1929 Duesenberg Model J Murphy

Fred and August Duesenberg were self-taught mechanics and car builders whose careers began in the Midwest at the start of the twentieth century with the manufacture of Mason and Maytag cars. Fred was five years older than August and was the designer and tinkerer off the pair.
Augie complemented his brother by bringing the ideas and creations to life.

The talents of the Duesenberg brothers influenced many early American auto manufacturers, with their four-cylinder engine produced by Rochester being used to power around six different marques. Legendary drivers of the era who drove vehicles powered by Duesenberg-designed engines included Rex Mays, Peter DePaolo, Tommy Milton, Albert Guyot, George Souders, Ralph DePalma, Ab Jenkins, Deacon Litz, Joe Russo, Jimmy Murphy, Jimmy Gleason, Eddie Rickenbacker, Joe Boyer, Fred Frame, L.L. Corum, Roscoe Sarles, Harry Hartz, Ralph Mulford, and Stubby Stubblefield.

Duesenberg cars raced at the inaugural Indianapolis 500 in 1913. 70 Duesenbergs would compete over 15 consecutive starts at the Indy 500, with thirty-two of them finishing in the top 10. At the 1922 Indy 500, eight of the top 10 cars were powered by Duesenberg engines. In 1921, a Duesenberg driven by Jimmy Murphy won the French Grand Prix at Le Mans.
The car, called the 'Murphy Special,' had a Duesenberg chassis and a Miller engine, and was the first car with hydraulic brakes to start a Grand Prix.

The Duesenberg brothers were world-class engineers, but they were terrible businessmen and lacked the necessary administration skills needed to run a business. Their first passenger car was called the Model A, and they were unable to sell all of the units. The Model A was powered by a Duesenberg Straight-8 engine, the first 'mass-produced' straight-eight engine in the United States. The engine was a single overhead-camshaft unit with four-valve cylinder heads. It had 16-inch hydraulic brakes, designed by Fred in conjunction with Lockheed, and was one of the most advanced and powerful, fastest, and expensive automobiles on the market.

The model experienced production delays and dealers were slow to receive deliveries. The goal had been to produce 100 examples per month, but this proved too difficult to achieve, and the factory was barely able to produce one per day. Over six years, approximately 650 Model As were sold.

The Model A was followed briefly by the Model X, with around 13 examples being built. They were similar to the Model A, but longer, heavier, and had a 100 horsepower engine. They also had hypoid differentials and all the valves were on one side.

On October 26th of 1925, Errett Lobban Cord acquired the Duesenberg Company, mainly for the brothers' talents and engineering skills. The Duesenberg Motor Company was added to E.L. Cord's rapidly-growing enterprise, the Auburn Automobile Company. It was Cord's vision that this new acquisition would compete and surpass the best automobiles being produced in America and Europe. Cord tasked Fred Duesenberg with the monumental task of building the greatest car in the world - the Model J.

The Duesenberg Model J was introduced on December 1st of 1928 at the New York Auto Salon. The reputation of the Duesenberg and Cord marque made the Model J front-page news and trading was halted on the New York Stock Exchange for the announcement. Duesenberg ordered enough components to build 500 examples while development continued for six months after the Model J's introduction. The finest materials were used throughout and each completed chassis was driven at speed for 100 miles at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The short wheelbase chassis was nearly 12-feet long, measuring 142.5-inches. The 420 cubic-inch engine had double overhead camshafts, four-valves per cylinder, and eight cylinders offering 265 horsepower.

Five months before Black Tuesday and the Stock Market crash, the first customer took possession of the Model J in May of 1929. The utopia was short-lived, as the decimated economy meant the pool of capable buyers drastically dwindled. Lacking financing and support from E.L. Cord and Auburn Corporation, the Duesenberg soldiered on guided by their advertising slogan, 'He drives a Duesenberg' and 'She drives a Duesenberg.' These black-and-white advertisements were drawn by Paul Gerding, and became the images Americans associated with success, wealth, privilege, success, and power. The car's external exhaust pipes were a symbol of performance and power.

