convertible top. Instead of being cumbersome and rather difficult, Newport would design a new 'semi-automatic' top that would easily detach and retract, all with the help of a hand crank positioned inside the car. One of the most innovative and forward-thinking features of the convertible top that would show how Duesenberg was moving into the modern age would be the fact the entire top disappeared underneath a flush-mounted metal lid. In an instant the car could transform from coupe to a modern open-top convertible.
This exquisite convertible design, however, would come while the nation was still gripped by the Great Depression. Duesenberg's sales continued to struggle. This would lead to Walker-LaGrande producing just three of these remarkable Model J Convertible Coupes. Already, these three cars would be a remarkable band of brothers, carrying the rank of their station proudly. However, amongst these three there would be one that would stand a head taller than all of the others.
At RM Auctions' Amelia Island event there would be presented one of the three 1935 Duesenberg Model J Convertible Coupes by Walker-LaGrande. However, this particular one is of special note.
Of the three Duesenberg Model J Convertible Coupes produced by Walker-LaGrande in 1935, just one would earn the 'SJ' moniker. That one chassis would be 2563 with engine number J-530. And it would be this particular Model SJ Convertible Coupe, still believed to have its original supercharger, that would be made available for sale in March of 2013.
The story of this particular Model SJ would begin in 1935 when John Nichols traded his Duesenberg Murphy Convertible Coupe for the supercharged, 320 horsepower, Model SJ. It would be plainly obvious that Nichols enjoyed the car while he owned it, for it would arrive at the South Shore Buick of Chicago in early 1937 having more than 50,000 miles on it. Over the course of the next decade the car would remain around the Chicago area and would even spend a period of time under the ownership of John Troka.
It would be at this time that the story of chassis 2563 and 2405 become merged. Sometime in 1940, the car would become involved in an accident. The frame would be damaged to such an extant that 2563 would be removed and replaced with 2405. Still, the original engine would remain, even as it does to this very day.
By the late 1950s the car would make its way out to Inglewood, California where Thomas Magee would come to notice it and buy it for a sum of just $1,500. Having purchased the car, Magee would set about having the car restored. Amidst the restoration effort Magee would be forced to sell the car to Nathan Derus.
Ownership of the car would pass on to Harold Orchard in 1970 whereupon he would set about finally completing the restoration. Considered one of the foremost restorers in the area at the time, Orchard would go to great detail cataloging and recording the entire restoration effort.
Following completion of the restoration the car would continue to pass amongst different owners until it wound up in the hands of General William Lyon. The car would remain a part of Lyon's extensive collection for a number of years before it would be sold again.
Shown at the 1998 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, the car would receive First in Class honors, as well as, the Gwenn Graham Award for the Most Elegant Convertible. Steve Babinsky's Automotive Restorations would be contracted to perform a fresh restoration to the car, and for good reason, as it would continue to take part in a number of tours, including the Duesenberg Tours in Wyoming and Texas.
As presented for auction, the 1935 Model SJ Convertible Coupe has been painstakingly maintained in working order as part of a private museum. Sporting Newport's ideal special blend of beauty and aggressiveness, the extraordinary 1935 Model SJ Convertible Coupe, chassis 2405/J-530, would draw estimates from between $3,500,000 and $5,000,000.
Sources: 'Lot No. 137: 1935 Duesenberg Model SJ Convertible Coupe by Walker-LaGrande', (http://www.rmauctions.com/lots/lot.cfm?lot_id=1057774). RM Auctions. http://www.rmauctions.com/lots/lot.cfm?lot_id=1057774. Retrieved 5 March 2013
'1935 Duesenberg Model SJ News, Pictures and Information', (http://www.conceptcarz.com/vehicle/z10992/Duesenberg-Model-SJ.aspx). Conceptcarz.com: From Concept to Production. http://www.conceptcarz.com/vehicle/z10992/Duesenberg-Model-SJ.aspx. Retrieved 5 March 2013.
Wikipedia contributors, 'Duesenberg', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 26 February 2013, 00:36 UTC, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Duesenberg&oldid=540420771 accessed 5 March 2013 By Jeremy McMullen
Billed as 'the world's finest motor car,' the J model had a massive chassis and a powerful eight-cylinder 265 horsepower engine that could propel the car to 116 miles per hour in high gear. A somewhat pricey automobile, the cost of a Duesey was $13,000 in 1929, when a Ford Model A cost less than $600.
