Duesenberg J-488

1931 Duesenberg Model J Convertible Sedan by Derham

Offered by Gooding & Company | Pebble Beach, California | August 25, 2018

Photo – Gooding & Company

This black Model J is one of five such units produced by the Derham Body Company of Philadelphia. Derham traced their roots back to Joseph Derham’s 1887 carriage factory and later produced bodies for the likes of Stutz, Pierce-Arrow, Cadillac, Duesenberg, and more.

This is a Duesenberg Model J – one of the greatest cars ever built. This particular car is supercharged, and thus is a retroactive “Model SJ.” But the supercharger isn’t original. When supercharged, the 6.9-liter straight-eight makes 320 horsepower. This car began life as a factory demonstrator and was later owned by Jean Harlow’s 1930s husband as well as Buster Keaton’s son, James Talmadge.

At some point early in this car’s life, parts of the engine were exchanged with the factory-supercharged J-208. When the current owner acquired the car in 1977, he set about making it whole again. He located J-208 and swapped the parts back, making both cars better for it. He later sourced a supercharger, taking J-488 back to how it would’ve been set up in the late-1930s.

And now here it is, wonderfully restored and correct – on sale for the first time in 41 years. It should bring between $1,750,000-$2,000,000. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.

Duesenberg J-563

1935 Duesenberg Model SSJ Speedster by LaGrande

Offered by Gooding & Company | Pebble Beach, California | August 24, 2018

Photo – Gooding & Company

So why is this among the most exciting cars to come to market in at least a decade? Well, for one it’s among the greatest American motorcars ever made and two, it’s been in a long-term collection that you’d think would never consider parting with it. More on that in a minute.

The SSJ was the ultimate evolution of the already-amazing Duesenberg Model J. The Model J transformed into the awesome “SJ” when a supercharger was added. That bumped power from 265 to 320. Duesenberg developed two “SSJ” cars – they were also supercharged and had an exceptionally short wheelbase. Power from the supercharged 6.9-liter straight-eight was bumped to 400 horsepower for the SSJ, thanks to parts borrowed from the “Mormon Meteor” land speed record car.

400 horsepower. In a road car. In 1935. How are you still even reading this? Shouldn’t your mind have been blown by this point? It would be another 20+ years before American roads saw that kind of stock horsepower again.

These two SSJs – this one, the first one, was sold new to Gary Cooper. The other one, in 1936, went to Clark Gable. The legend is that they would race these two Depression-era supercars in the Hollywood Hills. The fact that these two huge stars both got one of these cars is no coincidence. Duesenberg thought the publicity might help save the company. Unfortunately, it didn’t.

Cooper only kept the car a short time (and reportedly had it repainted shortly after taking possession) and it had seven other owners before Briggs Cunningham acquired the car in 1949. In 1986, Cunningham’s collection was sold to Miles Collier and it’s been a highlight of that collection since, spending quite a while on display in the Revs Institute in Naples, Florida. It was at this extensively-financed museum that I pretty much assumed this car would stay forever. But it isn’t. Anyone can buy it – well anyone with “In Excess of $10,000,000+,” as Gooding & Company hilariously estimates it will bring.

At any rate, it’s an iconic piece of American motoring history that might get locked away again for a long time. It’s exciting to see something like this come out from behind the doors of a big collection. Click here for more info and here for more from Gooding & Company.

Duesenberg J-540

1935 Duesenberg Model J Special Berline by Judkins

For Sale at Hyman Ltd. | St. Louis, Missouri

Photo – Hyman Ltd.

I was recently at the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum in Auburn, Indiana, and I was talking to someone who worked there who described the Model J Duesenberg to me as a “clean sheet, ground-up, no expense spared design to rival the best Europe had to offer.” Well the designers really over-delivered and the result was essentially the best car in the world.

Three different wheelbases would ultimately be offered, with this car sporting the optional “long” wheelbase, which is the preferred length for cars with opulent, closed bodywork. After 1932, a bare chassis (which included the 265 horsepower, 6.9-liter straight-eight engine) would run you $9,500. A majority of the Model J engine and chassis were built in 1929 and 1930 but the economy didn’t produce as many buyers as boss man E.L. Cord might’ve liked and Duesenberg continued to sell chassis up through 1937.

