1929 Duesenberg Model J news, pictures, specifications, and information
Dual Cowl Phaeton
Coachwork: LeBaron
Designer: LeBaron
Chassis Num: 2151
Engine Num: J-129
Sold for $2,090,000 at 2014 Gooding & Company.
In 1900, Iowa bicycle makers August and Fred Duesenberg began playing with gasoline engines and in 1906, began to manufacture cars. Their company failed, but they developed an engine that did well in the Indianapolis 500. During World War I, they built aircraft engines for the military and after the war they used this experience to design their famous straight-eight engine which they used in a new car. Their company became part of E.L. Cord's empire in 1926.

Cord gave the Duesenberg brothers carte blanche to build the finest car in the world and the result was the Model J in 1928. It featured a 420 cubic-inch, straight eight-cylinder engine producing 265 horsepower, more than double that of any other contemporary car. The chassis sold for $8,500 and the buyer had to spend another $2,500 to $8,000 for a custom body.

The LeBaron Company was created in 1920 by Ralph Roberts, Thomas L. Hibbard, and Raymond H. Dietrich. Dietrich and Hibbard both had a history together working as draftsmen for one of the most prestigious American coachbuilders, Brewster of Long Island. They chose the name LeBaron to invoke the grandeur and prestige of French design. The initial vision for their new company was not a coach-building company, but rather a design-consulting firm. They would create designs and engineering plans from which a number of coachbuilders could perform their craft.

In 1923, the company merged with the Bridgeport Body Company, giving them the ability to construct the very designs it created.

By 1927, both Hibbard and Dietrich had left the firm they had created, though the company lived on, becoming one of the country's premier custom coachbuilders. They would create 38 bodies on the Mode J Duesenberg chassis. Of all the coachbuiders of the era, only LeBaron, Murphy, and Holbrook were selected to build bodies for the first Model Js, which were displayed at the model's 1929 debut in New York.

One of LeBaron's most memorable design and their specialty was the Ralph Roberts-designed Dual Cowl Phaeton, which would prove to be their most popular style for the Model J chassis. These phaetons are divided into two main types: the sweep-panel and the barrelside. The sweep-panel section bears an initial resemblance to the phaetons later produced by LaGrande, though with softer curves.


The Duesenberg Model J, with engine number J-129, is a Phaeton Sweep-Panel riding on a short-wheelbase. The car was originally owned by John Duval Dodge, the son of Matilda Dodge. It is believed that this example is the only Duesenberg delivered new in the city of Detroit. It had a purchase price of nearly $20,000. The car was sold through Duesenberg's Chicago dealership in black with a yellow sweep panel.

Introduced at the December 1928 New York Automobile Salon the Duesenberg Model J quickly established itself as the undisputed heavyweight champion of the luxury grand tourer world. The LeBaron Dual Cowl Phaeton was one of the best and most luxurious bodies that could be built upon this chassis. LeBaron Carrossiers was founded in 1920 by Thomas L. Hibbard and Raymond Dietrich in New York City. They chose the LeBaron name because it sounded French and would lend a sophisticated air. They also chose to have only a design office, without coach-building facilities. This changed in 1927 when the company merged with the Briggs coach-building company and began building bodies. The chief designer of this and many other Duesenberg Js was John Tjaarda, father of Tom Tjaarda, who is a renowned designer in his own right.

J-129 was sold in 1932 to Bert Schmidt of Chicago, who passed away soon after his purchase. The Duesenberg was then stored for all of 1934 in a workshop on Michigan Avenue. After being held in Chicago dealer Joe Neidlinger's inventory, the car was purchased in 1939 by Ken and Genelle Gibbs of Chicago. They would retain the car until 1948, when it was acquired by B. Goldberg of Libertyville. While in Mr. Goldberg's care, the rear end of the body was modified with a subtle forward slant, incorporating a lower top line. Dr. N.R. Joffee owned the car briefly in 1952, selling it in 1953 to Bernard Berger, who changed the sweep panel cove to red and sold it the following year to E.A. Wente of Ohio.

Leo Gephart purchased the car in 1971 and reversed the Goldberg's body modification and sold it to George Wallace in 1972. Mr Wallace added the SJ-style external exhaust pipes and updated the radiator with chrome shutters before selling it to Ray Lutgert, who kept it until 1977. That year, the car joined the Richard Kughn collection where it would spend the next three decades before being sold to a Grand Rapids, Michigan collector.