During this era, a new family sedan sold for approximately $500, while the coach-built Duesenbergs often cost in the vicinity of $20,000. The cost of the short-wheelbase chassis began at approximately $8,500.

The powerful engine was designed to easily carry the imposing coachwork hand tailored to the customer's needs, desires, and specifications. About half of the Models Js built had coachworks created by the company's chief body designer, Gordon Buehrig. These in-house bodies used the name of La Grande. The rest were from independent coachbuilders such as Rollston, Walker, Weymann, Willoughby, Derham, Holbrook, LeBaron, Murphy, and Judkins.
The list of European coachbuilders include Gurney Nutting, Saouthick, Franay, and Fernandez et Darrin.

The Murphy body company of Pasadena, California is generally recognized as the most successful builder of Model Js. At least 125 bodies were built by Murphy for the Model J, with the most popular being the Disappearing-Top Roadster and the Convertible Sedan, with approximately 50 individual bodies built in total. Most of the designs are credited to W. Everett Miller. The open body style designs became so popular by the early 1930s, Murphy began constructing these bodies 'in the white' so that customers would not have to wait months to receive coachwork for their new Duesenberg.

Another popular coachbuilder was LeBaron who - along with Murphy and Holbrook - were selected to build bodies for the first Model Js, which were displayed at the model's 1929 debut in New York. 28 of the 38 LeBaron bodies wore the Ralph Roberts-designed Dual Cowl Phaeton style, in both sweep-panel and barrel-side configuration.

The straight-eight engine powering the Model J was based on the tried-and-true racing engines of the 1920s designed by Duesenberg. Manufacturing was handled by the Lycoming Company of Williamsport, Pennsylvania, another company owned by Cord. The engine gave the Model J a top speed of 119 mph, and 94 mph in second gear.

Two versions of the chassis were offered with one being the long 153.54-inch platform and the other being the short 141.73 inches. Other special sizes were built, including two SSJs with a wheelbase shortened to 125 inches.
A few cars had a 160-inch wheelbase.

A supercharged version often referred to as the SJ, brought horsepower to 320 hp and was introduced in May of 1932. Just 36 examples were built. The supercharger was placed beside the engine, which means the exhaust pipes were bent and extended through the side panel of the hood. These shiny tubes, a registered trademark of Cord and used on other supercharged cars from Cord and Auburn, helped distinguish the supercharged models from the naturally aspirated cars.

The Great Depression hit in October 1929, and by this point around 200 examples of the Model J had been built. An additional 100 orders were received in 1930, which meant the Model J did not achieve the original goal of selling 500 cars a year. Between 1928 and 1937, 481 Model Js of all versions were built, including the SJ, SSJ, and SJN. Although production lasted nearly a decade, the design remained mostly unchanged.
Among the list of major modifications include the four-speed gearbox, which was replaced with a three-speed unsynchronized unit early in the Model Js production as it was unable to cope with the engine's power.

Most of the chassis and engines were built in 1929 and 1930, but due to the astronomical cost and the Depression, many were sold in subsequent years. The year in which the Model J received its body is considered the date in which it was built, even though the chassis had been built year(s) earlier.

The Model J was the most expensive and fastest American automobile in the market.


by Daniel Vaughan | Mar 2020

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 %26 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....
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Related Reading : Duesenberg Model J History

The Duesenberg Automobile %26 Motors Company, Inc was founded and operated by Fred and August brothers 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....
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1929 Vehicle Profiles

1929 Duesenberg Model J Murphy vehicle information

Town Limousine
Coachwork: Murphy

Chassis Num: 2243
Engine Num: J218

This distinctive Duesenberg J Town Limousine was ordered by Captain George Whittell Jr. and bodied by Murphy. Mr. Whittell was heir to a large California gold rush and real estate fortune and the ultimate playboy of his day who famously liquidated hi....[continue reading]

1929 Duesenberg Model J Murphy vehicle information

SWB Convertible Coupe
Coachwork: Murphy

Chassis Num: 2213
Engine Num: J194

This example, J194, was sold new by Duesenberg's New York City factory branch in August 1929 to William Durant Campbell, at which time it was finished in black with 19-inch chrome wire-spoke wheels. Within a year, on May 23, 1930, the car was resold ....[continue reading]

