Duesenberg J-546

1932 Duesenberg Model J Torpedo Berline by Rollston

Offered by Mecum | Las Vegas, Nevada | November 15-17, 2018

Photo – Mecum

Rollston was a coachbuilder based in New York City between 1921 and 1938. It was founded by Harry Lonschein, Sam Blotkin, and Julius Veghso. So what’s with the name? Well Lonschein was a former Brewster employee, a company strongly associated with Rolls-Royce of America. So he named his new company after Rolls-Royce. Fun fact.

This Model J is powered by a 6.9-liter straight-eight engine that makes 265 horsepower. A 3-speed manual transmission sends power rearward, and this car wears a one-off convertible sedan body by Rollston. It was restored in the 1990s.

This car has known ownership history from new, as it was purchased new by a member of the Vanderbilt family. Other owners included Dean Kruse from 1998 to 2007, John O’Quinn from 2007 until 2010, and the Academy of Art University Collection since 2010. It’s an immaculately-clean example and should bring about a million bucks. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.

Duesenberg SJ-514

1934 Duesenberg Model SJ Touring Berline by Rollston

Offered by Gooding & Company | Amelia Island, Florida | March 13, 2014

Photo - Gooding & Company

Photo – Gooding & Company

Another Friday, another Duesenberg. This one is coming from Gooding & Company’s auction in Amelia Island, Florida. There are a number of sales that take place around the Amelia Island Concours show and they happen to be great places to buy and sell grand American classics like this.

This is an SJ – a supercharged Model J. Many Model Js were supercharged later on in life, but this is one of 36 original factory supercharged examples. The 6.9-liter straight-eight puts out 320 horsepower in this form – an astounding number for 1934. Of those 36, only five have a closed body on them – with this one featuring a very road trip-worthy Touring Berline by Rollston. Can’t you just picture those roof rails (which were designed to hold 800 pounds of bags and trunks) loaded to the limits with luggage for a cross-continental voyage in the mid-30s?

This car was delivered new to a wealthy socialite who took it on several European tours. The original purchase price was $18,000 in 1934. Wealthy indeed. Until recently this car was entirely original, retaining most of its original paint – but the car has been repainted in the past two years. Hopefully the rest of the car remains as it was. It is expected to bring between $950,000-$1,400,000. Click here for more info and here for more from Gooding & Company in Amelia Island.

Update: Not sold.

Duesenberg JN-570

1934 Duesenberg Model JN SWB Convertible Sedan by Rollston

For sale at RK Motors Charlotte | Charlotte, North Carolina

1934 Duesenberg Model JN-570 Rollston SWB Convertible Sedan

I randomly came across this Duesenberg for sale at a collector car dealership in Charlotte, North Carolina. It’s a Model JN – so it’s certainly pretty as it had mid-life cycle styling refinements. All Model JNs had Rollston bodywork and only 10 were built before Duesenberg shut down. This is one of three JN Rollston Convertible Sedans built.

This car looks like a two-door convertible coupe, but it does have to rear doors tucked behind the mains. It rides on a short wheelbase chassis, when it seemed most later Model Js were long wheelbase cars. Ownership history is known from new. It was originally black but when it was restored a few years ago it was given this attractive maroon-ish color.

Bought new in Texas, this car has seen numerous owners – including some time spent in the Blackhawk Collection. And it’s matching numbers – chassis, body and engine – engine no. 570 – that big straight-eight engine making 265 horsepower. The price isn’t listed, but it says it had a $1 million restoration and I’m guessing they want to recoup that investment. Click here to read more.

Duesenberg JN-500

1935 Duesenberg Model JN LWB Berline by Rollston (and Bohman & Schwartz)

Offered by Gooding & Company | Amelia Island, Florida | March 8, 2013

1935 Duesenberg Model JN (500) LWB Berline by Rollston (and Bohman & Schwartz)

This Duesenberg is a Model JN – that is, it is one of 10 Rollston-bodied cars produced in 1935 with modern updates to the front of the car along with smaller wheels. They were among the last Duesenberg’s built at a time when the company was desperately trying to stay afloat and keep its aging flagship car relevant.

As was the case with JNs, this one came equipped with Rollston bodywork. This chassis and body originally had engine J-559 underhood, but that was replaced in the 1950s when its owner consolidated two different Duesenbergs. This car also received the larger Model J wheels at that time. The engine was unchanged – a 6.9-liter straight eight making 265 horsepower.

This car was delivered new to Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, the famous Hollywood tap-dancer who appeared alongside Will Rogers and Shirley Temple onscreen. When he took the car to California, he sent it to Bohman & Schwartz for some updates (only a year after purchase). When he passed, the car bounced between owners – its engine being swapped out along the way. It was restored in 1970 and has been maintained since, which is kind of remarkable considering its fairly nice condition and the fact it has covered more than 100,000 miles in its well-used life. It should sell for between $500,000-$700,000. You can read more about it here and check out the rest of Gooding’s auction lineup here.

Update: Sold $594,000.

Minerva Convertible Sedan

1931 Minerva Model AL “Windswept” Convertible Sedan by Rollston

Offered by Bonhams | Scottsdale, Arizona | January 17, 2013

1931 Minerva Model AL Windswept Convertible Sedan by Rollston

Minerva is one of the great makes of the 1930s. They built big, powerful, imposing cars for the rich elite. The cars came adorned in the fanciest coachwork from the most respected of coachbuilders. This particular Minerva meets all of the above criteria.

