The elegant and luxurious Duesenberg Model J automobiles were known as 'America's Mightiest Motor Car' and were built by the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg Company in Auburn, Indiana. Errett Lobban Cord put out a tremendous effort to create the finest automobile in America. He enlisted the help of the two skilled German immigrant brothers from Indianapolis, Fred and August Duesenberg, to assist with this task. They had built Indianapolis 500-winning racecars and pioneered supercharger. The result of their efforts was one of the most elegant and expensive vehicle of its era. The Duesenberg was also the fastest American production car until the Chrysler 300 series in the mid-1950s.
The Model J was introduced just as the New York stock market crashed. These vehicles were largely hand-built with limited production or completely custom coachwork. In total, about 480 examples were completed form 1929 to 1937.
This Convertible Phaeton is chassis number 2506 and powered by engine number SJ-488. It is a sporty short-wheelbase, split-windshield Convertible Pheaton that received it coachwork from Gordon Buehrig. It was one of just five examples to be built by the Derham Body Company of Rosemont, Pennsylvania. Randy Ema, a Duesenberg expert, believes that SJ-488 was used as a factory demonstrator before being sold to Alexander Tiers, the vehicles first owner. The price for the car was a staggering $15,250, a considerable sum during that era. It then passed to Dick 'Hal' Rossen, who was briefly married to actress Jean Harlow. James Talmadge of Twentieth Century Fox (his father was Buster Keaton) was the cars next caretaker. Walter Bryson, who followed Talmadge, sold it to Gerald B. Strochecker of Portland, Oregon, in 1947. He owned four Duesenbergs, including a twin to this car, and was a scion of the family who owned the Strohecker grocery stores. The car was bequeathed to Strohecker's close friend, Charles F. Norris, who kept it for three decades before selling it to the present owners.
By Daniel Vaughan | Jul 2011
This is one of the rare SJ models, meaning its 420 cubic-inch straight-eight DOHC (four-valve per cylinder) Lycoming engine is fitted with a supercharger. There is a one-piece, eight-port, external exhaust pipe. The engine (painted green - the color of money) produces 320 horsepower which is sent to the rear wheels via a three-speed manual gearbox. Top speed is in the neighborhood of 125 mph. The wheelbase measurers 143.5 inches and the car weighs 5,270 pounds.
This Duesenberg is one of five Derham convertible sedans wearing a design penned by artist Gordon Buehrig. The car was originally used as a factory demonstrator, and around 1934 was acquired by its first private owner, Alexander Tiers of Los Angeles. The car's next owner was Cinematographer Harold Rosson who sold it to Bob Roberts around 1938.
It is believed that Roberts or mechanic Joe Reindl swapped the engine, supercharger, hood, and exhaust manifold from J-208 (a Model SJ Murphy Convertible Sedan), into this Derham Convertible Sedan. The supercharger was subsequently removed at some later point.
In 1946, the Derham Convertible Sedan was sold to James Talmadge, who sold the car to Wharton Bryan in late 1947, who shortly thereafter to Gerald Strohecker of Oregon. Mr. Strohecker rebuilt the car from 1947 through 1951. His work was rewarded with a Grand Sweepstake ribbon in July of 1951 at the (H.O.C.O.) annual meet. The car remained with Mr. Strohecker for the remainder of his life, which came to an end in 1969. The Duesenberg was bequeathed to his friend, Charles Norris, also of Portland, Oregon.
Mr. Norris sold the car in November of 1977 to Thomas and Susan Armstrong of Issaquah, Washington. The Derham Convertible Sedan has remained in their care for the past 41 years.
Mr. Armstrong researched the vehicle and found it carried the bell housing from J-208. That car was found and a trade of bell housings was orchestrated, returning both Duesenbergs to their correct numerical configuration.
In 1982 the car received the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg Club Category 1 Certification no. D-006, indicating it as the sixth Duesenberg to complete the rigorous review for authenticity.
In the 1980s, Mr. Armstrong acquired a supercharger and returned J-488 to its late-1930s specification.
J-488 has been enjoyed on numerous occasions, including a CCCA CARavan, three Duesenberg Tours, and the 1991 California Mille. Concours showings include the 1999 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, a 2008 CCCA First Place, and Best of Show at the 2013 Forest Grove Concours d'Elegance. It was also one of 16 automobiles displayed at the Allure of the Automobile exhibit at the Portland Art Museum.
The car is finished in black paint with a matching canvas convertible top, accented by red pin-striping. It has the rare eight-port manifold which gives away the presence of the 320 horsepower supercharged engine. The interior is finished in brown leather.By Daniel Vaughan | Nov 2018