The Duesenberg Brothers- August and Fred were among the finest and most talented engine designers in the early years of the Auto Industry and first made engines for the Maytag Automobile in Iowa. Starting their own firm first to produce engines for a variety of uses, they eventually started their own auto compnay and headquartered it in Indianapolis, then the center of domestic automobile development. Their first namesake car was the Duesenberg 8 a revolutionary car with the first 8 cylinder engine and also the first with hydraulic brakes. The 8 won the Indy 500 3 out 5 years it was entered. With a chassi spriced at $6,000 the 8 never was profitable and the company entered receivership in 1926.
E. L. Cord, the owner of Auburn Automobile, and other transportation firms, bought the Duesenberg Motor Corporation on October 26, 1926 for the brothers' engineering skills, talent and the brand name in order to produce luxury cars. Cord told Fred Duesenberg to design an automobile that would be the best in the world, the biggest, fastest, and most expensive car ever made. The car was intended to compete with the biggest, most powerful, and most luxurious European cars of the era, including Hispano-Suiza, Isotta-Fraschini, Mercedes-Benz, and Rolls-Royce. After Cord's takeover, the new company was renamed "Duesenberg, Inc." Fred would continue in the new organization with the title of vice president in charge of engineering and experimental work. Augie, who had played an important role in the development of the Model A and its variant, the rare X, had nothing to do with the initial design of the J and had no formal connection with Duesenberg, Inc. until later. According to the expert Marshall Merkes, "Cord did not want Augie around." However, all Duesenberg racing cars produced after 1926 were built by Augie in an enterprise that functioned separately, and in a building apart from the main Duesenberg plant. He was also responsible for a number of engineering achievements like the superchargers he developed for both the Auburn and Cord motorcars.
The newly revived Duesenberg company set about to produce the Model J, which debuted December 1 at the New York Car Show of 1928. In Europe, it was launched at the "Salon de l'automobile de Paris" of 1929. The first and — at the time of the New York presentation — only example made of the series, the J-101, was a LeBaron sweep panel dual cowl phaeton, finished in silver and black. By the time the Great Depression hit in October 1929, the Duesenberg Company had only built some 200 cars. An additional 100 orders were filled in 1930. Thus, the Model J fell short of the original goal to sell 500 cars a year.
The straight eight model J motor was based on the company's successful racing engines of the 1920s and though designed by Duesenberg they were manufactured by Lycoming, another company owned by Cord. In normally aspirated form, it produced 265 horsepower from dual overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder. It was capable of a top speed of 119 mph, and 94 mph in 2nd gear. Other cars featured a bigger engine but none of them surpassed its power. It was also both the fastest and most expensive American automobile on the market.
The Duesenberg J is the ultimate car, the absolute pinnacle of performance and engineering accomplished during the PreWar era. Roughly 450 remain but only about half carry their original coachwork.
This car, one of the few RHD chassis produced, was delivered to the Barker Coachworks and fitted with this Rakish Sedanca deVille Body in preparation for the 1929 London Auto Show where it was sold to its original owner- An officer in the RAF. The car passed through only a few hands before being taken in the 60's to Hooper for restoration. Upon the dissolution of Hooper, the car was sold to a dealer stateside and found its way to Jim Dougherty of Indianapolis. Mr. Dougherty was a renaissance man, and had an impressive collection of Full Classics largely obtained off of used car lots in the 50's. Mr Dougherty kept J-159 in ready tour condition throughout his ownership, and the car was regularly seen on Indiana Region tours and CCCA CARavans. Upon his death the car was sold to another dealer who took the car on the Pebble Beach tour, successfully completing the journey, and the car appeared on the lawn at Pebble-after having had only minor work performed. The car was passed to the current Owner shortly thereafter.
The current owner has kept the car in excellent running condition. I was very impressed, having driven this car several times in the past, how well the car runs. It was like seeing an old friend you haven't seen for years, but it seems like only yesterday, and you pick up right where you left off in conversation. This car needs nothing really to be driven cross country.
Featuring a lot of original features, this time capsule example is without a doubt one of the most honest J Duesenbergs in existence. This is a rare opportunity to acquire a no excuses J that has been well cared for its entire life.