This car was purchased in 1935 and sent to Judkins in Massachusetts to be fitted with this “Special” sedan body. It’s been fully restored to as-new condition and has already won awards. It’s now for sale in St. Louis for just over $1 million. Click here for more info.

Duesenberg J-187

1929 Duesenberg Model J Clear-Vision Sedan by Murphy

Offered by RM Sotheby’s | Amelia Island, Florida | March 10, 2018

Photo Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s

You might think that a sedan version of a Model J Duesenberg would be less desirable than any of the big convertibles or touring cars and, for the most part, you’d be right. Now that isn’t to say they aren’t desirable, but they tend to be on the cheaper side of the Model J spectrum.

But this is a special kind of sedan. It is one of six such examples constructed and one of five that remain. Murphy’s “Clear-Vision” consisted of skinny pillars around all of the car’s windows, increasing sight lines and decreasing blind spots. It’s a very pleasing design.

This example, if course, is powered by a 6.9-liter straight-eight engine good for 265 horsepower. This car retains its original body, engine, and firewall and has known ownership history from new (which included a stint as a Duesenberg company car). It was restored while part of the Imperial Palace collection and has been preserved in a private museum for almost the last decade. It should bring between $750,000-$1,000,000. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.

Update: Not sold.

Duesenberg J-254

1930 Duesenberg Model J Imperial Cabriolet by Hibbard & Darrin

Offered by RM Sotheby’s | Amelia Island, Florida | March 10, 2018

Photo Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s

This is a wonderful Model J Duesenberg. The profile view of this car screams “stately, high-quality automobile.” Introduced in 1929, the Model J was the crowning achievement of American motorcars up to that time (and for decades afterward).

It’s powered by a 6.9-liter straight-eight engine that puts out 265 horsepower. Every Model J’s body was custom built, and this car was bodied by Parisian coachbuilders Hibbard & Darrin. It’s a big, opulently-appointed car with an over-sized trunk out back to carry the luggage of the original owners: William Randolph Hearst and Marion Davies. They carted this car all over the world with them on their travels.

This car has known ownership history more or less going back to when it was new. It’s been owned by famed members of the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Club and was restored by a master Model J restorer. It was freshened after 2003 and hasn’t really been shown since. It’s a well-known Model J that has one of the most-famous first owners imaginable. You can find out more here and see more from RM here.

Update: Sold $995,000.

Duesenberg J-519

1935 Duesenberg Model J Cabriolet by d’Ieteren

Offered by RM Sotheby’s | Hershey, Pennsylvania | October 5-6, 2017

Photo Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s

We’ve featured a lot of Duesenberg Model J’s – far more than any other model of car – in fact, we’ve featured nearly every Model J that has come up for public sale since 2011. But none of them look quite like this.

This car was bodied by d’Ieteren in Brussels (with this being the last Duesenberg Model J bare chassis shipped to Europe, where it arrived in Paris before going to Belgium). D’Ieteren traces their roots back to 1805 and they’re still in business – coachbuilding was just a blip on their radar. They managed to make this car looks small, modern, sleek, and sporty. It’s an excellent design.

As a standard Model J, this is powered by a 265 horsepower, 6.9-liter straight-eight. J-519 came back to America after WWII. Restored for a second time in the late 1990s, the current owner acquired it in 2000. This is a big money car and as of this writing is among the most expensive cars that are on offer at this sale. Click here for more info and here for more from RM Sotheby’s in Hershey.

Update: Sold $1,485,000.

Duesenberg J-497

1932 Duesenberg Model J Town Car by Kirchoff

Offered by RM Sotheby’s | Hershey, Pennsylvania | October 5-6, 2017

Photo Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s

If you were fortunate enough to enter the harshest years of the Great Depression still a wealthy individual – as was the case of this car’s original owner who was an heiress – you probably wanted a grand automobile. And there were few as grand as the Duesenberg Model J.

This car was purchased – as a bare chassis – for Countess Anna Ingraham. The body was hand built by J. Gerald Kirchoff who was then enlisted as Ms. Ingraham’s personal chauffeur. Not many other coachbuilders offered that kind of service!

