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Image Left 1936 Model JImage Left 1936 Twelve Cylinder PrototypeImage Left 1936 Model JN
 

1937 Duesenberg Model J news, pictures, specifications, and information

Convertible Coupe
Coachwork: Rollston & Company
Chassis Num: 2549
Engine Num: J-529
 
This short-wheelbase Convertible Coupe with Rollston coachwork was one of the last produced by Duesenberg and was ordered by Curtis King of Memphis, TN. Some of the features that give it a unique, graceful, sporty look include JN styling with scoop fenders, bullet tail lamps, external exhaust pipes, a fully disappearing top, dual covered spare tires, 17-inch wheels with full wheel discs and a fistail luggage compartment creating a long low shaped rear deck.

The J Models came powered by a Lycoming 420-cid straight-eight engine with an advertised 265 horsepower. The engine is equipped with dual overhead cams driven by hefty chains to operate 4-overhead valves per cylinder. The engine is enameled in bright green and fittings were finished in nickel, chrome, or stainless steel. Brakes were oversized and hydraulic (vacuum-assited). The use of aluminum alloy was extensive in the engine, dash, steering column, differential and flywheel housings, crankcase, timing-chain cover, water pump, intake mainifold, brake shoes, even the gas tank. Standard wheelbase was 142.5 inches and frame rails are a massive 8.5 inches deep and a quarter-inch thick.

The present owners purchased the car in 1987 in partially disassembled condition. A total restoration was completed in 1989.

This car with chassis number 2549 and engine J-529 has one of the last chassis issued by the factory before the company's demise. Unique features of this Model J include Chrysler taillights, a sleeker rear deck, and 17-inch wheels with wheel covers, and it is the last of the four Rollston 'scoop' front fender cars. The car has a black exterior and red interior just as it did originally.
Limousine Landaulet
Coachwork: Bohman & Schwartz
Chassis Num: 2613
Engine Num: J-587
 
Sold for $400,000 at 2011 Bonhams.
Duesenberg Model Js were owned by the rich and famous, never by the shy and retiring! This extravagant 1937 'throne car' limousine was created by Bohman & Schwartz for 1930s evangelist M.J. 'Father' Divine. Very well known in its day, this 7,000-pound monster was built on a stretched 178-inch wheelbase and featured a motorized throne that could elevate Father Divine so he could be better seen by his followers. When fully loaded, the car regularly broke its rear wheels because even the over-engineered Duesenberg chassis couldn't take the extra weight of the imposing body.
Limousine Landaulet
Coachwork: Bohman & Schwartz
Chassis Num: 2613
Engine Num: J-587
 
Sold for $400,000 at 2011 Bonhams.
Walter M. Murphy, based in Pasadena, California, built more bodies for the Model J than did any other coachbuilder. Yet, in the early 1930s, was forced into liquidation. The equipment and some of its most skilled craftsmen coalesced into a new company under Chris Bohman and Maurice Schwartz, forming Bohman & Schwarts. One of their first commissions was a modern Town Cabriolet body on a 1935 Model chassis for Ethel Mars, the candy heiress. Designer J. Herbert Newport designed a raked, vee-shaped radiator shell and streamlined sidemount spare covers which would become the car's signature design feature.

A few years later, Bohman & Schwartz was tasked with creating another Newport design with the same sweeping enclosed sidemount covers. The order came from 'John the Baptist' and specified many unique items like star quarter windows, a crescent moon-shaped rear window, star-studded white headliner, a hydraulically operated folding landaulet and an elevating rear seat. The work was done for Rev. M.J. Divine, 'Father Divine.' He was a charismatic preacher who founded the Universal Peace Mission Movement during the 1910s. He built a successful movement on messages of honesty, freedom from vices, sexual abstinence and equal treatment for all.

In 1936 'John the Baptist', probably John Hunt, a wealthy convert to the Universal Peace Mission and leader of the Los Angeles area Missions, ordered this extravagant Duesenberg Model J as an offering for Father Divine. The Duesenberg was created to accommodate Father and Mother Divine and his attendants. What was built was the longest, widest, and most commodious Duesenberg. it has a wheelbase that extended to 178.5-inches, a full 8.5-inches longer than the Bugatti Type 41 Royale. J. Herbert Newport was tasked with creating the body design for Bohman & Schwartz. It was given a long and wide tonneau that included 'throne' chairs for Father and Mother Divine under a folding landaulet tonneau. The original design called for Father Divine's chair to raise hydraulically but that feature was replaced with a supplemental cushion that raised Father Divine's seat several inches so he could be clearly seen and address his followers at gathering through a built-in public address system. The vehicle had a total capacity of ten occupants with the rear-facing seats behind the divider and the front seats both accommodating four-abreast seating. The body was seven feet wide. There were folding step plates hidden within the doors. An intercom communicated the passenger's instructions to the driver.

The vehicle was completed in 1937 and it was presented to Father Divine by Mary Bird Tree, one of his disciples (John Hunt, by this point in history, had been imprisoned for violation of the Mann Act). He immediately gave it back to her and it was registered in her name.

In 1948, the Duesenberg was laid up with 100,743 miles on the odometer and its folding landaulet replaced with a removable padded rear roof section in a carriage house at the Father Divine's headquarters in Gladwyne, PA. After Father Divine passed away in 1965, it remained the care of Mother Divine, in storage. Years later, it was acquired by Bob Bahre. In February of 1981, he sold it to Robert Adams who sold it to Rick Carroll in September of 1983. Ownership later passed to the Imperial Palace Collection two months later. In 1999 it was acquired by the Dean V. Kruse Foundations, in badly deteriorated condition in which it had been rescued from Father Divine's carriage house. John M. O'Quinn purchased it in 2006 and immediately began a comprehensive restoration. It was finished in 2009 in deep green with green broadcloth rear compartment and brown leather in the front. It was put on display at the 2009 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance.

The car remains the longest, widest, heaviest Duesenberg built.

In 2011, the car was offered for sale at the Quail Lodge auction presented by Bonhams. As bidding came to a close, the car had been sold for the sum of $400,000 inclusive of buyer's premium.

By Daniel Vaughan | Nov 2011

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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