1936 Duesenberg Model J Convertible Berline by Rollston
Offered by Mecum | Indianapolis, Indiana | May 14-22, 2021
The 6.9-liter Lycoming straight-eight that powers this Model J Duesenberg is the third-to-last “J” engine by number. Only J-587 and J-588 are later. This is the final Rollston-bodied Model J, and Mecum states that it was the last completed car to leave the Duesenberg showroom. It was shown at the 1936 New York Auto Show with a price tag of $17,000.
The 265-horsepower car rides on a long-wheelbase chassis and was purchased new by the then-president of Coca-Cola. It was later owned by jazz musician Charles Kyner for 46 years. The restoration was completed in 1990.
These later Model Js have such different bodywork than the earlier cars. It seemed like there was more “freedom” for the designers to rework the area forward of the cowl. This one is striking from the head-on view, and the interior looks like a nice place to be. You can read more about it here and see more from Mecum here.
Power is from a 6.9-liter inline-eight that was fitted with a supercharger in the 1960s. The supercharger was an assembled unit, made up of original and reproduction parts. This is not a factory-supercharged car. Had it been, the factory would’ve claimed an output of 320 horsepower.
The history of this chassis is known back to its second owner, and it was acquired by the consignor back in 1990. Stashed away for decades, it would be a welcome sight at most shows. You can read more about it here and see more from this sale here.
1932 Duesenberg Model J Convertible Coupe by Murphy
Offered by RM Sotheby’s | Amelia Island, Florida | March 6-7, 2020
The Walter M. Murphy Company of Pasadena, California, bodied more Duesenberg Model Js than any other coachbuilder, and their most popular body style was this, the convertible coupe. While only 25 were built with a convertible soft top, that was enough to make it the top seller among a very limited production run.
Power, of course, is from a 6.9-liter straight-eight good for 265 horsepower. This car is apparently one of a few Duesenbergs owned by gangster Jake the Barber. It was restored in 1995 and was purchased by the current owner, Keith Crain, about 16 years ago.
Crain is dumping a few classics at this sale, all at no reserve… which is interesting. You can see more about this car here and see more from this sale here.
1932 Duesenberg Model J Stationary Victoria by Rollston
Offered by RM Sotheby’s | Amelia Island, Florida | March 6-7, 2020
A few weeks ago we featured a Model J Duesenberg with engine number J-490X. The X is said to denote a factory rebuild and restamp. Why they would’ve restamped it with a number of an engine that was already out there in another car is beyond me.
This car is said to retain its original chassis, body, and 265 horsepower 6.9-liter straight-eight engine. The body is by Rollston, and it is a one-off creation that was specially ordered to resemble Rollston’s convertible victoria – but in fixed-roof fashion.
It has known ownership history since new and was “cosmetically restored” at some point in the past. I think that’s another way of saying a body-on restoration. You can see more about this car here and more from this sale here.
Offered by Mecum | Kissimmee, Florida | January 9, 2020
So what’s the deal with the engine number on this one? The Model J that carries engine J490 is out there, alive and well. But this car also has a 265 horsepower, Lycoming 6.9-liter straight-eight that has “J490” stamped on it. But it also has an “X”… which most likely means this engine was returned to the factory during the 1930s, rebuilt, restamped, and sold. It probably carried a different number prior to the factory rebuild.
Meanwhile, engine J490 was probably rebuilt separately and used in another car. Remanufactured or not (many of these engines have been rebuilt over the years), this is still a real-deal Duesey engine and a real-deal Model J frame. The body, however, is a reproduction of a Derham Tourster.
This car is said to originally have had a Derham body, but it could’ve been a sedan or something and probably wasn’t one of the original eight Toursters. With this muddled history, the car is expected to fetch between $350,000-$450,000. A bargain. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.
Offered by Gooding & Company | Scottsdale, Arizona | January 18, 2020
The Model A was Duesenberg’s first production automobile after years of building racing cars and engines. It was a few other firsts as well: it was the first car produced with hydraulic brakes and the first U.S.-based production car with a straight-eight engine.