Near the end of 2008, the car entered the care of its current owner, who immediately began a 4,600 hour, full restoration that was conducted by Fran Roxas' Vintage Motor Group. The work was completed in time for the 2010 Meadow Brook Concours d'Elegance, where it was awarded Best in Show, American. At Pebble Beach that same year, the car earned Second in Class behind the Best in Show nominee Graber-bodied Model J Duesenberg. In 2011, the car was shown at the Art of the Car Concours at the Kansas City Institute, where it won the People's Choice Award, and it received the Hagerty Children's Award at the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance.

The car is currently finished in navy blue with crimson sweep panels. Inside, there is red leather and the engine is in the correct green enamel paint with polished aluminum components. The car rides on 19-inch, 78-spoke, snap-ring chrome wire wheels.

By Daniel Vaughan | Feb 2014
Dual Cowl Phaeton
Coachwork: LeBaron
Designer: LeBaron
The Duesenberg Mode J was introduced in December 1928 to universal applause. It was proclaimed 'the world's finest motor car.' The Duesenberg chassis sold for $8,500, and depending on the coachwork selected, as in this example, a LeBaron Dual Cowl Phaeton, could cost up to $25,000, a stupendous sum for this period.

Any discussion of the Model J leads to engines and horsepower. The car is powered by a Lycoming, straight-eight, 420-cid, engine with an advertised 265 horsepower and some said was even higher. The engine was equipped with dual overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder, a performance enhancement used to this day. The car was capable of 89 mph in 2nd gear and 112-116 in high gear. The speedometer is calibrated to 150 mph. This made the oversized hydraulic, vacuum-assisted, brakes a necessity.

There were a total of only 470 chassic and 480 engines built between 1929 and 1936.
Sport Phaeton
Coachwork: Derham
Designer: Gordon Buehrig
Chassis Num: 2136
Engine Num: J-116
Images evoke memories. Few images can evoke a whole gamut of feelings, memories or ideals. But the Duesenberg Model J can captivate an audience with its beauty and elegant design, all while transporting many others to a place in time filled with images of depression, hunger, a time of great lacking, perhaps even, hatred and jealousy. Such a symbol and source of emotion is the Duesenberg Model J.

E.L. Cord purchased Duesenberg from the Duesenberg brothers Fred and August. Cord wanted the name and the engineering talent of the brothers in order to make luxury road cars. Cord wanted his new company to produce what would be considered the best cars in the world and he challenged Fred to design such a car. Cord wanted the biggest, fastest and even the most expensive car in the world. After twenty-seven months of design work, the Model J was born.

How ironic Duesenberg gave its Model J the added name 'Phaeton'. The origin of the word is Greek and tells of a mythological story where Phaeton, son of Helios and Clymene, took his father's sun-chariot but ended up crashing it and almost set fire to the earth.

The Model J debuted at the 1928 New York Auto Salon to much acclaim. It was the star of the show that year. Duesenberg's Model J was so popular that Duesenberg order enough parts to make 500 examples. Delivery of the first models didn't take place for another six months as the company wanted to thoroughly test its concept to ensure it would meet its standards for quality and performance.

The first Model Js were delivered to the public just five months before the stock market was rocked by 'Black Tuesday'. As a result of the depression coming to grip America at that time, Cord's businesses were struggling to stay afloat during the very trying economic times. Cord's dream of the biggest, fastest and most expensive was beginning to fade away with reality. However, the true disparity of the Great Depression actually saved the Duesenberg Model J.

While all were affected, those with wealth and means were by no means as largely impacted as those who were middle-class or poorer. Those who had wealth continued to enjoy it, and, therefore, the Model J. This does not mean the Model J survived totally unscathed. Cord had expected Duesenberg would sell 500 examples. In the end, only about 300 had been built.
However, very soon, nothing exemplified or typified wealth as the Model J. This also led those who were without, when they saw one, to be reminded of where they were and what they were facing. For many, the Model J became an object of desire. For others, the Model J could have become an object that led to feelings of despair.

If there is one example of the Model J that could evoke such messages, feelings and emotions, the example that crossed the block at this year's auction would have been it. A Duesenberg Model J in all its elegant beauty is always something to behold. But the model that was offered at this year's auction was even more special, even more-rare.