The company's philosophy was that its designs should be so original that no Duesey would resemble anything other than another Duesey. Designed in house by Buehrig, this automobile is the only one of 19 short body chassis originally fitted with a La Grande swept-back, double-cowled Phaeton body, which featured an inset panel that began at the radiator cap, widened near the cowl and ended in the door in a reverse curve.
This rare, highly prized model underwent a complete body-off restoration in 2003 and has since received many prestigious awards, and was recently featured in '24 Motor Cars Under the Stars' in Philadelphia.
Sold for $3,300,000 at 2009 Gooding & Company. This model SJ Duesenberg, chassis number 2596, was built for Russian Prince Serge M'Divani, an aristocrat and marital 'opportunist.' Its Bohman & Schwartz-built body is unique in design. A one-of-a-kind, the car has numerous recognizable Bohman & Schwartz styling ideas. The car is believed to have been bought for Prince M'Divani by Barbara Hutton, heir to the Woolworth fortune. Not long after M'Divani's death in a polo accident, the car was acquired by automotive engineer Jerry Gabby, who, during his thirty years of ownership, raced the car up Pikes Peak and had other road exploits including a drive from Dayton, Ohio, to Tucson, Arizona, much of it at speeds well above 100 mph.
Sold for $4,400,000 at 2007 RM Auctions. Sold for $3,630,000 at 2015 RM Auctions. In the post Depression era, only the best and most skilled craftsman were given the opportunity to pen a design for the elegant Duesenberg J and SJ. Bohman & Schwartz was able to weather the terrible times of the Great Depression due to their creativity, outstanding designs, exceptional salesmanship, and superb craftsmanship.
Maurice Schwartz learned the art of coachbuilding in Vienna at Armbruster. Armbruster was the carriage-maker to the Viennese royal family. By the early 1920s, he had emigrated to America and joined the Murphy body Company.
Swedish born Christian Bohman emigrated to America and found work at firms such as Holbrook and Brewster. In 1921 he moved to Pasadena, California and found a job at Murphy, Inc.
When the Murphy Company failed in 1932, Bohman and Schwartz purchased most of their former employee's equipment. They found work doing repairs and minor updates, and later working with prior clientele of the Murphy Corporation. Individuals such as Clark Gable, Barbara Hutton, Jeanette MacDonald, Bill Robinson, and Philip K. Wrigley were among the list who were seeking custom coachwork in the style of Murphy bodied cars. In total, Bohman and Schwartz were given the opportunity to body nine complete Duesenberg, five of which were rebodies and the other four were original designs.
This Town Car with chassis number SJ553 is one of the original designs, and one of the most outrageous and beautiful ever developed. It was designed by Herb Newport for screen star Mae West, however, she never took delivery of the car. Some believe she did not want to wait, other think it was the money, but Mae West later chose a Bohman & Schwartz Duesenberg with chassis number J370 in Convertible Coupe configuration.
When SJ553 was complete it was purchased by Ethel Mars on April 14th of 1935. Mars was the CEO of the Mars Candy Company and the sole heir to one of America's largest fortunes. The car was so elegant that it was featured in the November 16th, 1936 issue of Time Magazine. The car came with a sticker price exceeding $20,000.
Mrs. Mars kept the car for several years before selling it to Edward Engle Brown, the chairman of Chicago's First National Bank and Trust. it remained in his care until the late 1940s when possession changed to Harry Felz, a Chicago area Cadillac dealer who later sold it to Edward D. Jaffe and his brother Oscar for the sum of $2,500. It passed through several owners until coming into the collection of Bill Harrah in March of 1966. It remained in his collection until his death. The car was treated to its first restoration while in the care of Harrah.
The car was sold at auction in the mid 1980s for the sum of $860,000. A second comprehensive restoration was undertaken; when finished the car was painted in a fine metallic silver gray. The car remained in the owners care until his death. It was auctioned by Sotheby's in June of 1995 where it was purchased by RM Classic Cars who later sold it to John Groendyke of Enid, Oklahoma in 1997. The current owner acquired the car in 2000.
