Duesenberg Model A Dual Windshield Phaeton
Despite being remembered in the shadow of its younger and bigger brother, the Model J, the Model A Duesenberg was arguably a more significant advance in the industry of its time. Its features, which included a race-bred overhead cam eight-cylinder engine and four-wheel hydraulic brakes, far outshone other passenger cars of the era.
Frederick Duesenberg was a bicycle racer who worked for Thomas Jeffery, the Wisconsin manufacturer of Rambler bicycles. With his brother August, he opened a garage in Iowa, and around 1905 they designed a two-cylinder automobile, built and marketed as the Mason and named for the local attorney who bankrolled the company. Wishing to concentrate on racing cars, they sold their interests in the Mason Motor Car Company and moved to Minnesota, where they opened an engine business at St. Paul. Fred’s design for an engine with horizontal valves operated by long vertical rocker arms, the so-called “walking beam” concept, was popular in racing, both for automobiles and boats. After a brief venture building Bugatti-designed aero engines during World War I, the brothers turned their attentions back to racing, their cars winning the French Grand Prix in 1921 and Indianapolis the following year, where eight of the top ten finishers used their engines. By this time, they were working on another road car. On March 8, 1920, with Newton Van Zandt and Luther Rankin, they formed the Duesenberg Automobile and Motors Company.
Abandoning the walking beam, the brothers designed an overhead cam engine, initially of 183 cubic inches to fit the Indy formula. This was enlarged to 260 cubic inches for the production car, which debuted in November 1920 at New York’s Hotel Commodore. The public and press both loved it, attracted in part by its polished aluminum body – displayed that way because there had been no time to paint it.
This car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in January of 2011 at the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa, Phoenix, Arizona.
88 bhp, 260 cu. in. overhead cam eight-cylinder engine, three-speed manual transmission, solid front axle and live rear axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs, and four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 134".
Source: RM Auctions
Photo Credit: Copyright Darin Schnabel