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1930 Duesenberg Model J Murphy news, pictures, specifications, and information

Berline
Coachwork: Murphy
Chassis Num: 2305
Engine Num: J287
 
Sold for $1,650,000 at 2006 RM Auctions.
Sold for $1,705,000 at 2010 RM Auctions.
The Duesenberg Model J was introduced in 1928 which was so significant that the trading on the New York Stock exchange was halted for its introduction. The vehicle brought with it style, class and sophistication. More so, it carried a $8,500 sticker price for the chassis alone and was the most expensive car in America. Included in the price was a 420 cubic-inch twin overhead camshaft eight-cylinder engine that produced 265 horsepower.

The Duesenberg Motors Company was acquired by Errett Lobban Cord, commonly referred to as E.L. Cord, in 1925. The vision of Cord was to create an enterprise centered around the creation of the finest automobiles in the world. His target was to surpass the excellent of Rolls-Royce, Cadillac, Isotta Fraschini, Bugatti, Hispano-Suiza and others. Fred Duesenberg's task was simple, to create a great car. The result was the Model J.

Duesenberg had ordered enough components to create 500 vehicles. The first order for the Model J came in May 1929 just a few months prior to the decline of the Stock Market crash. When the stock market did crash, the list of potential clienteles dwindled.

The average price for a family sedan was around $500. The cost of a Duesenberg including coachwork cost around $20,000. The only individuals who could afford one of these were those of extensive means. In modern times, the equivalent of $20,000 would be about $750,000.

Murphy Inc. was based in Pasadena, California. Their initial reputation stems from their work with Packard Automobiles. The trademark design of the Murphy Company was their 'clear vision' pillar which were pillars designed to be as slim as possible to personify a sporty appearance for the vehicle.

George Whittel, Jr. was born in September of 1881 in San Francisco. He was born into wealthy means and never needed to work. His flamboyant life style and playboy reputation caused his family much pain and embarrassment. When war broke out, he joined the war effort. He became captain in the Italian army. He later transferred to the French armed forces and final the US Army in 1917. He received medals for valor as he was wounded near the close of the war.

George Sr. passed away in 1922 and George Jr. was left with a $30 million estate. Much to everyone's surprise, he was able to grow it into an even larger fortune. He was one of the few who saw the demise of the stock market before its assurance and was able to weather through the desperate era in fine fashion.

In total, Whittel purchased seven Duesenberg's. His first order were for two, one a convertible coupe and the second a boat-tail speedster. Both were adorned in coachwork by Murphy. Three other vehicles were later purchased for lady friends. The black two-door Model J Sport Berline carrying chassis number 2305 was one of the seven order by Whittel. It was delivered in January of 1931 and sent to Jessie McDonald of Los Angeles, California. This would become known as the 'Whittell Mistress Car' It is a one-off creation with original body, engine, and chassis. Franklin Hershey was tasked with creating the design.

The vehicle features center opening doors and an integrated trunk. The Murphy slim-pillars can be seen throughout the vehicle. It has an all-aluminum body built entirely without structural woodwork.

Near the close of the 1930s the vehicle was sold to Don Ballard. The third owner was James Foxley of Perris California. J.B. Nethercutt became its next owner. It was sold, possibly in the 1960s or 1970s, to Bill Harrah where it was added to the Harrah's Automobile Collection in Reno, Nevada. The vehicle passed through a few other owners before being offered for sale at the 2006 RM Auction in Monterey, CA. It was estimated to sell between $1,000,000-$1,500,000.

On auction day the vehicle was found to be very popular. At the conclusion of the auction the vehicle had been sold, netting $1,650,000.

In 2010, this Sport Berline Model J was offered for sale at RM Auctions Automobiles of Amelia Island' event, where it was estimated to sell for $1,200,000 - $1,500,000. As bidding came to a close, the car had been sold for the sum of $1,705,000, inclusive of buyer's premium.