Dutchman Sylvain de Jong started manufacturing bicycles under the name Minerva in Antwerp, Belgium in 1897 before moving onto automobiles. In 1930, the Model AL was introduced. It uses a 6.6-liter sleeve-valve straight-eight making between 120-130 horsepower. The wheelbase of 152 inches was one of the longest you could get, giving the folks at Rollston a lot of room to work with when crafting this exquisite “windswept” convertible sedan. The “windswept” referring to the distinct “in-motion” look the car has when sitting still – the sharp angle of the doors, A & B pillars and roofline.

Rollston provided some of the most expensive coachwork you could buy in the 1930s and the Minerva AL chassis was also near the top of its own list. In fact, it was so expensive, only about 50 were ever built and you had to have deep pockets to get one. This car was purchased new by the son-in-law of R.J. Reynolds (of tobacco fame). Over the years, it has maintained its exclusive price, with a pre-sale estimate of $900,000-$1,100,000. Click here for more info and here for more from Bonhams in Scottsdale.

Update: Did not sell.

Update II: Sold, RM Auctions, New York, 2013: $660,000.

Duesenberg JN-560

1935 Duesenberg Model JN Convertible Coupe by Rollston (and Bohman & Schwartz)

Offered by Gooding & Company | Monterey, California | August 19, 2012

You might be saying, “Hey, the Pebble Beach sales have already concluded, why are you still featuring cars from them?” Well, that’s because there were so many great cars that I just went ahead and skipped all of the Duesenbergs (except for the one from Mecum). I figured we could feature them post-auction as there is a short lull before any other big sale. Turns out, that lull isn’t long enough because there were no less than seven of these beautiful Dueseys for sale in Monterey. So saddle up, because for the next week or so it’s nothing but Model Js.

This might be the most desirable Duesenberg of all during the Monterey weekend. The Model J was introduced in 1929 (and it was expensive) and almost immediately, the selection of people who could afford such a car dwindled rapidly. The SJ was introduced in 1932 with some more power. By 1935, Duesenberg was struggling mightily. They updated the Model J to JN specification, which was more modern looking. All had Rollston bodies and only 10 were built.

The engine remained the same 265 horsepower 6.9-liter straight-8 of the cars before it. Some things did change, like the wheels – they were smaller. The cars had sleeker bodies with skirted fenders and new taillight designs. The designs – especially this one – embraced the Art Deco look better than their predecessors.

This car was purchased new by Clark Gable. The full lot description includes the great story of him and this car, it’s worth a read but I won’t just copy it here. Originally a Rollston Convertible Coupe, Gable took the car to Bohman & Schwartz who updated it to the much more dramatic car you see here, the design being done with Gable’s input. In the late 1940s, after the death of Carole Lombard, Gable’s wife, he sold the car.

It changed hands numerous times, spending about 10 years in the Blackhawk Collection until 2006, when the current owner bought it and restored it to how you see it now – that is, how it was when Clark Gable and Carole Lombard cruised the streets of Beverly Hills with it in the 1930s. It originally had engine J-560 in it, but in the 1950s engine J-521 was installed. It currently has the 560 number on it, but could probably best be described as having bits of both.

The is one hell of a car with one hell of a history. The fact that Gooding lists the estimate as “available upon request” when they feel quite comfortable quoting prices up to $10 million for other cars, means this car is going to bring a ton of money. For the complete description (including the very narrative-like story of Gable and Lombard’s courtship), click here.

Update: Not sold.

Duesenberg J-272

1930 Duesenberg Model SJ Convertible Victoria by Rollston

Offered by RM Auctions | Plymouth, Michigan | July 28, 2012

I’ve always imagined the 1920s to have been just one big party. The “war to end all wars” was over and things would continue to improve until the end of time. The Jazz Age, in full swing for some time, was reaching its zenith when the Model J Duesenberg was introduced. Unfortunately it would end almost immediately thereafter.

If there is any single thing in my mind that defines the Jazz Age, it is George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” – a near-perfect combination of classical music and jazz. Many people consider it one or the other but I happen to think it is the greatest example of both. This absolutely amazing piece of music was commissioned in 1924 by Paul Whiteman, a bandleader referred to in the media as “The King of Jazz.” His arrangement of “Rhapsody in Blue” for full orchestra is the definitive version this song. A shellac 78 record of Whiteman’s version is spinning across the room as I write this.

So what does any of this have to do with this car? Well, this car was purchased new by Paul Whiteman with the original body being a LeBaron Sport Phaeton. Whiteman sold the car in 1932 and the new owner replaced the original body with the Convertible Victoria style by Rollston you see here, making it one of 16 Rollston Convertible Victorias built and one of 57 Rollston-bodied Duesenbergs in total. The new owner also had a supercharger installed, bumping horsepower from 265 to 320. This move also elevated this car into a whole new realm of collectability.

When it comes to American cars, the SJ Duesenberg is exceeded in price by few and in desirability by even fewer. For me, this SJ (engine no. J272) would be the one to have because of its direct connection to the Jazz Age – an era like no other. If I had the means, this car would soon be in my garage – and while it’s no yellow Rolls-Royce, I would drive this thing around town like I was Jay Gatsby himself.

The pre-sale estimate is $850,000-$1,200,000 – putting it just out of my reach. To read more about this car, click here. And to see more from RM at St. John’s, click here.

Update: Sold $957,000.