1929 Duesenberg Model J Murphy vehicle information

Convertible Sedan
Coachwork: Murphy

Engine Num: J262

When introduced, the Model J was the most expensive car in America. The chassis alone cost a staggering $8500; the typical family car cost around $500. The price came standard with ambiance, style, and perfection. It was matched by its performance wh....[continue reading]

1929 Duesenberg Model J Murphy vehicle information

SWB Convertible Coupe
Coachwork: Murphy

Chassis Num: 2198
Engine Num: J179

Introduced in the fall of 1928, the Model J Duesenberg boasted a four-valve per cylinder straight-eight engine that produced more than twice the horsepower of its nearest competitor. This particular Murphy Sports Sedan was featured at the San Francis....[continue reading]

1929 Duesenberg Model J Murphy vehicle information

SWB Convertible Coupe
Coachwork: Murphy

Chassis Num: 2134
Engine Num: J-108

When Duesenberg introduced the Model J the automotive industry would be shaken. Proclaimed the 'world's finest motor car.' The Model J would be widely acclaimed and coveted. ....[continue reading]

1929 Duesenberg Model J Murphy vehicle information

Dual Cowl Phaeton
Coachwork: Murphy

Chassis Num: 2169
Engine Num: J403

One of this cars owners was Tommy Manville who was 36 years old at the time. Manville was the heir to the Johns Manville asbestos fortune and lived a life of fortune and luxury. He is also in the Guinness Book of World Records for having married 13....[continue reading]

1929 Duesenberg Model J Murphy vehicle information

Clear Vision Sedan
Coachwork: Murphy

Chassis Num: 2209
Engine Num: J187

This 1929 Duesenberg Model J Clear Vision Sedan has coachwork courtesy of Murphy, Inc., of Pasadena California. It was outfitted with a 420 cubic-inch eight-cylinder engine capable of producing nearly 270 horsepower. Power was sent to the rear wheels....[continue reading]

1929 Duesenberg Model J Murphy vehicle information

Convertible Sedan
Coachwork: Murphy

Chassis Num: 2225
Engine Num: J-355

The Duesenberg Model J was unveiled to the world at the 1928 New York Auto Salon. The engine was a twin-cam straight eight with a very large crankshaft, with sealed cartridges continuing mercury to eliminate vibrations. There was a 'timing box' locat....[continue reading]

1929 Duesenberg Model J Murphy vehicle information

SWB Convertible Coupe
Coachwork: Murphy

Chassis Num: 2154
Engine Num: J132

The Duesenberg J chassis cost $8,500 which made it the most expensive car in America. This price tag did not include the coachwork (the body), which often drove the price into the neighborhood of $20,000. This was during the era where most family c....[continue reading]

1929 Duesenberg Model J Murphy vehicle information

SWB Convertible Coupe
Coachwork: Murphy

Chassis Num: 2165
Engine Num: J142

This 1929 Duesenberg Model J wears a Coupe body which was given to it by Walter M Murphy Company of Pasadena, CA. It is chassis number 2165 and is powered by engine J142. It's ACD Category one Certification Number is D-125. There is a known histor....[continue reading]

1929 Duesenberg Model J Murphy vehicle information

SWB Convertible Coupe
Coachwork: Murphy

Chassis Num: 2301
Engine Num: J-279

Originally Built For And Owned By Aviation Genius Howard Hughes! The model J was announced in the fall of 1928. But deliveries did not begin until the spring of 1929. This particular car has had a few famous owners including Howard Hughes. It was rep....[continue reading]

1929 Duesenberg Model J Murphy vehicle information

Convertible Coupe Roadster
Coachwork: Murphy

Chassis Num: 2168
Engine Num: J-147

After E.L. Cord bought Duesenberg Motors in 1926, he decided that he wanted to build the ultimate motorcar. Known as the 'mightiest American motorcar,' the Duesenberg Model J was created to compete with high-end European marques such as Rolls-Royce a....[continue reading]

