Duesenberg J-299

1931 Duesenberg Model J Dual Windshield Barrelside Phaeton by LeBaron

Offered by RM Aucitons | Hershey, Pennsylvania | October 11-12, 2012

This Duesenberg has two things – okay three things – going for it. First, it’s a Duesenberg. So score a point over just about all competition. Second, it carries a rare and desirable bodystyle. And third, it has a story.

The body is by LeBaron and it’s a rare “barrelside” dual-windshield phaeton – one of only seven built. “Barrelside” just means that the body has a bit of a curve to it – it’s not extremely noticeable in the pictures.

But the story is the interesting part here. This car was delivered new to Phil Berg, a wealthy Hollywood agent. He and his wife, actress Leila Hyams, were at Al Jolson’s house when Zeppo and Chico Marx roared up in their Mercedes S-Type (I feel like Regis Philbin telling one of his heavy-on-the-name-dropping Hollywood tales). The gathering shifted focus to the two cars parked outside and eventually Chico Marx bet Berg that his Mercedes could beat the Duesenberg in a race from Al Jolson’s house to Santa Monica beach.

Instead of a Depression-era The Fast and the Furious-style race through Hollywood, they decided to move the race to Muroc Dry Lake in the Mojave Desert. Two engineers/racers were grabbed to drive the cars and the friendly wager ballooned to $25 grand – a princely sum in the 1930s. They stripped the cars down to nothing – the Duesenberg looking very awkward without fenders or any unnecessary body panels (pictures available at RM’s site).

There were a few hundred invited celebrity guests in attendance and this Duesenberg was victorious. The car passed through numerous owners before being restored in 1985. It’s an exceptional car with an exceptional history. For more information, click here. And for more from RM in Hershey, click here.

Update: Sold $1,292,500.

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  1. Pingback: RM 2012 Hershey Highlights | Classic Car Weekly

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