This number Model J is one of only two short-wheelbase Model J Phaetons ever built by the coachbuilder Derham. Derham started out, as did many, building coaches for carriages. After the First World War, and the death of the father, a dispute broke out amongst the remaining brothers. One left to start his own company. The other two were able to overcome the dispute and actually became quite noteworthy, even more so than before the war had begun. Just as with concept car designers throughout the years, the Derham brothers realized they would achieve greater success building only a few models of coaches. In itself, this makes any Derham built car extremely rare.

The design of the 2136 chassis is nothing short of perfection and elegance. However, the car, itself, has gone through quite a lot in its history. The car was sold in 1930 to Charles Hooper Crosby of Piedmont, California. From that moment on, 2136 experienced quite the celebrity life. The car had many famous owners, or, passengers. Though only a distant relation, Bing Crosby had ridden in the car. Bruce Kellog, of Hollywood, had, at one point in time, owned it. This wouldn't be the last time Hollywood came beckoning for the car.

After the late 30s, and throughout the Second World War, the car fell into some incredible disrepair and was even slated for the wrecking yard. After being saved, the car exchanged hands many times until it was restored at some point during the 1960s. The restoration was quite complete, enough that Hollywood came knocking and contracted it to appear in an Elvis Presley movie. Elvis left his own mark on the car when he damaged the underside of the front grill. Besides having the dent repaired, Presley even made an offer for the car, but it was refused.

The car was taken in an asset seizure in the late 1990s, but was then purchased in 2004. The car was then sent to RM Auto Restoration for a complete show-quality restoration. It was found that when it was originally restored back in the 1960s many of the components were correct and were in rather good condition. The entire chassis went through a painstaking process looking for cracks in any of the metal, decay in the wood or damage to any other part of the car. The entire car, at some point in time, had been dismantled and cataloged to check for authenticity and need for repair. Great care was taken in restoring the car. Soon, its elegant beauty began to be reflected again.

The interior went through another painstaking process. Pieces for the restoration of the interior were cut to original pattern dimensions. The entire wood work inside the interior was refinished.

The car's engine, gearbox and suspension members were completely torn down and rebuilt to factory specifications or better. The suspension and brake system was entirely torn down, checked, repaired and reinstalled.

The car emerged in time to be part of the 2007 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, which had a special focus that year called 'The Year of the Duesenberg'. What emerged though was a wonderful and storied Model J Phaeton. The car was finished in superb tones of grey, which only highlights the beautiful chrome. This Model J has a three-speed transmission and vacuum-assisted four-wheel hydraulic brakes. The car sports a four-wheel semi-elliptical leaf spring suspension and a front beam and live rear axle. With its restored 265 bhp, 420 cu. in. inline eight-cylinder engine, and the iconic beautiful exhaust pipes that exit out the sides of the engine cowling, this Model J looks 'like a Duesy'.

A Model J is a cornerstone for any collection. The grace and styling of this Model J Phaeton represents the intentions of Mr. Cord very well. It exemplifies luxury and privilege. It typifies the elegant and exclusive detailing that many associate with that day and age. The graceful lines of the body design, as well as, the simple, but classic leather interior evokes and exudes the very definition of American royalty.

It clearly states the disparity of the late 1920s and 30s. It is the object of desire, the dream, in the imagination of the poor man and the very definition of quality those with means came to expect. Clearly, the Duesenberg Model J Phaeton, perhaps more than any other car in America, can cause such a flood of emotion and feeling. That is because even its design and appointments are expressions of those emotions and feelings. The car has the ability to say and express so much, and that is what makes it such a classic and defining motor car.

'Buy: Feature Lots (Lot 219: 1929 Duesenberg Model J Dual Cowl Phaeton)', (http://www.rmauctions.com/FeatureCars.cfm?SaleCode=AZ11&CarID=r149). RM Auctions Arizona. http://www.rmauctions.com/FeatureCars.cfm?SaleCode=AZ11&CarID=r149. Retrieved 4 January 2011.

'Phaeton', (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/phaeton). Dictionary.com: An Ask.com service. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/phaeton. Retrieved 4 January 2011.

