Offered by RM Sotheby’s | Miami, Florida | March 2024
Herman Rigling and Cotton Henning were chassis builders during the “Junk Formula” years at Indianapolis. And their racing chassis were logged as “Rigling” in the Indianapolis 500 box scores. The junk formula was supposed to ensure stock-ish engines (in some cases, very stock). No superchargers, limited displacement, etc.
That said, you could still build a scratch-built racing engine and meet the criteria. Enter August Duesenberg, who built a beauty that this car first ran with at Indy in 1931. This car’s Indy 500 history includes:
1931 Indianapolis 500 – 35th, DNF (with Babe Stapp)
1932 Indianapolis 500 – DNQ (with L.L. Corum)
1933 Indianapolis 500 – 13th (with Willard Prentiss)
1934 Indianapolis 500 – DNQ (with Harold Shaw)
Let’s keep in mind that this was running at Indy during Duesenberg’s glory years. For 1933 the car used an engine from a Duesenberg Model Y road car. That engine was damaged by a later owner, who tried to adapt it to accept a Model J engine. That project was never completed.
After a late-90s/early-00s restoration, during which the car was fitted with a Duesenberg Model A engine, it relocated to its current collection in 2011. There are not many Duesenberg-powered race cars out there anymore, and even fewer in private hands. This one has an estimate of $500,000-$700,000. More info can be found here.
1931 Duesenberg Model J Disappearing Top Convertible Coupe by Murphy
Offered by Gooding & Company | Amelia, Island, Florida | February/March 2024
Can we talk about how good this car looks painted silver with green wire wheels and wide whitewalls? What a combo. This is a Murphy-bodied Model J, and it has known ownership history back to new.
But what makes it interesting is that it was repainted, and the interior refreshed, in 1951. It remained with one owner for 61 years and appears to have been somewhat recently acquired by its current owner. The car was offered privately late last year but went unsold. There is a document on their website tracing the car’s history, but it is somewhat confusing.
In any case, this is what you’d call a “driver”, which is the best kind of car, much less a Model J. Not only that, but it’s a highly desirable Murphy-built body style. There are plenty driver-level Model J sedans, but most open cars have been [over] restored. It has a 6.9-liter straight-eight capable of 265 horsepower, and more info can be found here.
1931 Duesenberg Model J Convertible Sedan by Franay
Offered by Bonhams | Scottsdale, Arizona | January 2024
Here’s another great Duesenberg, one that has been off the market since 2002, when it was acquired by its current owner. The convertible sedan body style is not an unusual one on a Model J, and this looks like many other such cars.
Except it looks slightly different. This car is among not all that many Model Js that were bodied by European coachbuilders. It wears coachwork by Franay and was one of two Js on the 1931 Paris Salon stand. It was purchased new by the Queen of Yugoslavia.
It then went to a Peruvian owner in Paris. A restoration was completed in 1996, and the car is powered by a 265-horsepower, 6.9-liter straight-eight. You can read more about it here.
But not just any such phaeton, he wanted the specific body on a family friend’s Duesenberg. But he didn’t want their car. So a body swap was arranged. Oh to be rich during the Great Depression. This chassis retains its original 265-horsepower, 6.9-liter inline-eight.
The Wrigleys sold it back to Duesenberg in 1936. The current restoration was completed in 2004, and it’s finished in all black, which is an interesting choice (but apparently the original look). It has an estimate of $2,650,000-$2,850,000. More info can be found here.
Offered by Bonhams | Carmel, California | August 18, 2023
This is a “bitsa” Duesenberg. It’s got bits of this and that Model J assembled to form a complete car. This is the case with seemingly every pre-war Bugatti, and more than a few Model Js have swapped engines and/or bodies.
So what do we have here? First, a real Model J chassis (2481) that was pulled out of one of Karl Kleve’s hoards. It was originally bodied as a Willoughby limousine. It also has engine J-474 in it, and that’s what really matters (even though it did not come from chassis 2481). Weirdly, they’ve coupled that 265-horsepower, 6.9-liter inline-eight with a Tremec six-speed manual transmission.