The car is currently finished in a black paint color and is reported to be in flawless condition. The driver's compartment is trimmed in black ostrich leather. The rear compartment is a deep, high gloss burgundy with a matching deep red upholstery.
It is a masterpiece that has a history that involves to famous females, Mae West and Mrs. Mars, two of the most prominent and wealthiest females of the era. It has a large wheelbase that measures 153.5-inches and a gorgeous coachbuilt body in one of the most sensational designs ever to be powered by a supercharged Duesenberg engine.
This car was brought to the 2007 Monterey Sports & Classic Car Auction presented by RM Auctions, where it was one of the highlights of the event. It had one of the highest sales figures of the evening, selling for $4,400,000 including buyer's premium. By Daniel Vaughan | Dec 2007
Convertible Coupe Coachwork: Murphy Chassis Num: 2406 Engine Num: J527
Sold for $1,430,000 at 2009 RM Auctions. This Duesenberg, sold in New York in 1933, featured a beautiful convertible coupe body executed by Rollston and was powered by a supercharged SJ527 engine. The owner drove it for about a year and traded it in on a new Duesenberg, wîth Rollston body, but wanted the old Rollston body moved to the new (although un-supercharged) chassis. As a result, the new Rollston body was installed on the old chassis. The car changed hands several times and in 1936, was owned by publisher William Randolph Hearst. Some time later, the car was stolen and damaged. The new owner had a J401 engine and this 2406 chassis wîth this Murphy coachwork. The J401 engine had been removed for another project and the SJ527 engine was installed in 1939 and has remained in this configuration ever since. The supercharger was removed and replaced wîth a standard manifold in the 1940s, while in Balboa, Spain.
The history of this car is extensive. It has been in Cuba, Paris, and was even involved in settling a Ú.S. Navy sailor's unpaid bar tab in Madrid, Spain.
The Duesenberg J's allure fascinated enthusiasts from the model's introduction. Even in the depths of the Great Depression Duesenbergs were cherished objects of quality and style, carefully maintained, preserved and kept in running condition by dedicated owners. For good and sufficient reason it was the magnificent Duesenberg engine that inspired owners, and throughout their histories it is the engines' identities that have been most important. Even today, most Duesenberg J's are known first by their 'J-number' and only secondarily by their chassis identity.
Chassis number 2406, the Duesenberg Model J Disappearing-Top Convertible Coupe offered here, is typical of the devotion that these magnificent automobiles inspired and the lengths to which owners went in the late '30s through the early '50s to keep them running. The magnificent chassis has always carried this sleek Murphy Disappearing-Top Convertible Coupe coachwork. Like many Duesenberg J's, its current engine, the factory-supercharged SJ #J527, was transplanted from another chassis (2556) in the late '30s by Shirley D. Mitchell, one of this car's early owners.
Its next owner was Norberto Angones Quintana in Cuba. Appointed first secretary of the Cuban embassy in Paris in 1939, Quintana took his Duesenberg wîth him, then to his next appointment at the Cuban embassy in Madrid in 1941. Several owners in Spain followed, and during this time the supercharger was removed and replaced by a standard Model J intake manifold and carburetor.
In 1976 it was acquired by Archie Meinerz and - still in Spain - was comprehensively restored. After nearly 15 years' ownership, Meinerz sold it to Canadian collector Al Webster in 1990. The car's condition was so good that little more than detailing was required, but Webster did commission a complete engine rebuild by Duesenberg specialist Brian Joseph, and upon disassembly it was verified that all the correct, and extensive, internal upgrades for the factory-supercharged SJ engine were present. The rebuild was completed wîth the intention that J527 would one day be supercharged again.
The next owner was famous collector Robert Gottlieb, author of many classic-car books and one of the founding members of the Classic Car Club of America. During his ownership, the Duesenberg was maintained by Randy Ema. In 1993, 2406/J527 was certified by Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg Club Level 1 wîth certificate D074. It was sold in 2000 to Piers MacDonald who had Stone Barn Restoration repaint it in its present Dark Garnet Red. Stone Barn also fitted new chrome wire wheels and a new top, and rebuilt the brakes. The transmission was rebuilt by Brian Joseph.
