Duesenberg J-169

1929 Duesenberg Model SJ Convertible Sedan by Murphy

Offered by RM Sotheby’s | Online | August 13-15, 2020

Photo Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s

This short-wheelbase Model J is said to be one of approximately 45 built as a convertible sedan by the Walter M. Murphy Company. It was a popular choice for a Duesenberg body, and it’s easy to see why.

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.

Update: Sold $781,000.

Duesenberg J-143

1932 Duesenberg Model J Convertible Coupe by Murphy

Offered by RM Sotheby’s | Amelia Island, Florida | March 6-7, 2020

Photo Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s

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.

Update: Sold $1,132,500.

Duesenberg J-287

1930 Duesenberg Model J Sport Berline by Murphy

Offered by Gooding & Company | Pebble Beach, California | August 16-17, 2019

Photo – Gooding & Company

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.

Update: Sold $2,040,000.

Duesenberg J-329

1930 Duesenberg Model J Convertible Sedan by Murphy

Offered by RM Sotheby’s | St. Louis, Missouri | May 4-5, 2019

Photo Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s

This Model J has been with the current collection since 2012 and has known ownership back to the early 1930s in St. Louis. Actually, it has more than that, it has pre-ownership history, as prior to its sale in St. Louis, it was used as a loaner by period Indianapolis 500 driver Leon Duray.

The Model J is powered by a 6.9-liter straight-eight developing 265 horsepower. This one wears its original convertible sedan body from the Walter M. Murphy Company. It also retains its original chassis and engine.

It’s not a car that has been used much over the years – it is said to show only a little over 7,000 original miles. Restored in 2003, this Model J is going under the hammer at no reserve. Click here for more info and here for more from RM Sotheby’s.

Update: Sold $1,105,000.

Gothic Lincoln


1926 Lincoln Model L Gothic Phaeton by Murphy

Offered by RM Sotheby’s | St. Louis, Missouri | May 4-5, 2019

Photo Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s

Henry Leland‘s Lincoln Model L went on sale in 1921 and would remain in production until 1930. By then Ford had taken over and things went in a different direction. But for a solid decade, Leland’s well-engineered cars were a viable alternative to the Packards and Cadillacs of the era.

The 5.9-liter L-head V8 made 90 horsepower, and quite a few bodies could be had – either from the factory or from a number of coachbuilders. Enter Walter M. Murphy who built this so-called “Gothic Phaeton” for a millionaire rancher in San Diego. The body is aluminum and features brass and nickel trim. Some interior surfaces are gold-plated. It has immense and wonderful detail, including folding seats that turn into a bed.

That pointed two-piece windshield along with the weathered trunk out back and water-stained convertible top add to a somewhat menacing, old world appearance completely worthy of its “Gothic” name. It’s probably the most fantastic Model L I’ve come across and is expected to bring between $100,000-$150,000. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.

Update: Sold $112,000.

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.

Hudson Town Car

1928 Hudson Model O Town Car by Murphy

Offered by Worldwide Auctioneers | Shipshewana, Indiana | August 4, 2018

Photo – Silverstone Auctions

Here’s a fancy Hudson from the Hostetler Hudson Auto Museum in Shipshewana, Indiana. The Model O was produced by Hudson in 1927 and 1928. They offered five body styles from the factory, but the car you see here is a one-off coachbuilt Town Car by the Walter M. Murphy Company of Pasadena, California.

It is powered by a 4.7-liter straight-six that makes 92 horsepower. It might seem unusual to have custom coachwork affixed to a six-cylinder Hudson chassis, but the original owners were wealthy Columbus, Ohio, couple. And the Mrs. in that family had a brother who worked for Hudson. So you can probably imagine how this car came to be.

As noted in the catalog, this car is titled as a 1928 model, but the chassis tag makes it pretty clear it was actually built in 1927. It is thought that the completion of the body likely occurred in 1928. Dubbed the most expensive Hudson ever built – at the princely price of $13,500 in 1928 – this will likely be one of the bigger dollar cars at this sale. You can see more about this sale here and more about this particular Hudson here.

Update: Sold $313,500.

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-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.

Duesenberg J-347

1930 Duesenberg Model J Dual Cowl Phaeton by Murphy

Offered by RM Sotheby’s | Hershey, Pennsylvania | October 6-7, 2016

Photo Courtesy of RM Sotheby's

Photo Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s

This Duesenberg Model J – which is beautifully photographed, despite the fact that geese are evil – is one of the more desirable body styles that was ever produced in a more-than-one-off quantity. The Dual Cowl Phaeton is one of the most interesting bodies you can have on an old touring car because it’s not something you can find and any new car. Anywhere.

The second windshield provided some wind and weather protection for backseat passengers (and notice just how far back they really are). On this car, Murphy has actually angled the rear glass like the front, making the rear seat compartment look quite sporty if taken alone. And, as is the case with all Model Js, this car is powered by a 6.9-liter straight-eight making 265 horsepower.

Murphy only built three Dual Cowl Phaetons and this is one of those cars. It is numbers matching from new (which is rare in itself). The car was restored in the early 1960s and has been maintained since. There’s an interesting history here, too: J-347 was sold new in Massachusetts but the owner moved to Mexico and in 1945, sold the car to a Mexican businessman. It was later featured in a film and then walled up in an airport parking garage by its next owner for years until being discovered and relocated to America.

The same family has owned this car for 54 years meaning this will be the first time it has changed hands in the modern era. It’s a stunning design on an incredible chassis and should bring big money. Click here for more info and here for more from RM Sotheby’s.

Update: Sold $2,090,000.