By Daniel Vaughan | Apr 2010
Berline
Coachwork: Murphy
 
Luxury, performance and arrogance were the Duesenberg's hallmarks. With a powerplant that had won three Indy 500s and could be juiced up by an optional supercharger, the Duesey reached speeds in second gear that lesser cars struggled to reach at full throttle. The Murphy coachbuilder, based in Pasadena, CA, is thought to be the most important body builder of the early classic era. Their design of the convertible sedan shown here was well suited to the massive Duesenberg chassis. Having a clean and fresh look, Murphy set the pace for custom body designs of the 1930s. Originally, this car was owned by Leon Duray, the famous race car driver of the 1920s. Duray competed in the Indy 500 race eight times, and won two pole position starts. His street interests were exemplified by this Model J that could perform to suit his needs as a daily driver.
By Daniel Vaughan | Mar 2007
Disappearing Top Convertible Coupe
Coachwork: Murphy
Chassis Num: 2310
Engine Num: J-284
 
Sold for $2,640,000 at 2012 Gooding & Company.
The Disappearing Top Convertible Coupe was the epitome of Duesenberg elegance. This particular coupe with chassis number 2310 and engine J-284 was used by Buster Keaton's son, Jim Talmadge, to explore the California desserts. The car was built as a J, but a blower has since been added.

J-284 was originally delivered to Duesenberg factory's Los Angeles branch during 1930. It remained unsold for some time so it was transferred to the New York concessionaire. The car's first recorded owner was East Coast socialite J.W.Y. Martin. By Fall of 1935, Mr. Martin returned the Model J to the New York branch, and was sold to nearby dealer, Jacod & Company. The history of the next decade is not fully known.

The next known owner, John Warwick of Reno, Nevada kept it for at least five years before selling it to J.W. Isbell. After a brief period at Vann Motors in Reno, in June 1962 the Duesenberg captured William Craig's attention. After acquiring the car, he performed a sympathetic restoration and finished the vehicle in red livery.

In 1967, the car was purchased by Bernard Miller from Mr. Craig. A few years later, he sold it to Leo Gephart, who sold it to Richard Slobodian of New Jersey. During Mr. Slobodian's ownership, the car was given a comprehensive restoration that included the installation of an SJ supercharger, sourced from J-401, a car owned by Mr. Slobodian at the time. The car was given Bakelite running boards, sweep-hand instruments, chrome wire wheels, Pilot Ray driving lights and gleaming side exhausts.

After the work was completed, the car was featured in the September 1973 issue of The Classic Car, the official magazine of the CCCA.

By the early 1980s, the car was sold to New Jersey resident William Murray. Ownership later passed to John Denlinger, who eventually consigned it to the Imperial Palace. A short time later, the car joined General William Lyon's famed Duesenberg collection in Southern California. The car would spend over 15 years with the Lyon Collection before being acquired by the current caretaker.

In 2007, the car made its first appearance at the Pebble beach Concours d'Elegance. Since that time, the car has been shown sparingly.

In 2012, this vehicle was offered for sale at the Gooding & Company auction in Scottsdale, Arizona. The car had an estimated value of $1,600,000 - $2,200,000. As bidding came to a close, the car had been sold for the sum of $2,640,000 inclusive of buyer's premium.
Disappearing Top Torpedo Convertible Coupe
Coachwork: Murphy
Chassis Num: 2317
Engine Num: J-302
 
The Walter M. Murphy Company built about 200 bodies on Duesenberg chassis - more than any other coachwork builder. This car with chassis number 2317 and engine J-302 is one of five Murphy Disappearing Top Convertible Coupes built on the short wheelbase, and they are said to have sold for an estimated $15,000 in 1930 during the Great Depression. Note the beautiful polished bevel that starts at the point of the grill shell and curves to the cowl before continuing along the top of the doors and the entire rear deck.

This automobile was originally owned by Anne Burnett, who founded the American quarter Horse Hall of Fame and later married Charles Tandy, of the Tandy Corporation, which became Radio Shack.
Convertible Coupe
Coachwork: Murphy
Chassis Num: 2340
Engine Num: J401
 
Sold for $1,072,500 at 2009 RM Auctions.
Pratt and Whitney were seeking an engine to spin a supercharger for the R-2800 aircraft engine. The engine produces 2000 brake horsepower from it's nearly 46-liters of displacement and 18-cylinders. These engines would later be used for fighters and fighter-bomber planes, including the P-47, F6F Helicat, and several other planes.

