Frederick and August Duesenberg are undoubtedly best known for their iconic Model J of the 1930s. However, their groundbreaking road cars may never have been built if it weren’t for the notoriety they achieved in motorsport in the early 20th century. The brothers’ racing efforts began in the mid-1910s, with their proudest moment coming in 1924, when one of their supercharged, twin-cam racers won the prestigious Indianapolis 500 mile race. Despite their on-track prowess, the brothers struggled to achieve financial success. Various partnerships with financial backers saw the brothers bouncing around, building automobile, marine and aircraft engines; none of which proved terribly rewarding for Fred and Augie. Beginning in 1920, a new workshop was established in Indianapolis and the Duesenberg brothers began production of a road car under their own name, which they hoped would help fund their sporting aspirations and provide them some financial stability. The overhead cam, straight-eight Model A was a brilliant machine, but delays in production dampened enthusiasm and a post WWI economic recession hurt sales which almost spelled the end for the fledgling company and the Brother’s hopes of becoming full-fledged car manufacturers. Thankfully, the Duesenberg’s reputation in motorsport caught the attention of E.L. Cord, who had recently acquired Auburn and was looking to build a flagship motorcar for his own growing manufacturing empire. Cord had successfully revived the ailing Auburn, reestablishing the marque as a worthy competitor to Cadillac and Packard. Now he set his sights on building a car that could compete with, and surpass, the greatest names in Europe such as Bugatti, Hispano-Suiza and Rolls-Royce. Cord bought out the Duesenberg brothers, and put Fred in charge of engineering the finest car in the world, giving him free rein and a clean sheet. Fred relished in the opportunity to simply focus on building the best car he could, meanwhile August clashed personally with Cord; ultimately leaving the firm and playing little to no role in the development of what would become the iconic Model J, only to return after E.L. Cord’s empire began to collapse. The Duesenberg Model J was no doubt a world-beating automobile. With a Bugatti-inspired twin-overhead cam, four-valve inline eight, four wheel hydraulic brakes, a three-speed gearbox and 265 horsepower (or 320 with the optional supercharger), the Model J could handily top 120 miles per hour. It was built to a standard of quality that was unparalleled for its day, and it was of course, astonishingly expensive. A bare chassis started at $9500, with complete cars costing from $13,000, and surpassing $25,000 for the most spectacular custom-bodied examples. The greatest coachbuilders in the world such as LeBaron, Franay, Murphy, Gurney Nutting and others displayed their talents on the Model J chassis. Duesenbergs would carry a wide variety of coachwork that ranged from short-wheelbase speedsters to lavish limousines. Of the 481 units of the Model J built, including the SJ and SSJ derivatives, approximately 378 survive today, and it remains one of the most storied and important motorcars in history. We are thrilled to present this stunning 1935 Duesenberg Model J Special Berline. This gorgeous long-wheelbase Model J, serial number 2557, retains its original engine; number J-540. The original and elegant coachwork is by J.B. Judkins Co. of Amesbury, Massachusetts. Judkins bodies are most commonly attributed with Lincoln chassis, though the firm was quite well-known for fitting a number of bodies to Duesenberg, Packard and Pierce-Arrow chassis among others. Judkins’ specialty was in closed cars, and their craftsmanship and finely judged style was highly regarded by manufacturers and wealthy clientele alike. According to records, J-540 was originally delivered to Mrs. William W. Willock of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Syossett, New York on May 9, 1935. It passed through just four subsequent owners before finding its way to the most recent caretaker who set about restoring the car to its former beauty. A comprehensive, fully researched restoration was performed by Fran Roxas at Vintage Motor Group in Chicago over the span of two years. During that time, the correct original colors and interior materials were discovered, and J-540 was subsequently returned to its striking original two-tone brown livery, topped by a brown leatherette roof. The sophisticated style of the Judkins body features rather handsome skirted fenders as well as a unique split windscreen and dual side-mount spare wheels. Blackwall Dunlop tires on 17-inch chrome wheels add just a hint of sporting appeal to this otherwise formal design. The presentation is magnificent, and the quality of the finish work is truly outstanding, as one would come to expect from such a high-level restoration by a marque expert. Since its exceptional restoration it remains in stunning order, having been shown in numerous prestigious events. In more recent years, J-540 has been used on the road and always maintained in top order. Like the exterior, the interior is a blend of driver-focused appeal and luxurious accommodations. The Judkins Berline is distinguished by its blind rear quarters and lack of a divider window, as the car was intended as a personal limousine that could also be owner-driven. The configuration allows for more comfortable seating up front, while still maintaining plenty of room in the rear compartment. The lush interior is trimmed in leather and cord cloth, executed in a lovely oatmeal tan color that complements the body quite well. The driver faces an original steering wheel and a full array of beautifully restored instruments including an altimeter and Jaeger chronograph clock. As with the body, the interior is beautifully presented; having mellowed ever so lightly in the time since it was restored but still appearing fresh and inviting. Mechanically, J-540 is in excellent order, having been subtly upgraded for reliable high-speed touring. The gorgeous Lycoming-built 420 cubic inch inline eight is fully detailed and correctly finished in its signature bright green with polished alloy cam covers. It is very well presented, with just a bit of character from use apparent in places, and it runs exceptionally well. In the interest of high-speed capability, a full-synchromesh Tremec 5-speed gearbox has been discreetly adapted to the engine, allowing the car to drive exceptionally well and with greatly reduced effort. Importantly, the original gearbox and associated parts will be included in the sale should one wish to return it to original spec. With its 153 ½ - inch wheelbase chassis, the Duesenberg rides exquisitely and the chassis has been fully sorted by Mr. Roxas to ensure the car’s performance lives up to the legend. Since its restoration, J-540 has been shown at numerous events, including the 2011 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance where it earned an Amelia Award in the Duesenberg class. Comprehensively restored and fully sorted, this magnificent Duesenberg Model J has been maintained in show-worthy condition, and thanks to the subtle upgrades, it is ready to impress on CCCA CARavan tours, ACD tours and any similar road event. This elegant Model J Berline is a breathtaking example of what it arguably the greatest American car ever produced.