Wikipedia contributors, 'Duesenberg', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 30 December 2010, 21:57 UTC, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Duesenberg&oldid=405065125 accessed 4 January 2011

By Jeremy McMullen
Dual Cowl Phaeton
Coachwork: LeBaron
Designer: LeBaron
Chassis Num: 2127
Engine Num: J-103
Sold for $803,000 at 2012 RM Auctions.
This 1929 Duesenberg Model J Convertible Berline has coachwork by LeBaron that is fitted on chassis number 2127 and powered by engine number J-103. This vehicle was sent to the Canadian Duesenberg dealer named William C. (Billy) Van Horne. It was an early Model J example and one of the more photographed car of the 1929 Duesenberg model-line. When Van Horne took possession of the car, it was fitted with a Holbrook seven-passenger limousine body. This Duesenberg, along with three other Model J's, were the only ones sent to the Canadian market. Van Horne had showrooms in Toronto and Montreal but was unable to find willing and capable buyers to part with the tremendous sum of money required to own one of the most elegant and expensive vehicles of all time.

J103 was later sold to a Canadian named William Christie, grandson of the founder of the Christie Cookie Company. In 1931 the car was traded at a Cadillac Dealership and later resold to a Toronto businessman named Arnold Burke. While in Burke's care, the car was shipped back to the Duesenberg factory where it was fitted with the LeBaron Convertible Berline Body, which it retains today.

Burke cared for the car until 1957, when ownership passed to Alan Thurn. Thurn was a resident of Pennsylvania and an collector of Duisenberg's. After just two years, the car was sold to Canadian Tom Landreth of Galt, Ontario. Landreth had the car restored; upon completion, it was sold to a retired Indian school teacher named Ed Hedges in 1962. Hedges passed away the following year and the car was sold to Al Rodway of Ohio.

The car was sold again in 1969, 1974, and 1978. The 1978 purchaser was Larry and Marvin Kopp who kept the car for nearly ten years. The car received minor updates and restorations and was shown on several occasions. It was awarded its CCCA Senior (badge number 919) in the early 1980s. Ownership passed to George Walthers in 1987 and then to RM Classic Cars in 1996. RM sold the car to Denver collector, Roger Willbanks where it would remain for several years. In 2004 it was traded by to RM on another deal and RM later re-sold it to another customer. In 2008 the car was brought to the Automobiles of Amelia presented by RM Auctions where it was estimated to sell for $900,000 - $1,200,000. The lot was sold for $1,210,000.

By Daniel Vaughan | Apr 2008
Coachwork: Judkins
Designer: Gordon Buehrig
Chassis Num: 2162
Engine Num: J137
This is an exciting coupe, chassis number 2162 and engine number J137, it is the first Gordon Buehrig-designed Duesenberg. It was not unusual for cars of the classic era to have several different bodies mounted on them, and this chassis originally carried a Murphy convertible coupe configuration. There were only two Duesenberg Judkins Coupes of this style built, and this example is the only one remaining.
Convertible Sedan
Coachwork: Willoughby
Chassis Num: 2253
Engine Num: J245
Fred and August Duesenberg designed a twin-cylinder car in 1906 in Des Moines, Iowa. The two brothers named the creation, the Mason, after its backer, a local attorney. The car proved to be rather fast and reliable, winning many races and hillclimbs. After a disastrous change of ownership in 1913, the Duesenbergs left to form their own company in St. Paul, Minnesota.

In 1916, the Duesenberg Motors Corporation moved into a new factory in Elizabeth, New Jersey. They had built a solid reputation for creating highly successful board track racers which had enabled them to begin series production. Plans changed, and instead of entering production, they built aero engines in support of the war effort.

Production of the Duesenberg automobiles resumed in 1922. By this time, the brothers had given the company a new name, the Duesenberg Automobile and Motors Corporation, of Indianapolis. The Model A had been shown in prototype form in 1920 and powered by a horizontal-valve, straight-eight engine and hydraulic brakes. When it emerged a few years later in production guise, it had an overhead-camshaft engine.

The Model A did well in racing, but in the market place it fared less well. By 1927, less than 700 examples had been constructed.

In 1926, Errett Lobban Cord purchased the Duesenberg Company. A short time later, the most powerful American car made appeared, the Duesenberg Model J. It was powered by a twin-overhead-camshaft, 32-valve, straight-eight engine capable of producing 265 horsepower. The elegant bodies sat atop of a wheelbase that came in two sizes, 142.5- or 153.5-inches. In 1932, the supercharged SJ was introduced, which increased horsepower to 320. A short time later, it was increased farther with the 'ram's horn' manifolding.