It’s powered by a 4.3-liter straight-eight, in fact, that makes 88 horsepower. Production lasted from 1921 through 1926, and only about 650 examples were produced. This one comes from near the end of the run and wears an Opera Coupe body by the McNear Body Company of Brookline, Massachusetts.
This is said to be the only Model A with this coachwork. It is expected to bring between $250,000-$300,000. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.
Offered by Worldwide Auctioneers | Scottsdale, Arizona | January 15, 2020
I feel like it’s been a while since a Model J Duesenberg crossed the block. Here we have what was probably a very common version of the car: the sedan. Many Model Js have had their bodies swapped out for either reproductions or real-deal period bodies lifted from other cars.
Usually, these upgrades took the form of going to a dual cowl phaeton or some kind of two-door convertible. But there were plenty of rich people during the Depression that just wanted the best sedan money could buy. And, in this case, Willoughby was happy to deliver.
This car carries engine number J-350, which is a 6.9-liter straight-eight good for 265 horsepower. It is selling at no reserve, and will likely be a great way for someone to get into Model J ownership, as the sedans don’t carry the same values as the convertibles. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.
Offered by RM Sotheby’s | Auburn, Indiana | August 29-September 1, 2019
What’s rarer than a Model J Duesenberg? A Model D, of course. The Duesenberg name – and its associated automobiles – have retained such an aura around them since the company originally went out of business in the 1930s that it’s no wonder there have been multiple attempts to restart it. Someone built a “Duesenberg” in 1959 using a Model J engine and a Packard chassis.
In the 1960s, Augie Duesenberg‘s son arranged financing (which ultimately fell apart) to restart the company with serial production. This prototype was conceived and it. Is. Lavish. Boasting features that wouldn’t be standard for another 30+ years, the car is powered by a 425 horsepower, 7.2-liter Chrysler V8.
The body was styled by Virgil Exner and crafted by Ghia in Italy. Yes, it evokes the Stutz reboot that occurred just a few years after this car debuted. And there’s a good reason: Exner styled that one as well.
Apparently, the company received around 50 orders before it all went wrong. This car stayed in the ACD Museum in Auburn for over three decades before joining a prominent collection. It’s more-or-less as it was the day it was built, with just 800 miles on the clock. RM estimates $300,000-$350,000 to take it home, which still means it’s cheaper than the comparatively-common Model J. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.
Offered by Bonhams | Carmel, California | August 16, 2019
Duesenbergs have a fairly high survival rate when compared to other cars of a certain age. That’s thanks in large part to pioneering collectors who realized the importance of cars like this and saved them. But not every part of every car can be saved.
This car retains its 6.9-liter, 265 horsepower straight-eight engine and its factory chassis. The body, however, is not original. Initially equipped with a Willoughby sedan body – not the most desirable look – the car was re-bodied before WWII as a convertible sedan.
This Brunn-style dual-cowl torpedo phaeton body was built by Fran Roxas in Chicago sometime in the late-1980s. The car bounced around the auction circuit in the 1990s before being purchased by its late owner in 2006. It’s been in Britain for over 10 years and should bring between $600,000-$800,000 in California in a few weeks. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.
Offered by Gooding & Company | Pebble Beach, California | August 16-17, 2019
To be a Duesenberg customer during the age of the Model J, you had to be wealthy. A bare chassis, engine, and firewall would run you about $9,500 at the dawn of the Great Depression. Then you had to go have a body built by one of the world’s leading coachbuilders. And they didn’t come cheap, either.
But to purchase seven such cars requires a certain kind of wealth that only someone like, oh say the son of the founder of Pacific Gas & Electric could possess. Enter George Whittell Jr. He had $50 million in the stock market and liquidated all of it just weeks before it crashed. So yeah, he could afford the seven Dueseys.
Powered by a 265 horsepower, 6.9-liter straight-eight, this car wears “Sport Berline” coachwork by Murphy. I would agree with their marketing lingo that the car is indeed sportier than the average sedan from 1930. It was previously owned by J.B. Nethercutt and Bill Harrah. It’ll be one of many special cars to cross the block in Monterey later this year. Check out more here and see more from Gooding’s sale here.