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.

LeBaron
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.

J-129

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   [Read More...]
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 imag  [Read More...]

By Jeremy McMullen
Dual Cowl Phaeton
Coachwork: LeBaron
Designer: LeBaron
Chassis Num: 2127
Engine Num: J-103
Sold for $803,000 at 2012 RM Sothebys.
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 a  [Read More...]
By Daniel Vaughan | Apr 2008
Coupe
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 ca  [Read More...]
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.  [Read More...]
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, onl  [Read More...]
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.   [Read More...]
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 ev  [Read More...]
Berline
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 doz  [Read More...]
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.  [Read More...]
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 automobi  [Read More...]
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. T  [Read More...]
Convertible Coupe
Coachwork: Fleetwood
Chassis Num: 2157
Engine Num: J417
Sold for $858,000 at 2009 RM Sothebys.
Sold for $990,000 at 2017 Auctions America by RM Auctions.
Auggie and Fred Duesenberg were bicycle racers and builders from Iowa who went on to develop a reputation of building some of the finest race and production cars in the 1920s. Enter the dynamic E.L. Cord, who purchased the Duesenberg Company in 1926   [Read More...]

Background

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Duesenberg Model J and Model SJ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jay Leno owns four Model J Duesenbergs.

By Jessica Donaldson
 
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