This 1929 Duesenberg Model J Convertible Sedan started life as a Sedan/Limousine with coachwork by Willoughby and Criteser & Company. It carries chassis number 2253 and engine number J245. Its first owner was a Chicago, Illinois resident who kept the car until 1958, when it was sold to Charles D. Turek, also of Illinois. By this point in history, the car had been converted to an open coachwork configuration. The car was purchased in the mid-1980s by Don Criteser of Oregon. Under his care, the car was treated to a complete restoration. This task was completed in 1987. Most of the body is the original Willoughby coachwork, albeit from the waistline upwards.

This car is a Pebble Beach invitee, and an award winner at numerous concours events. It was awarded the 'Sweepstake' award at Forest Grove, 'Best Duesenberg' at Palo Alto in 2005, and 'Best in Class' and 'Judges Pick' at Hillsboro in 2006.

This car was offered for sale at the 2006 Bonhams & Butterfields auction held at the Quail Lodge in Carmel, California where it was estimated to sell between $500,000 - $600,000. The lot was sold for $502,000, just barely satisfying the estimated value and meeting the reserve. The Model J cars are among the most sought after in the collector car market, and this brilliant Willoughby example will most certainly be an excellent addition to any collection and a welcomed contender for high honors at any major concours. The restoration still appears to be very fresh and is said to be in excellent running condition.

By Daniel Vaughan | Jan 2011
Dual Cowl Phaeton
Coachwork: LeBaron
Designer: LeBaron
Chassis Num: 2149
Engine Num: J126
Sold for $1,375,000 at 2009 Gooding & Company.
A typical family sedan cost about $500 in the late 1920s. A Duesenberg automobile fetched around $20,000. The cars were built for royalty, elite, and the wealthy. During the production lifespan of the Model J, which lasted from 1929 through 1936, only 470 chassis were built.

The Duesenberg Model J's were custom built automobiles and crafted to meet the specific needs of their clientele. To carry these large bodies, the cars were powered by potent power-plants. An optional supercharger raised that figure even further.

This 1929 Duesenberg Model J Dual Cowl Phaeton with coachwork by LeBaron, was offered for sale at the 2007 RM Auctions held in Amelia Island, Florida. The car was estimated to sell between $1,600,000 - $2,000,000. It is powered by a 420 cubic-inch twin overhead camshaft eight-cylinder engine capable of producing 265 horsepower. There is a three-speed manual gearbox and four-wheel hydraulic brakes. The Drop Top body sits on a 142.5-inch wheelbase.

The vehicles first owner was S. D. Locke of Bridgeport, CT. It was sold a short time later to Hugh Herndon, who kept it until 1933 before selling it to Jack R. Aron of New York City. Jack kept the car about five years before selling it to R. S. Huested.

After the Second World War, the car was again up for sale, this time with a $500 price tag. The car passed through ownership throughout the years. During the 1960s, the owner at the time had the car restored and had an external exhaust added. It was shown at the AACA National Fall meet in 1970 where it earned a National First Prize. It was shown at the Classic Car Club of America judging where it was awarded a National First Place in the Senior division.

The car passed through several more owners during the 1970s before being sold to Tom Barrett on behalf of Axel Wars for a friend of his, Federico Medarazo of Mexico. The car passed through two more owners from Mexico before returning to the United States.

A full mechanical and cosmetic restoration of the vehicle began in the early 2000s. The vehicle is equipped with proper Pilot Ray driving lights, wind wings, and external exhaust.

This elegant vehicle retains its original body and mechanical components. It is nearly identical to the condition in which the original owner took possession. At the RM Auction, the car found a new owner, though it sold for less than the estimated value. Bidding topped the one million dollar scale, selling for $1,490,400.

In 2009, this Model J Dual Cowl Phaeton with coachwork by LeBaron was offered for sale at the Gooding & Company auction in Scottsdale, Arizona. It was estimated to sell for $1,250,000 - $1,750,000. As the gavel came down for the third and final time, the lot had been sold for the sum of $1,375,000 including buyer's premium.

