Duesenberg Model J Convertible Coupe

The story of Fred and August Duesenberg and E.L. Cord is among the most fascinating in automotive history. The Duesenbergs were self-taught mechanics and car builders whose careers started in the Midwest at the beginning of the Twentieth century. Fred, the older brother by five years, was the tinkerer and designer of the pair. Augie, as August was known, made Fred’s ingenious and creative things work.

Performance was at the heart of everything they did. In 15 consecutive Indianapolis 500s, starting with their first appearance in 1913, 70 Duesenbergs competed. Thirty-two – an amazing 46 percent of them – finished in the top 10. Fred and Augie became masters of supercharging and reliability; their engines, because engines were Fred’s specialty, were beautiful and performed on a par with the best of Miller, Peugeot and Ballot.

In 1925, Errett Lobban Cord added the Duesenberg Motors Company to his rapidly growing enterprise, the Auburn Automobile Company. Cord’s vision was to create an automobile that would surpass the great marques of Europe and America. Cadillac, Isotta Fraschini, Bugatti, Rolls-Royce and Hispano-Suiza were his targets, and Duesenberg was his chosen instrument. He presented Fred Duesenberg with the opportunity to create the greatest car in the world, and the result was the incomparable Model J.

The Model J Duesenberg has long been regarded as the most outstanding example of design and engineering of the classic era. Introduced in 1929, its announcement halted trading on the New York Stock exchange. At $8,500 for the chassis alone, it was by far the most expensive car in America. With coachwork, the delivered price of many Duesenbergs approached $20,000 – a staggering sum at a time when a typical new family car cost around $500.

Few would argue that the car’s features did not support its price. Indeed, the Model J’s specifications sound current today: 265 bhp, double overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder, power hydraulic brakes and, eventually, an optional supercharger.

This car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in March of 2010 at the Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, Florida.

265 bhp, 420 cu. in. four valves per cylinder twin overhead camshaft inline eight-cylinder, three-speed transmission, front beam axle, live rear axle, four wheel longitudinal leaf springs, vacuum assisted four-wheel hydraulic brakes. Wheelbase: 142.5"

Source: RM Auctions
Photo Credit: Darin Schnabel

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