Duesenberg Model J Tourster by Derham

The Tourster was Gordon Buehrig’s favorite Duesenberg. There is a lot to say about this handsome automobile, but the fact is that out of all of the creations that the master designer drew up for the mighty Model J, he preferred the Tourster, which speaks loudest of all.

The design was for a five-passenger touring car on the long 153-1/2-inch wheelbase Model J chassis, which in his 1972 autobiography, Rolling Sculpture, Buehrig described it as being “severely plain in ornamentation and [having] the unusual virtue of being equally handsome with the top in the raised position or when it is lowered.” The length of the chassis exaggerated the car’s lowered proportions, created by moving the rear seat ahead of the rear axle and the foot wells within the frame rails, which increased room for passengers while also allowing the top and sides of the body to be lower than on a standard phaeton.

With the Tourster, Buehrig also sought to solve a common problem of dual cowl phaetons of the time. They were often equipped with second windshields to give weather protection to rear seat passengers, but these windshields were mounted on hinged metal tonneaus that had to be clumsily swung up out of the way each time a passenger entered or exited the automobile. The Tourster’s solution was a rear windshield that slid up and down out of the back of the front seat with the turn of a crank handle, providing a windbreak that also looked appropriately dashing—and it stayed out of the way.

Toursters were built exclusively by the Derham Body Company in Rosemont, Pennsylvania, which had catered to the carriages, motorized and otherwise, of Philadelphia high society since the 1880s. Butler Hallanan was part of that high society, and so, naturally, a Derham Tourster was in his hands. In the end, he was one of eight people to order a Tourster in the 1930s.

Part of the RM Auctions event in Arizona in January, 2013.

265 bhp, 420 cu. in. DOHC inline eight-cylinder engine, three-speed manual transmission, beam type front and live rear axles with semi-elliptic leaf springs, and vacuum-assisted four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 153.5 in.

Source: RM Auctions
Photo Credit: Copyright Darin Schnabel

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