By Daniel Vaughan | Jan 2011
Convertible 2-Door
Coachwork: Derham
Designer: Gordon Buehrig
Engine Num: J150
This 1929 Duesenberg Model J is a 2-Door Convertible with a rumble seat. The coachwork was performed by Derham. Located in the rear of the car is a fold-up luggage carrier.

This car has recently been shown at the 2007 Greenwich Concours d'Elegance and later at the 2007 Eastern Concours of the United States. It is a very attractive car that is sporty, elegant, and refined. The potent eight-cylinder engine is capable of carrying this car at speeds greater than most other machines on the road, during the early 1930s. It was a symbol of wealth and accomplishment, something that is still true in modern times. Its beauty is timeless and the allure is undeniable.

The J model, introduced in December 1928, is powered with a 420 cid straight eight engine built by Lycoming. The horsepower rating is advertised at 265 horsepower. Features of the engine include two overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder. Brakes were oversized and hydraulic with vacuum assistance.

Aluminum alloy was extensively used in the engine, dash, steering column, differential and flywheel housing, crankcase, timing chain cover, water pump, intake manifold, brake shoes and even the gas tank. The use of aluminum kept this massive car just below 5,200 pounds.

The J model was capable of a staggering 89 mph in second gear and 112-116 mph in high gear.

By Daniel Vaughan | Jan 2011
Dual Cowl Phaeton
Coachwork: Union City
Designer: Gordon Buehrig
Engine Num: J188
The J Model, a production of Duesenberg, Inc., owned by the famous E.L. Cord, was produced in Indianapolis, IN and is among the most noted cars ever made. The LaGrande Dual Cowl Phaeton body is considered one of the most striking Coachwork designs ever installed on a Duesenberg chassis. The LaGrande Dual cowl (with a separate cowl and windshield for both the front and rear seat passengers) was designed by Gordon Buehrig and built in Union City, IN under the 'LaGrande' name by the Union City Body Company. The Duesenberg was not just all looks. The engine was the most powerful in an American car. The 420 cubic-inch developed 265 horsepower. The J Model was capable of 116 mph. Prices for a chassis and body often approached $20,000. An estimated 435 examples of the J Model chassis were built.
Coachwork: Bohman & Schwartz
Chassis Num: 2143
Engine Num: J-118
One-Off Originally purchased by Mr. Art Kiel of Southern California. In 1934 the car was purchased by Mr. M.K. Barbie, head of the Coca-Cola company. Mr. Barbie then commissioned Bohman & Schwartz of Pasadena, California to restyle the car to its elegant form you see today. The car was then sold to Mr. Fred Buess Jr. of Venice, California in 1947. In 1963 the car was purchased by Mr. Homer Fitterling, a well known Duesenberg collector in Indiana. Mr. Fitterling owned the car for twenty years. The car was then purchased by Mrs. Jerry brown in 1983, who sold the car to Mr. Ed Weaver in 1993. The car was completely restored in 1996 – 1997 by one of the finest restorers in the country which resulted in a 1st in class at the 1997 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance.

Source - Blackhawk Collection
Dual Cowl Phaeton
Coachwork: LeBaron
Designer: LeBaron
Engine Num: J111
Duesenberg were the choice of not just the simply rich, but the ultra-wealthy. With custom coachwork by LeBaron, this automobile cost nearly $20,000 new, which in 1929, was the equivalent of purchasing two average middle-class homes and about two dozen Model A Fords. This is the 10th Model J built, and was originally displayed at the 1929 New York and Los Angeles auto shows before becoming a company demonstrator to the Hollywood elite. It was eventually purchased by James Talmadge, son of actors Buster Keaton and Natalie Talmadge. In 1947, this car sold as 'used' for only $123. The car has been part of the Gilmore Museum Collection since 1966.
Town Car
Coachwork: Derham
Engine Num: J-237
This maroon and silver car is in the body style commonly referred to as a town car, but was named an 'All Weather Cabriolet' in the original catalog. It rides on a 153.5-inch wheelbase.

