Duesenberg Model SJ Convertible Victoria by the Rollston Company
If ever a car was designed and engineered to be larger than life itself, the Duesenberg Model J was it. Its cutting-edge, competition-derived engine specifications alone made it equal, if not superior to, the most exotic European marques of its era and even among American luxury cars. It really had no close rivals in terms of sheer power and performance.
It is difficult today to imagine the excitement with which the Model J was received in 1929. Here was a chassis with a dual overhead cam, four-valve engine that—at 265 horsepower in naturally-aspirated form—beat its nearest competitor by more than 100 horsepower! Coming from a company whose racing successes were already the stuff of legends, it was the perfect marketing move at the time. The timing of the introduction could not have been better: with the economic successes of the 1920s, America’s wealthiest business, entertainment, and social elite were ready to indulge themselves. The all-new Model J soon gave them the perfect opportunity.
The announcement of the Model J shook the Automobile industry and the occasion even momentarily halted trading on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. The first chance most of the public had to see the new car was when the chassis displayed at the 1929 New York Auto Show. Hundreds came to see this new wonder, and they were not disappointed, for on the floor there were several magnificent examples on display.
It’s tall, elegantly-shaped radiator shell and long tapered hood, along with a choice of two lengthy wheelbases, made the mighty Model J the ideal platform for some of the most stunning and luxurious custom coachwork produced during the classic era. With a price of some $8,500 for the bare chassis alone and $9,500 in supercharged form, the Model J occupied the pinnacle of the price range for American luxury cars, including the Springfield-built Rolls-Royce Phantom II. Add the requisite custom coachwork and fittings, and these conveyances easily approached, and in at least one instance surpassed $20,000, at a time when the least-costly Ford Model A was delivered for about $450 and a good single-family home was still available for less than $10,000. Befitting their regal nature, Model Js received custom-coachbuilt bodies and the example offered here is no exception. It carries one of the rarest and most attractive bodies ever produced—the quarter-window Victoria—from the highly regarded Rollston Company.
The Rollston Company was founded in 1921, but it was in 1927 when Rudy Creteur moved to Rollston from Locke as chief designer. Creteur was responsible for most of Rollston’s designs from that point on, including this wonderful example. As one of just 218 Rollston bodies built between 1927 and 1931, this specific design incorporates many of Creteur’s design hallmarks. In all, Rollston bodied 57 Model Js, with 16 of those being convertible Victorias. The low windshield and compact top lines give the car a sleek, low-slung look. This style in particular combines the good visibility of the convertible sedan with the sportier yet still-elegant open two-door body.
This car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in July of 2012 at The Inn at St. John's, Plymouth, Michigan.
320 bhp, 420 cu. in. DOHC inline eight-cylinder engine with four valves per cylinder and centrifugal supercharger, three-speed manual transmission, solid front axle and live rear axles with semi-elliptic leaf springs, and four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 142.5"
Source: RM Auctions
Photo Credit: Copyright Darin Schnabel