After its acquisition by the present owner in August 2003, 2406/J527 was sent to RM Restoration to prepare it for use in road events and tours. In addition to touching up any cosmetic details, the Duesenberg's mechanics received comprehensive attention to make sure everything functioned properly. The owner's charge was simple, 'Fix any little thing that wasn't right.'
Tending to one final detail - because J527 came wîth an important intangible - a previous owner had backed a project initiated by Brian Joseph and Leo Gephart to build a series of 10 exact reproductions of the original Duesenberg SJ superchargers in the final, high-performance 'ram's horn' manifold version using modern materials and bearings, blowers that would be better, stronger and more reliable than the original Duesenberg superchargers but visually indistinguishable, J527's intangible asset was the first place in line for one of these superchargers, which was duly acquired, installed and tuned during its freshening.Source - Gooding & Company
The 1935 Duesenberg SJ Gurney Nutting Speedster with chassis number 2614 and engine J-585, was built for the Maharaja of Indore in London. It was supposed to be delivered to India, but after Japan invaded China, there was fear it might also invade India, and many wealthy Indians fled their homes. The Maharaja eventually took delivery of this car, and a 2.9 Alfa Romeo, at his mansion in Sata Ana, California.
Darrin designed and built roughly 10 custom Duesenbergs, this was likely the last one built on the short 142.5 inch wheel base supercharged SJ Chassis. The Convertible Victoria was ordered by E.Z. Sadovich and delivered in May 1935 to Enzo Fiermonte and his wife Madeliene, the former Mrs. John Jacob Astor of New York, NY.
The current owner purchased this car in March of 1967 from Mr. E.J. Welker of Hazel Park, Michigan, making him the fourth owner. Some outstanding features include a Bijur Lubricating system, which automatically services the car every 80 miles. Also includes an Ammeter adjustable break pedal pressure lever, an oil pressure gauge, tachometer, A split second Jaeger stock clock and an altimeter.
This Duesenberg is a national Senior AACA Grand Champion and won the Rolex Award for the Automobile of 'Timeless Elegance' at Amelia Island.
The chassis and engine were built in Indianapolis, IN, at a cost of $8,500. The total price when new with coachwork was $25,000.
The outstanding features on the car include a Bijur lubrication system, which automatically services the car every 80 miles. The first known indicator lights are located on the engine turned nick dash denoting changing of oil, chassis lubrication and battery care. Other features include an ammeter, adjustable brake pedal pressure lever, oil pressure gauge, tachometer, split second Jaegor stop clock and altimeter. The wrap-around brass band is original to the car. The gasoline fill is located in the trunk in a locked leather box. Note the rear backing light and the STOP light.
The first four-wheel hydraulic brakes were designed by Mr. Duesenberg in 1921 and are featured on this car. For hill climbing ability, the car was capable of 90 mph in 2nd gear. A mercury vile balanced crankshaft was used to ensure smooth engine operation. The horsepower was rated at 265 and 360 when supercharged. A tubular rear axle was used to provide great strength and light weight.
Sold for $1,650,000 at 2005 RM Auctions. The Model J was produced in Indianapolis from 1929 until 1937 with a 420 cubic-inch DOHC engine producing 265 horsepower in stock form and 320 horsepower in supercharged form. Each of the chassis sold received custom coachwork built to the whims of the owner. Prices ranged from $13,500 to $25,000. Five torpedo Phaetons were built to Gordon Buehrig's design. The first body was produced by Brunn and two subsequent bodies were built by Weymann.
This car is one of the last two Torpedo Phaetons, which were built by the A.J. Walker Company to the Gordon Buehrig design specifications. It was originally delivered new to E.L. King of Winona, Wisconsin as J-558 on chassis $2558. Mr. King was apparently not satisfied with the car and Duesenberg agreed to replace the complete chassis and engine. The original body was installed on chassis #2608 with engine J-582.
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 2017 Amelia Island Concours dElegance Best of Show was awarded to a 1935 Duesenberg SJ owned by Terence Adderley of Bloomfields Hills, Mi.
The Model J was produced in Indianapolis from 1929 until...