J-237 was sold new to Kenneth G. Smith, President of Pepsodent toothpaste. It was originally fitted with Willoughby Coachwork but was later refitted with a Derham Town Car body. The current owner purchased it in 1973 and restored it in the 1980s.
Dual Cowl Phaeton
Coachwork: Union City
Designer: Gordon Buehrig
Chassis Num: 2292
Engine Num: J-270
Sold for $1,980,000 at 2012 Gooding & Company.
W.H. Brown, Jr. of New York City collected his new Duesenberg Model J on September 19th of 1929. His car was chassis numb er2217 with engine J-197 and wore LeBaron 'Sweep-Panel' Dual Cowl Phaeton coachwork. Just two months later, his stately automobile was involved in an accident and returned to Duesenberg for repairs. The chassis was badly damaged so Duesenberg removed the LeBaron body, refinished it as required and placed it on a brand-new chassis, 2292, with engine number J-270. The work was completed by the close of November of 1929 and Mr. Brown received - in essence - his brand-new Duesenberg.

Sometime between late 1933 and early 1934, Mr. Brown returned J-270 to the New York factory branch for resale. On January 25th of 1934, the Model J was sold to Belgian banker Jean Cattier of New York. It is believed that while in his care, the car was shipped to Belgium and used to tour the continent before returning stateside.

In August of 1935, the car was offered for sale at Hilton Motors in Brooklyn, New York. Franklin d'Olier, Jr. of Philadelphia, PA purchased the car in September. Mr. & Mrs. d'Olier spent the Summer of 1936 touring the country, accruing some 20,000 miles on their journey.

In 1937, Mr. d'Olier commissioned Derham Custom Body Co. of Rosemont to update the LeBaron coachwork with modern features. It was given skirted fenders, drop-center wheels, bullet headlamps, external exhaust pipes and a ford three-spoke 'banjo' steering wheel. It also received a raked and Vee'd windscreen complete with tear drop-style wind wings.

After the updates were completed, it was sent back to Mitchell, who rebuilt the engine and fabricated a new intake manifold that allowed the use of twin-downdraft Winfield carburetors.

After driving over 100,000 miles in four years, Mr. d'Olier sold the car in the winter of 1940 in order to purchase a supercharged Cord. The Duesenberg was purchased by T. Chalfield Taylor and then re-acquired by Mitchell less than a year later. In 1941, the Duesenberg was sold to Alexander Georg Rudolf Bauer.

Bauer had put an order in for a long wheelbase supercharged Duesenberg early in 1937. The scarcity of superchargers meant the car was delayed by more than a year. The car was intended to be clothed by Erdmann & Rossi. However, before the chassis was even completed, a series of complications placed the car on hold. His long-awaited SJ, chassis J-397, was given a fully convertible, all-weather cabriolet by Rollson, Inc. He took delivery in April of 1940. Soon after, he acquired two additional Duesenbergs: J-436, a La Grande Dual Cowl Phaeton; and J-270.

When Bauer passed away in November 1953, his Duesenberg collection went to the care of his widow, whom he had married in 1944.

In the Summer of 1954, the Pettit family attended the CCCA Grand Classic in New Brunswick, New Jersey. While there, Mr. Pettit learned of a Rollston-bodied Duesenberg along with a Dual Cowl Phaeton Duesenberg.

A year later, the Pettits were able to purchase the three Bauer Duesenbergs - J-270, J-397, and J-436 (reportedly for $7,000 for all three). For nearly six decades, J-270 has been part of the Pettit Collection.

The original LeBaron body is finished in two-tone blue livery. It has Marchal Trilux headlamps (presumably installed by Mr. Cattier) and the special intake Winfield carburetor, installed by Mitchell.

In 2012, the car was offered for sale at the Pebble Beach auction presented by Gooding & Company. The car was estimated to sell for $2,000,000 - $2,750,000. As bidding came to a close, the car had been sold for the sum of $1,980,000 inclusive of buyer's premium.

By Daniel Vaughan | Nov 2012
Dual Cowl Phaeton
Coachwork: LeBaron
Designer: LeBaron
Chassis Num: 2154
Engine Num: J149
This Duesenberg Model J LeBaron dual cowl phaeton (J149) is the sixth of just 25 Model Js built by LeBaron and one of only 13 believed to survive today. The Model J's introduction on December 1, 1928, at the New York Auto Salon was front-page news. This particular model by LeBaron is probably the most recognizable Duesenberg in the world. J149 has had just five owners since new, including Canadian Duesenberg importer Billy Van Horne, mining heir Moffatt Dunlap, Canadian spy Professor Raymond Boyer, and finally, one of Canada's pioneering airline captains, John Dart.


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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