At the time, there were no electric motors capable of generating the power required to turn the supercharger when they were separated from the 18-cylinder engine. An engine was required to help during the development and testing process. The engines required between 250 and 300 continuous brake horsepower to turn the R-2800 blowers at their rated speed.

Pratt & Whitney contracted with Inskip Inc. of New York to purchase four Duesenbergs for use with this testing program. Four cars were found, one being J573, a supercharged twin-carburetor example wearing a Rollston convertible, J472, a five passenger sedan by La Grande, J401, a Castagna-bodied convertible sedan, and J327, a Murphy Convertible Coupe.

The engines performed their testing duties admirably, with only one failing after cool water was suddenly added to the coolant loop, causing one cylinder to seize. At the completion of the test program, Pratt & Whitney sold off the cars and parts. Two of the three running engines were sold to mechanic Jim Hoe. The last engine, J401, was re-installed in one of the original four cars - chassis 2340, the Murphy Convertible Coupe.

This car is chassis 2340, and was originally owned by Emory m. Ford of Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan. He sold the car a short time later to Walter Cook of New York City. By 1934, the car was in the possession of New York-based dealer Hilton Motors. In June of that year, the car was sold to Phillip Gossler, Jr., of New Jersey, who kept it until selling to J.S. Inskip in January of 1943.

Robert J. Wilder purchased 2340, without an engine, along with J401, in 1946. A restoration was undertaken which included the installation of an original supercharger. The car was shown on many occasions, earning its AACA Senior National First Place Award, and making the cover of the CCCA Bulletin in spring of 1956.

In October of 1965, the car was sold to Irv Tushinsky of California, for the sum of $23,000. Tushinsky spent an additional $40,000 in upgrades and restoration work. After this, it earned its second AACA Senior National First Place Award. Four years later, the car was sold to Roy Egidi, Jr., of New York. In 1971, the car was sold to Herb Wetanson, also of New York. It remained with Wetanson for just a year, before coming into the care of Richard Slobodien, of New Jersey. Slobodien removed the supercharger installed by Thurn. In March of 1973, Chris H.L. Owen of New York was the cars next care-taker, a duty he would perform for the next fourteen years.

In 1986, the car was sold to Noel Thompson of New Vernon, New Jersey. A year later, it was sold to Rick Carroll of Jensen Beach, Florida. Sadly, Carroll died in a tragic accident in 1990 and his collection was sold at auction by Sotherby's. The car was purchased by Sam Mann.

While with Mann, the car has been driven in the Colorado Grand, and two 1,000-mile CCCA CARavens. Recently, the car ahs been shown at the Wyoming Duesenberg Tour and the John Mozart Classic Car Tour.

Chassis number 2340 current has a 3.50:1 rear axle and still capable of 100 mile-per-hour speeds. The car rides on 19-inch chromed wheels, has side exhausts, twin Pilot Ray driving lights and twin Lorraine spotlights. It is painted in ivory with red leather and a polished chrome beltline. It wears an older restoration that has aged rather well. It is a 1930 vehicle, though it was not titled until 1932.

In 2008, chassis DUEJ40132 was offered for sale at the 'Automobiles of Amelia Island' presented by RM Auctions. It was estimated to sell for $1,100,000 - $1,500,000. The lot was sold for $1,072,500, including buyer's premium.

By Daniel Vaughan | Mar 2009
Convertible Coupe by Murphy
Coachwork: Murphy
Designer: Harley Earl
 
A Stunning Model J Once owned by 'The Barber'
In 1913, the Duesenberg brothers, Fred and August, founded Duesenberg Automobile & Motors Company, Inc. in Des Moines, Iowa, to build sports cars. Born in Germany, the two brothers were self-taught engineers and built many experimental cars. Duesenberg cars were considered some of the very best cars of the time, and were built entirely by hand. In 1914 Eddie Rickenbacker drove a 'Duesy' to finish in 10th place at the Indianapolis 500, and a Duesenberg car won the race in 1924, 1925, and 1927.

E.L. Cord, the owner of Cord and Auburn, bought the company in 1926, acquiring the Duesenberg brothers' engineering skills and the brand name to produce luxury cars. Hiring Fred Duesenberg to design the chassis and an engine that would be the best in the world, the newly revived Duesenberg Company set about to produce the Model J. The Model J Duesenberg was first shown at the New York Auto Show for 1928. In unsupercharged form it produced a whopping 265 horsepower from a straight-8 engine with dual overhead camshafts, and was capable of a top speed of 119 mph, hitting 94 mph in 2nd gear. Duisenberg's generally weighed around 2.5 to 3 tons with custom coachwork.

