Sold for $594,000 at 2013 Gooding and Company - The Amelia Island Auction.
Only those considered the elite of society and entertainment could afford to own a Duesenberg. How fitting it would be then that the long, graceful lines of a Model JN Duesenberg would be owned by the graceful and fluid dancer and entertainer Bill 'Bojangles' Robinson.
Throughout Robinson's career he would entertain both blacks and whites and would leave a legacy that crossed racial barriers because of is incredible generosity and famous big smile. In no small way, Robinson would help play a part in changing the face of race relations throughout the United States.
While not as important to the whole of the nation, just as Robinson was at the height of his popularity and drawing potential, Duesenberg would be busy creating a new image for itself. The old tired designs of the past couple dozen, or more, years were believed to be hindering the company. Enter the Duesenberg Model JN.
The Model JN was to provide Duesenberg's expected face-lift. With a wider body that dropped down over the frame rails to provide a lower profile, skirted fenders and redesigned tool and battery boxes, the Model JN certainly gave Duesenberg an updated look.
To give Duesenberg that new look, the company would turn to the New York coachbuilder Rollston. While promising a new look for Duesenberg, Rollston's efforts would be limited as the coachbuilder would only end up producing a total of 10 Model JN bodies as each would command a handsome sum.
Each Model JN produced would be reserved for very special clientele. In February of 1935 this particular Model JN, chassis 2587, would arrive from Rollston in New York with a new Berline body. Over the course of the next few months the Berline body would be combined with the Duesenberg Model JN chassis and would be shipped back to New York by July of 1935.
On the 9th of July, Duesenberg Sales Corporation would sell this particular chassis to Bill 'Bojangles' Robinson for the sum of $17,500. Just like that, two graceful artists would be united.
By the following year, the JN would be in Pasadena, California at the coachbuilders of Bohman & Schwartz. It would be there to receive some updates, like the Cadillac bullet headlamps and special parking lights. Other additions would include a reworked windscreen, painted radiator and one-piece bumpers.
Robinson and his Model JN were practically inseparable. Often the two would be seen together, and, when Robinson returned to New York years later, the Model JN would come with him.
At the time of Robinson's death in 1949, the Model JN was sitting at the Zumbach Motor Repair Company on West 53rd Street. The car would be there to undergo service and repairs. When repairs went unpaid because of Robinson's death his widow would determine to sell the car. Nightclub entertainer Phil Regan would then come to own the car.
Formerly a New York Police detective, Regan would be a popular entertainer in his own right. Interestingly, he would retrace the Model JN's steps by taking the car with himself back to Pasadena. While in Pasadena, Regan would have the car restyled. The result would be a car that had the look of something like a 1950s hot rod. The car was finished in a dark blue and the top was covered in an off-white canvas. The original side mounted spare would be replaced with a Continental-style rear mount. On the interior a Cadillac 'banjo' steering wheel and sun visors would be just some of the updates.
By 1951, Regan would sell the car to William Graham Bell, the owner of Worldwide Motors. This Model JN was purchased by Bell for the specific purpose of being a gift for his wife. She would be pleased with the gift but would end up being rather critical of it when she tried to bring it to a stop. She would voice her displeasure with the needed stopping distance and immediately the car would be put up for sale. Jay 'Bourbon' Bullen would end up buying the car from Mr. Bell but would turn around and sell it to W.C. Wilkinson.
Mr. Wilkinson would only hold onto the car for a few months before selling it to Lamont Cochran of New York and Connecticut. One year later, Cochran would come to acquire a Model J Murphy Roadster and would begin to exchange components. Therefore, the JN's original engine, J-559, would be substituted with J-500 from the Murphy. Additionally, the Berline would come to have the 19' wire wheels that were also originally on the Murphy. This work would be completed under the supervision of Duesenberg mechanic Jim Hoe.
Following the completion of the work, Mr. Cochran would arrange to have the car sold through Hoe Sportscars. And, in January of 1955 an MIT student, William Deibel, would purchase the car for the price of $3,200.
Mr. Deibel would own and regularly use the car for a period of about a decade before he would determine to have it restored to its original state. This restoration would begin in 1966 and would end up lasting for some five years before being completed. The result would be truly transforming as the well-worn Model JN would be restored to its former glory. However, for the MIT student the restoration wouldn't be just right. A main focus of Mr. Deibel would be to thoroughly document the car's very interesting past.
In 1971, the Duesenberg would be placed on exhibit at the CCCA Indianapolis Grand Classic. Between 1979 and 1984 the car would be placed on loan to the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum in Auburn, Indiana.
Following the car's stint in the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum, Mr. Deibel would take the car to Jim Kaufman of Manitowoc, Wisconsin. Kaufman would take and thoroughly tune the Model JN to top working order and it would be necessary as Deibel took off from Wisconsin for Seattle. The trip across the country would see Deibel complete the journey averaging speeds of more than 80 mph, and this would thoroughly test the soundness of the car and the work it had received.
Because of the car's vastly interesting past and quality of restoration the car would be presented in a feature article of The Classic Car magazine, the official magazine of the CCCA.
Though the restoration of the Model JN is now over 40 years old, the car continues to present well and would certainly be one of the highlights of the Gooding & Company auction in Amelia Island in March of 2013.
Presented in dark brown metallic with a padded leather top and Bedford cord upholstery, the Model JN remains attractive inside and out. Including very thorough documentation, photos, ACD certification report and other correspondences, the Model JN certainly remains one of the most pleasant historical gems of the entire Duesenberg line. As a result of the car's history and restoration, prior to auction, it would be receiving estimates ranging from $500,000 to $700,000.
As the car came rolling across the block, the 1935 Duesenberg Model JN would draw keenly interested bidders and would end up selling for a price of $594,000. Sources:
'Lot No. 25: 1935 Duesenberg Model JN Long-Wheelbase Berline', (http://www.goodingco.com/car/1935-duesenberg-model-jn-long-wheelbase-berline). Gooding & Company. http://www.goodingco.com/car/1935-duesenberg-model-jn-long-wheelbase-berline. Retrieved 13 March 2013.
'1935 Duesenberg Model JN News, Pictures and Information', (http://www.conceptcarz.com/vehicle/z16851/Duesenberg-Model-JN.aspx). Conceptcarz.com: From Concept to Production. http://www.conceptcarz.com/vehicle/z16851/Duesenberg-Model-JN.aspx. Retrieved 13 March 2013.
'1933 Duesenberg JN', (http://www.supercars.net/cars/2472.html). Supercars.net. http://www.supercars.net/cars/2472.html. Retrieved 13 March 2013.
Wikipedia contributors, 'Bill Robinson', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 26 February 2013, 16:41 UTC, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Bill_Robinson&oldid=540679966 accessed 13 March 2013 By Jeremy McMullen