1929 Duesenberg Model J Murphy vehicle information

Dual Cowl Phaeton
Coachwork: Murphy

This car has had single family ownership for nearly half a century. The car carries both AACA and CCCA National First Place badges, dating back to the fifties or sixties. Accessories on the car include dual side-mounted spares, six chrome wire wheels....[continue reading]

1929 Duesenberg Model J Murphy vehicle information

SWB Convertible Coupe
Coachwork: Murphy

Chassis Num: 2223
Engine Num: J-200

The most common Duesenberg J body style was the Murphy bodied Convertible Coupe. Murphy produced some 140 examples of the 472 Duesenberg Model Js produced. Sixty of the 140 Murphy bodied cars were the Convertible Coupe.....[continue reading]

1929 Duesenberg Model J Murphy vehicle information

Sport Sedan
Coachwork: Murphy

Chassis Num: 2132
Engine Num: J-151

Owned by such people as Clark Gable, the Duke of Windsor, Gary Cooper and others, Duesenberg certainly exemplified quality and luxury. Advertised as 'the best car in the world' Duesenberg's Model J remains one of the most desirable and collectible of....[continue reading]

1929 Duesenberg Model J Murphy vehicle information

Dual Cowl Phaeton
Coachwork: Murphy

Chassis Num: 2196
Engine Num: J175

Duesenberg Automobile and Motors Company was an American manufacturer of luxury automobiles located in Auburn, Indiana. Duesenbergs were built between 1913 and 1937, and they were some of the most luxurious and innovative cars of their time.....[continue reading]

1929 Duesenberg Model J Murphy vehicle information

Convertible Berline
Coachwork: Murphy

Chassis Num: 2307
Engine Num: J288

This Convertible Berline with coachwork by the Murphy body company of Pasadena, California is a long-wheelbase chassis that measures 153.5-inches. It was built with the shutter front radiator, hydraulic shock absorbers, 8-into-1 exhaust manifold, and....[continue reading]

1929 Duesenberg Model J Murphy vehicle information

SWB Convertible Coupe
Coachwork: Murphy

Engine Num: J-184

The first Duesenberg motorcars were offered in late 1920 by the Duesenberg brothers, Fred and Augie, who had made a name for themselves on the race track, particularly the Indianapolis 500.....[continue reading]

1929 Duesenberg Model J Murphy vehicle information

Sport Sedan
Coachwork: Murphy

Chassis Num: 2163
Engine Num: J-139

In 1920, Frederick and August Duesenberg founded Duesenberg Automobile & Motors Company, Inc. The brothers were great engineers and produced many high performance marine and racing engines before starting to produce cars in the early 1920s. Duesenber....[continue reading]

1929 Duesenberg Model J Murphy vehicle information

Dual Cowl Phaeton
Coachwork: Murphy

Chassis Num: 2201
Engine Num: J-183

This Duesenberg has lived three lives. It was originally a traditional formal car. Later in its life, it was converted to a race car. In recent years, it has been accurately restored and finished in a Dual Cowl Phaeton in the style of Murphy. It ride....[continue reading]

1929 Duesenberg Model J Murphy vehicle information

Convertible Sedan
Coachwork: Murphy

Chassis Num: 2194
Engine Num: J-173

The Walter M. Murphy Company of Pasadena, California produced bodies for a number of expensive automobiles, including Rolls-Royce, Mercedes-Benz, and Packard - but they are most famous for their work on the Model J Duesenberg, a chassis for which the....[continue reading]

1929 Duesenberg Model J Murphy vehicle information

SWB Convertible Coupe
Coachwork: Murphy

Chassis Num: 2212
Engine Num: J192

Fred and August Duesenberg received a contract to produce Bugatti straight-8 engines for France during World War I. Intrigued by its performance, the brothers developed their own version.....[continue reading]

1929 Duesenberg Model J Murphy vehicle information

Clear Vision Sedan
Coachwork: Murphy

Duesenberg built the Model J from 1929 to 1937 in Indianapolis Indiana. The car was powered by a straight 8 double overhead cam 420 CID 265 horsepower engine, three speed transmission with overdrive. Power assisted hydraulic brakes. These cars were t....[continue reading]