This car was originally used by Duesenberg as a demonstrator and carried a host of celebrities, captains of industry, etc. Its first owner was Jake 'The Barber' Factor, the half-brother of cosmetic king Max Factor. He acquired this Duesenberg during the time he was the chief attorney and right hand man to Al Capone.
Disappearing Top Sedan
Coachwork: Murphy
 
This 1930 Duesenberg Model J wears a Convertible Sedan bodied by Murphy. This was one of the most popular and stylish bodies built for the Model J. This is the final example of that body style built by the Murphy Company for a Duesenberg chassis.
By Daniel Vaughan | Jul 2010
Disappearing Top Sedan
Coachwork: Murphy
Chassis Num: 2307
Engine Num: J-288
 
This 1930 Duesenberg J Murphy convertible sedan has chassis # 2307 and engine #J-288. This is a 'long' convertible. 1 of 2 produced with this body style. This car is the only Murphy convertible sedan (Berline) with rear quarter windows. The car is also equipped with a rear speedometer and center divider window with wing windows attached.

The J model is powered with a 420 cid straight eight engine built by Lycoming. The horsepower rating is advertised at 265 hp. Features of the engine include two overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder. Brakes were oversided and hydraulic with vacuum assistance. Aluminum alloy was extensively used in the engine, dash, steering column, differential and flywheel housings, crankcase, water pump, intake manifold, brake shoes and even the gas tank. The use of aluminum kept this massive car just less than 5200 pounds.

The J model was cpable of a staggering 89 mph in second gear and a 112-116 mph in high gear.
Convertible Sedan
Coachwork: Murphy
Chassis Num: 2341
Engine Num: J-328
 
The Duesenberg Motor Company, founded by brothers Fred and August, produced racing cars and luxury automobiles from 1913 until 1937. Eddie Rickenbacker's 'Duesy', finished 10th in the 1914 Indianapolis 500 and Duesenberg won the Indy 500 in 1924, 1925, and 1927. In 1921, Duesenberg's Jimmy Murphy was the first American winner of the Grand Prix at LeMans.

It is powered by a 420 cubic-inch, straight-eight engine, with two overhead cams and hefty chains to operate the 4-valves per cylinder. It develops more than 240 horsepower and is capable of 89 mph in 2nd gear and over 112-116 mph in high gear.

This 1930 Duesenberg wears a Convertible Sedan body by the Walter M. Murphy Company of Pasadena, which created many of Duesenberg's most sought after body designs. The Convertible Sedan was both highly popular and practical; it was ideally suited for almost any purpose. The convertible top made the car comfortable in the summer while the four-door layout made it easy to accommodate two couples or a family - and the genius of Murphy's convertible sedan design was that it looked light and elegant.

James B. Coburn traded in a Stutz Phaeton and a Lincoln Sedan and still paid $9,905 to become this car's original owner on March 31, 1930. After taking his new bride on their honeymoon, he retained ownership of this vehicle from 1930 through 2004. The current owner had the car restored in August of 2012.
Convertible Coupe
Coachwork: Murphy
Chassis Num: 2347
Engine Num: J-331
 
Sold for $962,500 at 2011 RM Auctions.
The Duesenberg Automobile & Motors Company was founded in 1920 and produced about 850 cars before E.L. Cord purchased the company in 1926. The new Model J was designed to be America's answer to European luxury cars such as Hispano-Suiza and Isotta-Fraschini. The Duesenberg name was already well-known: In 1921 Eddie Murphy became the first American to win the French Grand Prix. He won driving a Duesenberg.

The Model J was produced from 1929 until 1937 and featured extensive use of heat-treated aluminum: cast aluminum dash, oil pan, tail light brackets, camshaft covers, Ray-Day alloy aluminum pistons and connecting rods, water-jacket covers, water pump, intake manifold, front and rear-axle drum covers, all brake shoes, spare wheel supports, and gas tank filler neck. The Model J benefits from Fred Duesenberg's racing experiences, which were incorporated in the design of the straight 8 420 cubic-inch double-overhead cam engine. With four valves per cylinder, aluminum rods and pistons, a patented mercury filled vibration damper the engine produced 265 horsepower. The car was capable of 89 mph in second gear and 112-116 in high gear.