The body is a recreation. There’s something about dual-cowl coachwork that is hard to really nail, and every such recreation looks slightly… off. Maybe it’s the long wheelbase coupled with too-small-looking wire wheels. Or maybe it’s just the photos. Anyway, this is said to be a $1.8 million build, and it now has an estimate of $1,250,000-$1,500,000. Click here for more info.
1930 Duesenberg Model J Dual Cowl Barrelside Phaeton by LeBaron
Offered by Gooding & Company | Pebble Beach, California | August 18-19, 2023
Great color combo here, gray with red accents and maroon upholstery. Not sure there’s really a bad two-tone Duesenberg though (this one was originally two-tone beige and brown). This is a LeBaron-bodied Model J, and it’s a dual cowl phaeton with a “barrelside” body, meaning the sides of the body had a slight curve, tapering inward at the top and bottom.
Just seven Model Js were bodied by LeBaron in this style. And this is the only one on a long-wheelbase chassis. The car is powered by a 6.9-liter inline-eight that made 265 horsepower.
This car was purchased new by a tobacco heir and was delivered new to its American owner in Paris. It was restored in the early 1980s and looks fresh. The estimate here is a healthy $3,000,000-$4,000,000. Click here for more info.
1931 Duesenberg Model J Convertible Sedan by Murphy
Offered by Gooding & Company | Amelia Island, Florida | March 2-3, 2023
Feel like it’s been a bit since we’ve featured a car from Gooding & Company, although it’s hard not to take notice when they start putting Duesenbergs out there. We’ve got a few other cars coming from this sale too.
This one has mostly known ownership history back to new and was restored over 30 years ago, when it received its current two-tone paint job. Convertible sedans look much better with the top down, and this one is no exception. The pre-sale estimate is $2,000,000-$2,400,000. Click here for more info.
1929 Duesenberg Model J Convertible Coupe by Murphy
Offered by Worldwide Auctioneers | Auburn, Indiana | September 1-3, 2022
Another week, another great Model J. This one is not a sedan, but instead is a very desirable convertible coupe by the Walter M. Murphy Company of Pasadena, California. About 25 such bodies were applied to Model J chassis by Murphy.
The car features a naturally aspirated 6.9-liter inline-eight that was rated at 265 horsepower. The most interesting aspect of this car is one of its previous owners: Maurice Schwartz, of Bohman & Schwartz, a coachbuilder that had their fair share of Model Js come through their studios. Prior to his own company, Schwartz worked for Murphy. He owned it in the 1950s while working for Bill Harrah.
This particular chassis remained with a single owner for almost five decades. It was restored after he sold it in 2014 and went on to win various awards. Read more about it here.
Offered by Worldwide Auctioneers | Auburn, Indiana | September 3, 2022
There have been some great Duesenberg sedans coming out of the woodwork this year. This four-door sedan features blind rear quarters (no rearward side windows), which was sometimes called a Club Sedan. Derham called theirs the “Arlington,” which sounds much more dignified.
Five Derham Arlington sedans were built, four of them on the short-wheelbase Model J chassis like this one. And power came from a 6.9-liter inline-eight rated at 265 horsepower. This one was purchased new by a Peruvian singer who likely kept it at his New York home before taking it to other countries. It later spent time under ownership in Paris and Cairo. Exotic.
The car came back to the U.S. in 1957. It has not been restored but was apparently repainted at least once, though it isn’t made all that clear in the catalog when that happened. No estimate is available, but you can read more here.
Offered by Mecum | Monterey, California | August 18-20, 2022
There are a fair number of Model Js up for grabs in Monterey this year. We’ve featured a few of them in the last few weeks, and there are still more that we’ve featured in years past. More recently we talked about how closed cars are usually on the cheaper end of the entry into Model J ownership. But once again, this car doesn’t quite fit that bill.
It was originally bodied as a Weymann sedan but was sent back to Duesenberg in 1933 to get a factory (LaGrande) “blind quarter brougham” body put on. Still a sedan with a cloth roof, but no rear 3/4 windows at the back. The engine is a 6.9-liter inline-eight that was rated at 265 horsepower when new.
This car has known ownership history back to new and was restored in 1994. It has been in German ownership since 2007 and is now up for auction in California. Click here for more info.
Update: Not sold, high bid of $1,100,000.
Update: Not sold, Mecum Indianapolis 2023, high bid of $850,000.