Duesenberg Model A Speedster
Fred and August (Augie) Duesenberg were self-taught engineers who emigrated to America, where they gained enduring fame, in the early 1900s. During World War I, they built military equipment in Elizabeth, New Jersey. After the war, the two brothers wanted to focus on development of eight-cylinder racing engines, so production rights to their existing four-cylinder engine were sold to Rochester Motors, while both Duesenberg Motors Corporation and the New Jersey factory were sold to John North Willys. Moving to Indianapolis, the epicenter of American automotive engineering, the brothers established Duesenberg Automobile and Motors Company in 1920.
Their new car, the Model A, was an advanced design for its time and based on the car driven by Jimmy Murphy to victory at the French Grand Prix in 1921. The Model A was a true technical achievement, marking the first production car to feature four-wheel hydraulic brakes and an inline eight-cylinder production engine. Unfortunately, a conversion to a single overhead camshaft layout delayed production until 1922. The Model A was very expensive and sold poorly in the difficult postwar market, with just 667 units built when production ended in 1927.
Neither brother was very business-oriented, and eventually, control of the company’s operations was granted to a pair of investors who made off with all the money. Ultimately, E.L. Cord, who needed a new flagship for his fast-growing automotive empire, rescued them from bankruptcy and sponsored the legendary Model J.
While the coachbuilder is unknown, with its elemental speedster bodywork, steeply raked windscreen and striking color combination, this 1924 Model A is a wonderful example. Today, it is offered directly from a large private collection, and formerly, it was part of the collection of the late Jerry J. Moore. With a restoration dating some 30 years, this Model A displays extensive cracking to the lacquer paint finish and age-appropriate patina today. Great period features include a Moto-Meter, 20-inch chrome wire wheels with “knock-off” hubs, wide whitewall tires, biplane-style tubular chrome bumpers, Warner-Patterson headlights, dual taillights and a side-mounted spare tire.
As the precursor to the mighty Model J, the Model A was, quite literally, the foundation of the enduring Duesenberg legacy. With its technical sophistication and rakish open bodywork, this example will certainly continue as a fitting link to its inspired creators.
This car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in July of 2010 at the Shotwell Gustafson Pavilion at Meadow Brook Hall, Rochester, Michigan.
88 bhp, 260 cu. in. inline eight-cylinder engine with single overhead camshaft, three-speed manual transmission, solid front axle, live rear axle, longitudinal semi-elliptic leaf springs, and four-wheel hydraulic brakes. Wheelbase: 134"
Source: RM Auctions
Photo Credit: Copyright Darin Schnabel