This Model J sports the Murphy convertible coupe, the most popular body style for the Model J. The design was by Franklin Hershey who created many beautiful designs for the distinguished coachbuilder in Pasadena, California. It was originally built for the heiress of the renowned du Pont family. The car was restored several years ago and looks outstanding today. The car retains its original engine, chassis, firewall, and body.
Convertible Coupe
Coachwork: Murphy
Chassis Num: 2388
Engine Num: J-357
 
Sold for $2,200,000 at 2014 RM Auctions.
This Duesenberg was ordered new by the Doran Hinchman family at the Bruce Perry Motors in Huntington, West Virginia. Hinchman ordered a factory-cataloged style, the convertible coupe, with bodywork built by the Walter M. Murphy Company, of Pasadena, California. At $13,500 for the non-disappearing top model, it was the least-expensive style available. Around 25 cars were equipped with the 'disappearing top', a convertible top that folded neatly and then vanished under a flush-fitting metal lid on the rear deck. The 'disappearing top' sold for several hundred dollars higher than the standard convertible coupe style.

Mr. Hinchman's Duesenberg was built on a short-wheelbase chassis and fitted with the disappearing top coachwork and painted black, with chrome wire wheels, a tan cloth top, and black leather upholstery. Upon completion, Mr. Hinchman traveled to Indianapolis and took delivery at the Duesenberg factory, then drove it home.

For the next 16 years, the Model J was a frequent sight in downtown Logan. In 1946, the car was sold to Melvin Clemans. By 1952, the Model J had racked up 11,000 miles. The car was Clemans' first Duesenberg, and while others followed it, it was always his favorite.

In 1998, the car was sold to Harry Van Iderstine.

The car has received the Category One certification from the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Club, issued in 1983 while in Melvin Clemans's ownership. It confirms the presence of the Duesenberg's original frame, firewall, body, and engine.

By Daniel Vaughan | Jan 2014
Roadster
Coachwork: Murphy
Engine Num: J236
 
This Duesenberg Murphy Roadster with engine J-236 was the prototype disappearing top roadster and was originally used as the display stand car at both the Chicago and New York Auto Shows.
Torpedo Berline
Coachwork: Murphy
Chassis Num: 2315
Engine Num: J-391
 
Sold for $1,425,000 at 2014 Mecum.
This 1930 Duesenberg Model J Torpedo Berline Convertible with chassis number 2315, engine number J-391, and body 952 was completed by Walter M. Murphy Coachbuilders of Pasadena, California, as a demonstrator for Duesenberg's Los Angeles sales branch. It was originally painted in Washington Blue and was sold to Hollywood screen writer Gene Markey, who later became a highly decorated Rear Admiral after World War II. During the 1940s, it passed through the care of several owners including James Talmadge (son of Buster Keaton and Norma Talmadge), who in 1952 traded the car to actor Tyrone Power for a new MG. Power owned the car until his death at the age of 44 in 1958, after which it was sold to J.B. Nethercutt and then to Bill Harrah's Auto Museum in Reno, Nevada. It was then purchased in 1986 by Joseph Folladori of Indianapolis, who restored it and finished it in its present color scheme. In 1991 it became part of Las Vegas' Imperial Palace Auto Collection, after which it was in the care of several short-term owners until its purchase by the John O'Quinn Collection.

In March of 1998, it vehicle was one of six Duesenbergs specially invited to the Geneva Automobile Show in Switzerland. It was featured in the November 1952 issue of Road & Track and, more recently, was immortalized by Beverly Rae Kimes in, A Duesie's Dozen, The Ownership Ancestry of J-391.

This vehicle is an ACD Certified Category 1 Original example with its original engine, chassis and body.

By Daniel Vaughan | Dec 2014

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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Grand Prix Racers
Model A
Model J

Image Left 1929 Model JImage Left 1929 Model J ChassisImage Left 1929 Model J SkiffImage Left 1929 Model J Murphy1931 Model J Murphy Image Right1931 Model J Image Right
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