Duesenberg J-118

1929 Duesenberg Model J Sedan by Derham (and Bohman & Schwartz)

Offered by RM Sotheby’s | Auburn, Indiana | August 30-September 2, 2018

Photo Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s

The Duesenberg Model J was introduced in 1929, and the car you see here is a very early example, carrying engine number J-118, or the 18th example built. But this is not how a normal 1929 Duesenberg would have looked.

Originally bodied as a Derham Sedan, this car was the first Duesenberg bodied by that firm. Sometime in the 1930s, the car ended up in the Santa Barbra Channel and was then sold to a new owner. As some of the car was ruined, he sent it to Bohman and Schwartz to update the bodywork and interior. So it now carries a mid-30s streamlined design.

The 265 horsepower, 6.9-liter straight-eight is original, however. Part of the Blackhawk Collection in the mid-1990s when it was last repainted and freshened, this car has been the same collection for the better part of a decade and should bring between $750,000-$950,000 at auction. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.

Update: Sold $737,000.

Duesenberg JN-575

1936 Duesenberg Model JN LWB Tourster

Offered by Worldwide Auctioneers | Pacific Grove, California | August 23, 2018

Photo – Worldwide Auctioneers

Here’s yet another Duesenberg on offer during the week of car activities in and around Monterey. What this is is a “JN” – a term never used by Duesenberg themselves. The Model J was introduced in 1929. It was expensive. Obviously, that didn’t go so well once the Depression set in and Duesenberg had surplus chassis lying around for years. So in 1935 they decided to freshen the look a little bit. They put on smaller wheels, lowered the body, and fitted different fenders, taillights, and trim. Every one had Rollston coachwork.

This one does not have Rollston coachwork any longer. It still features the same 265 horsepower, 6.9-liter straight-eight under the hood that all of the other Model Js started with. But the body is different. And here’s why: when it was sold in 1969, it’s new owner, commissioned a restoration. The body was separated from the chassis and the building the Rollston body was stored in burned down.

In the early 1970s, this Derham-style Tourster was constructed on the original chassis with the original engine and mechanicals intact. Since that restoration and re-body, the car has been maintained but never again restored. It shows well and is one of 10 Model JNs built by the factory. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.

Update: Sold $775,500.

Duesenberg J-262

1929 Duesenberg Model J Convertible Sedan by Murphy

Offered by Mecum | Monterey, California | August 23-25, 2018

Photo – Mecum

The Walter M. Murphy Company of Pasadena, California, was the most prolific of all Duesenberg Model J coachbuilders. They built more bodies for these cars than any other company. In fact, they built 31 Convertible Sedans alone, which is what this car is.

Finished in black with a black top over a beautiful tan interior, this Model J – like all Model Js – is powered by a 6.9-liter straight-eight engine capable of 265 horsepower. It’s got a 3-speed transmission that would easily pull this car to speeds over 100 mph.

This was a late-add to Mecum’s Monterey sale and it is coming from the Academy of Art University Automobile Museum in San Francisco. They are thinning their collection a bit, and somebody is going to be lucky enough to walk off with this Duesey. Restored in 1991, it is expected to bring between $1,000,000-$1,250,000. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.

Update: Sold $1,155,000.

Duesenberg J-475

1931 Duesenberg Model J SWB Sport Convertible Sedan by Derham

Offered by Worldwide Auctioneers | Pacific Grove, California | August 23, 2018

Photo – Worldwide Auctioneers

I’ve said many times before that the Model J is one of the best cars ever built. Want proof? Look at auction catalogs surrounding big auction weekends (like Monterey/Pebble Beach) and what is the one, classic American car that every auction house has? A Model J. They don’t all have Pierce-Arrows, they don’t all have Cadillac V-16s. But they all have a Model J. Or two. This year Worldwide Auctioneers has two. Gooding & Company has two. Mecum has two. They all come out of the woodwork this time of year.

This Model J has engine number 475 and that engine is a 6.9-liter straight-eight developing a mighty 265 horsepower. It’s a four-door Convertible Sedan but it’s also on the “short” Model J wheelbase (still a massive 11, almost 12, feet). Derham built five examples of their Sport Convertible Sedan, and this is one of three that remain.

This car has known ownership history from new and the current owner acquired J-475 in 1974 as what was essentially a project car. It was restored during the mid-1980s and has been on museum duty for the last two years. It’s been serviced and freshened since and can now be yours. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.

Update: Sold $1,320,000.

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.

Update: Not sold.

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.

Update: Sold $22,000,000.

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.