Brothers Fred and August Duesenberg are undoubtedly two of the most influential personalities in the evolution of the automobile. Their engineering prowess can be compared with the likes of Harry Miller, Ettore Bugatti and Ferdinand Porsche among others, and the machines that bear their name continue to be among the most desirable and valuable American automobiles ever produced. Of course, most casual enthusiasts immediately think of the J and SJ series of the early 1930s when the Duesenberg name is mentioned. After all, the J was a great among greats, the fastest and most powerful American automobile, producing 265 horsepower (320 in supercharged form) at a time when other luxury cars could hardly top 150 horsepower. The SJ and its short-wheelbase version could be considered the first Supercar. But before the Model J, and before E.L. Cord’s takeover of the firm, there was the Straight Eight, commonly known as Model A: Fred and August’s very first serial production model. The Duesenberg Model A (officially marketed as the “Straight Eight”) was a very fine automobile that was saddled by lackluster business decisions by the company’s bosses. The Duesenberg brothers recognized they were better engineers than businessmen, and set to work in establishing a new company structure that handed the business dealings over to Newton Van Zandt and Luther M. Rankin. The new owners established a new factory in Indianapolis and work began on designing a new production car. A prototype was shown early in 1920, however following a last-minute redesign of the engine (Fred decided an overhead cam should replace the original side-rocker arm arrangement) the initial buzz surrounding the car had faded, hampering sales. Much of the company’s money had been spent on the factory, leaving little left over for actual production. Projections were for 2,400 cars per year, but that quickly became a pipe-dream when actual production was more like 1 car per day. But Duesenberg soon found their footing and sales of the Model A gradually gained momentum. The car itself was a true standout. It was the very first serial production car in America to feature an inline-eight cylinder engine – dubbed “Eight-in-a-Row” in period advertising. The engine drew heavily from Duesenberg’s racing experience, displacing 260 cubic inches (about 4.3 liters) and featuring an overhead camshaft, crossflow combustion chambers, detachable head, and a healthy 88 horsepower output. The chassis was a conventional ladder frame with well-tuned suspension and four-wheel hydraulic brakes; the first production car to feature them. Brake drums were of finned alloy to aid in cooling, another lesson learned on the race track. Ultimately, history was not on the side of the Model A, while it is no doubt a brilliant automobile; it seems to have lived in the shadow of its more flamboyant Model J siblings. We are very proud to offer this 1922 Duesenberg Straight Eight Model A; magnificent example of this ground-breaking automobile from one of the greatest names in automotive history. This stunning Duesenberg wears a stylish Sport Phaeton body by Millspaugh & Irish, the Indianapolis-based coachbuilder responsible for most Duesenberg A bodies. As this car was initially discovered, part of the original coachwork had been modified, though it has since been meticulously researched and restored in original specification, executed to the highest standard. The car, which has importantly received an ACD #1 Certification, is presented in a gorgeous tri-tone color scheme with a dove gray main body and dark gray fenders being subtly accented with a deep red chassis and wheels. It is an understated yet breathtaking look that suits the sporty coachwork very well. Body and paint quality is to concours levels with outstanding fit and finish. Detailing is understated, with the beautifully polished nickel radiator flanked by drum headlamps as correct, and topped with a winged Duesenberg-branded Moto-Meter. Dual side mounts feature upholstered covers and very cool period mirrors. Dual cowl lamps are affixed to the windscreen frame and a painted metal trunk sits out back. Bumpers and other bright trim are finished to a very high standard in keeping with the rest of the body. The cabin is trimmed in black leather which presents in beautiful, fresh condition showing little to no signs of use since the restoration. Door panels feature pockets with embossed flaps and the rear of the front seat is equipped with built-in wooden cabinets, presumably for storing a lap blanket for crisp morning drives. The Dash is finished in black lacquer as correct and a Duesenberg 8-branded Warner De Luxe instrument cluster sits front and center. The beautiful wooden steering wheel has been restored with a furniture grade finish. The folding top is trimmed in black canvas and remains taut, with a full set of side curtains included. Of course, the highlight of any Duesenberg is the engine, and this exquisite example does not disappoint. The overhead-cam straight eight is beautifully presented against the polished alloy firewall as original. The engine is painted in a light dove-gray, which is correct for these early Duesenbergs, as only the later cars got the signature bright green treatment. The cam cover is polished alloy, the wiring loom gorgeous nickel plated steel, and the ancillaries are all finished to concours quality standards, including the Robert Bosch horn on the firewall. The engine is impeccably presented, a gorgeous piece of engineering that also delivers excellent performance out on the road. Shown at Pebble Beach in 2010 where it also participated in the Pebble Beach Tour, this fine Duesenberg Model A has also received its ACD club Certification, as well as an ACD Club National award and an AACA Junior award in 2011. Rarely do early Duesenbergs such as this appear on the open market, and this is a fine opportunity to acquire a fabulously restored example wearing beautiful coachwork. It remains very fresh and is ready to continue its show successes, and will surely provide a rewarding experience on the road, thanks to the astounding performance from the highly advanced eight-cylinder engine and impeccable restoration.