Duesenberg Model J Convertible Berline

The story of Fred and August (Augie) 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 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, Fred’s specialty, were beautiful and performed on par with the best of Miller, Peugeot and Ballot.

In 1926, 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 new chassis was conceived and executed to be superlative in all aspects. Its short-wheelbase chassis was 142.5 inches, nearly 12 feet; the long wheelbase car added almost a foot more. The double overhead camshaft straight eight-cylinder engine had four valves per cylinder and displaced 420 cubic inches. It made 265 horsepower. The finest materials were used throughout; fit and finish were to tool-room standards. Each chassis was driven at speed for 100 miles at Indianapolis.

The new Duesenberg was tailor-made for the custom body industry. It had the power and stance to carry imposing coachwork, and the style and grace of the factory sheet metal was ideally suited for the execution of elegant custom coachwork. While most of the leading coachbuilders of the day were commissioned to clothe the mighty J, many modern observers believe it was the California-based firm of Murphy that best combined exceptional design with outstanding build quality – managing in most cases to lend an air of grace and elegance to what was the largest and heaviest of all American cars.

This car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in July of 2011 at The Inn at St. John's, Plymouth, Michigan and in March of 2012 at the Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, Florida.

265 bhp, 420 cu. in. four valves per cylinder twin overhead camshaft inline eight-cylinder engine with three-speed transmission, four-wheel inline semi-elliptical leaf springs, beam front axle, live rear axle, vacuum-assisted four-wheel servo-assisted hydraulic brakes. Wheelbase: 153.5".

Source: RM Auctions
Photo Credit: Copyright Darin Schnabel and Khiem Pham

Duesenberg Model J Convertible Berline