1929 Duesenberg Model J Murphy vehicle information

Convertible Coupe Roadster
Coachwork: Murphy

Chassis Num: 2551
Engine Num: J-119

Around 60 Convertible Coupe bodies were produced by the Walter M. Murphy Company of Pasadena, CA for the Model J Duesenberg chassis. The disappearing top models were all fully custom and were individually built for their original owners. This history....[continue reading]

1929 Duesenberg Model J Murphy vehicle information

Convertible Coupe Roadster
Coachwork: Murphy

E.L. Cord, the owner of Auburn and other transportation firms, purchased the Duesenberg Motor Corporation on October 26, 1926. He was impressed with the brothers' engineering skills and of course, the prestigious brand name. His intent was to produce....[continue reading]

1929 Duesenberg Model J Murphy vehicle information

Torpedo Convertible Coupe
Coachwork: Murphy

Chassis Num: 2199
Engine Num: J-414

The most well-known design from California coachbuilder Walter M. Murphy on a Duesenberg Model J chassis is the Disappearing Top Convertible Coupe, about 25 of which were made. However, the Disappearing Top Torpedo Convertible Coupe, with its boattai....[continue reading]

Town Limousine by Murphy
Chassis #: 2243 
SWB Convertible Coupe by Murphy
Chassis #: 2213 
Convertible Sedan by Murphy
 
SWB Convertible Coupe by Murphy
Chassis #: 2198 
SWB Convertible Coupe by Murphy
Chassis #: 2134 
Dual Cowl Phaeton by Murphy
Chassis #: 2169 
Clear Vision Sedan by Murphy
Chassis #: 2209 
Convertible Sedan by Murphy
Chassis #: 2225 
SWB Convertible Coupe by Murphy
Chassis #: 2154 
SWB Convertible Coupe by Murphy
Chassis #: 2165 
SWB Convertible Coupe by Murphy
Chassis #: 2301 
Convertible Coupe Roadster by Murphy
Chassis #: 2168 
Dual Cowl Phaeton by Murphy
 
SWB Convertible Coupe by Murphy
Chassis #: 2223 
Sport Sedan by Murphy
Chassis #: 2132 
Dual Cowl Phaeton by Murphy
Chassis #: 2196 
Convertible Berline by Murphy
Chassis #: 2307 
SWB Convertible Coupe by Murphy
 
Sport Sedan by Murphy
Chassis #: 2163 
Dual Cowl Phaeton by Murphy
Chassis #: 2201 
Convertible Sedan by Murphy
Chassis #: 2194 
SWB Convertible Coupe by Murphy
Chassis #: 2212 
Clear Vision Sedan by Murphy
 
Convertible Coupe Roadster by Murphy
Chassis #: 2551 
Convertible Coupe Roadster by Murphy
 
Torpedo Convertible Coupe by Murphy
Chassis #: 2199 


Concepts by Duesenberg



Recent Vehicle Additions

Performance and Specification Comparison

Model Year Production

#1#2#3Duesenberg
1934Ford (563,921)Chevrolet (551,191)Plymouth (321,171)
1933Chevrolet (486,261)Ford (334,969)Plymouth (298,557)
1932Chevrolet (313,404)Ford (210,824)Plymouth (186,106)
1931Chevrolet (619,554)Ford (615,455)Buick (138,965)
1930Ford (1,140,710)Chevrolet (640,980)Buick (181,743)
1929Ford (1,507,132)Chevrolet (1,328,605)Buick (196,104)
1928Chevrolet (1,193,212)Ford (607,592)Willys Knight (231,360)
1927Chevrolet (1,001,820)Ford (367,213)Buick (255,160)
1926Ford (1,669,847)Chevrolet (547,724)Buick (266,753)
1925Ford (1,669,847)Chevrolet (306,479)Dodge (201,000)
1924Ford (1,831,128)Chevrolet (264,868)Dodge (193,861)

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