Sold for $1,567,500 at 2014 RM Auctions - Amelia Island. Convertible Berline
Chassis #: 2515
Engine # J-494
Very few American automakers present the deftness and quality of pre-World War II construction than Duesenberg. Anchored by the ever-popular Model J chassis, Duesenberg offered fine coachbuilders of the early 20th century a platform to produce truly beautiful pieces of mechanical art.
While LaGrande was fictitious and meant to help Duesenberg's profits, there were other coachbuilders that were every bit real and highly-skilled in the art of building fine coaches for the Model J chassis. One of those talented builders was Thomas Hibbard and Raymond Dietrich's LeBaron.
When Duesenberg became a part of E.L. Cord's conglomerate, August and Fred were given free-reign to once again build some of the best cars in the world. This is just what the brothers needed as, less than two years later, the Model J chassis would be birthed.
At about the same time, Hibbard's and Dietrich's Lebaron Carrossiers would merge with Briggs coachbuilding. Dietrich had come from Brewster & Co. after he started out, at the age of just 12 years old, as an apprentice engraver with American Bank Note Co. Though Dietrich was quite interested in drawing and baseball, he would not have any ambition for automobiles. Thomas Hibbard, however, would. In fact, from a very early age he knew he wanted to be an automobile designer.
The two men would meet via an acquaintance and they would soon begin the lay the groundwork for their own company. This news would lead to Willie Brewster firing Dietrich, despite the fact he really wanted to keep him around.
While the Model J would be incredibly popular, there would be one particular chassis that would be considered greater than the rest, the SJ. Combining a centrifugal supercharger to the inline eight-cylinder engine, the SJ was capable of around 320bhp, and therefore, even greater performance. This allowed a top speed of around 140mph. However, most of the SJs would come with the short-wheelbase chassis. Chassis 2515, then, would combine a number of rare elements to create a truly wonderful piece of Duesenberg history.
Completed in 1934, chassis 2515 would be remarkable in that it would be one of a very few long-wheelbase Model SJ chassis. Furthermore, the coachbuilt body would be from LeBaron and it would be a convertible sedan, one of about eight such sedans believed to be produced by the company for either the long or short wheelbase SJ chassis. What's remarkable about the LeBaron sedan design is that it has the look of a convertible Phaeton in that it could be argued it looks as good with the top up as it does down.
Completed, the car would be first owned by Edith Ludwig, a member of the Cudahy meatpacking family. She would take delivery of the car in October of 1934. By 1938, while still owned by Ludwig, the Model SJ would appear in Out West, a film that featured Mickey Rooney.
After passing from Ludwig to Art Kiel, the Duesenberg would spend twenty years amongst a number of different owners throughout the California area. During this period the car would appear in The Mightiest American Motor Car, and would even spend some time as the property of Ray Nelson.
Eventually, the car ended up in the hands of Paul Polk of New York who would take on the task of having the car restored. Following the restoration the car would be lent to Ken Purdy. Purdy would be writing articles at the time about Duesenberg and would use the experiences with the Model SJ as some inspiration and experience.
In 1964, the Duesenberg would be sold again. This time its new owner would be none other than Edmund Lynch Jr. Edmund Lynch Jr. was the son of the co-founder of Merrill-Lynch. Interestingly, Edmund would be following in his father's footsteps as he too would own a Model J at one point in time. In fact, it would serve as the inspiration for Edmund to begin his search to own one.
The twenty years in which 2515 remained with Lynch marks the longest period in the car's history with one owner. Lynch would sell the car in 1984 and it would continue to change hands a couple of times. Michael Calore, of Rhode Island, would own the car and would commission yet another restoration of the car. One of the final touches of the restoration was to refinish the car. A deep maroon finish would be given to the car, the very same finish it retains to this very day. Another addition includes what amounts to a reproduction of the dual-carburetor Walthers unit that had been installed on the famous Mormon Meteor. This means the car now produces some 400bhp, making it a truly remarkable example of a Model SJ.
Later sold, 2515 would remain with its present owner for more than a decade and would make appearances at events like the 2010 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance and the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Club's Annual Reunion.
Considered to be one of three LeBaron convertible sedans known to exist, 2515 remains a remarkable amalgamation of talent, performance and style. Distinguished in so many ways, the LeBaron Convertible Sedan is a real Duesy. Sources:
'Lot No. 174: 1934 Duesenberg Model SJ Convertible Sedan by LeBaron', (http://www.rmauctions.com/lots/lot.cfm?lot_id=1064885). RM Auctions. http://www.rmauctions.com/lots/lot.cfm?lot_id=1064885. Retrieved 10 February 2014.
'1934 Duesenberg Model SJ News, Pictures, Specifications and Information', (http://www.conceptcarz.com/vehicle/z14355/Duesenberg-Model-SJ.aspx). Conceptcarz.com: From Concept to Production. http://www.conceptcarz.com/vehicle/z14355/Duesenberg-Model-SJ.aspx. Retrieved 10 February 2014.
'Alphabetical Index: LeBaron', (http://www.coachbuilt.com/bui/l/lebaron/lebaron.htm). Coachbuilt.com. http://www.coachbuilt.com/bui/l/lebaron/lebaron.htm. Retrieved 10 February 2014.
'1929 Duesenberg Model J News, Pictures, Specifications and Information', (http://www.conceptcarz.com/vehicle/z13531/Duesenberg-Model-J.aspx). Conceptcarz.com: From Concept to Production. http://www.conceptcarz.com/vehicle/z13531/Duesenberg-Model-J.aspx. Retrieved 10 February 2014.
'How Duesenberg Cars Work: Duesenberg Model J', (http://auto.howstuffworks.com/duesenberg-cars1.htm). HowStuffWorks. http://auto.howstuffworks.com/duesenberg-cars1.htm. Retrieved 10 February 2014.By Jeremy McMullen