J-497 is supposedly one of the most expensive examples produced, costing $25,000 in 1932. And here’s part of the reason why: the inside of this car is opulently trimmed featuring such extravagances as hand-embroidered upholstery and 24-karat gold-plated hardware. Of course, there was another great extravagance: that 6.9-liter straight-eight that pumps out 265 horsepower. Ms. Ingraham used the car on a grand European tour until WWII broke out and she brought the car home.

When she passed in 1944, the car then sat until it was sold to a museum in 1962. It’s had six owners from new and the current owner acquired it in 1999. The restoration dates to the 1980s and it has been well maintained since. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.

Update: Sold $594,000.

Duesenberg J-510

1933 Duesenberg Model SJ Sweep Panel Phaeton by LaGrande

Offered by Auctions America | Auburn, Indiana | September 2, 2017

Photo – Auctions America

When one of the most powerful cars on the market isn’t quick enough for you, what do you do? Well you buy the supercharged version, of course! The Model SJ Duesenberg was seriously powerful. Its 6.9-liter Lycoming straight-eight, when supercharged, makes 320 horsepower. That’s what entry-level luxury sports sedans make today.

Top speed on these beasts is said to be about 140 mph. But if you’re not brave enough to take a car with 1920s-era brakes to 140 mph, your best bet is to buy one that has a custom body (as they all did) that looks like it’s already moving quickly. And in this case, that is a LaGrande “Sweep Panel” Phaeton. Only 11 of this body style were produced and only three of those were supercharged. Of those three, only this one is not a Dual Cowl Phaeton, as the rear passenger compartment does not have a second cowl, just a folding windshield.

This car was sold new in New York but it spent many years in Mexico. It was restored by an American owner in 1974 and has been fastidiously maintained since. This is one of only 36 original SJs, making it extremely valuable, as the price reflects: $2,500,000-$3,000,000. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.

Update: Sold $2,300,000.

Duesenberg J-417

1929 Duesenberg Model J Convertible Coupe by Fleetwood

Offered by Auctions America | Auburn, Indiana | September 2, 2017

Photo – Auctions America

Does this Duesenberg look a little like a… Cadillac? If you think so, there’s a good reason: this car was bodied by Fleetwood, as in the Fleetwood Metal Body Company. Founded in 1909, Fleetwood built bodies for many companies in its early days. But in 1925 it was acquired by Fisher and it became part of General Motors in 1931. A lot of Cadillacs bodied after 1931 wore Fleetwood bodies much like this one.

In fact, this is the second Fleetwood body that this car wore. The original owner swapped out the first body for this one, which he lifted from a Cadillac V-16. It wasn’t the only thing he changed, this chassis is currently on its third engine, J-417. The 265 horsepower, 6.9-liter straight-eight that originally powered this chassis racked up 200,000 miles before being replaced. A second engine came and went as well. This car was used and enjoyed and didn’t find its second owner until the late 1950s.

Since then it has had a few other owners and was restored about 30 years ago. It’s a unique Model J with known history from new (the first owner ordered the car from Fred Duesenberg on the New York Auto Show stand in 1929). It should bring between $950,000-$1,200,000. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.

Update: Sold $990,000.

Duesenberg J-259

1929 Duesenberg Model J Convertible Berline by Murphy

Offered by Auctions America | Santa Monica, California | June 24, 2017

Photo – Auctions America

To the knowing eye, it seems like this 1929 Model J is actually a little newer than it’s listed as being. Most 1929 Model Js are a little boxier and this one seems… well-rounded and a little smoother. That’s because the coachwork was updated in period by Bohman & Schwartz, the coachbuilder who did a lot of Duesenberg updating in the mid-1930s.

The Model J was built between 1929 and 1937… though the last engines and chassis were all built prior to then as it was difficult to sell the most glamorous automobile in American history at the height of the Great Depression. All Model Js were speedy, powered by a 265 horsepower Lycoming 6.9-liter straight-eight.

This numbers matching car was ordered new by an heir to the Singer sewing machine fortune. Bodied by Murphy with some one-off features, the coachwork was updated by Bohman & Schwartz in 1934 at the owner’s request. The second owner acquired the car in 1959 when it showed an impressive 66,000 miles. Well cared for its entire life, this car should bring between $800,000-$950,000 at auction. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.

Update: Sold $880,000.