What do you do when you see a Duesenberg parked at a local auto repair shop? You whip out your phone and take pictures for Curbside Classic!
Seeing this car is like seeing a live elephant for the first time. You know what they look like, but being in the presence of one is a whole different experience.
I remember Sam Wainwright’s car from the “seen it too many times already” movie It’s a Wonderful Life. But Sam apparently had a ’31 J Formal Town Car by Rollston.
While I was there, one of the mechanics from the shop was attempting to start the car to move it into the garage. The starter turned so slowly: “Rrrrrr . . . Rrrrrr! . . . rrr.” –as if the battery were low. I wasn’t sure the engine would fire, but it did: “Vrooooooooooooom!” The exhaust note is a little louder than I’d thought it would be–not annoying, just with more gusto than expected.
How much is this car worth? $1 million? Two? I don’t know. If you’re looking for patina, you won’t find it here–the car is sparkling, spotless, showroom new. And why not? With resale value this high, it’s worth the expensive time and labor to restore to perfection!
Let’s look at some details:
A real trunk! This is why we call the storage area in the back of cars “trunks”. Note the alien head, art deco chrome exhaust tip!
Taillights say S T O P in stenciled letters.
Mirror-like octagonal hubs say DUESENBERG in the center.
It’s kind of hard to imagine that cars like this were once “daily drivers” for real people–driven on, say, the cobblestone streets of Manhattan–dodging horses and skittering over streetcar tracks . . .
. . . and parked in a stable behind one of these Fifth Avenue mansions.
Likely it would be chauffeur driven . . .
. . . and you would use it to drive to your other mansion in the Hudson Valley, somewhere near Poughkeepsie.
After World War II, you couldn’t give these things away! Everyone wanted new, “streamlined”, gorpy cars with power steering and automatic transmission! These were just considered gas guzzling, obsolete machinery.
However, the years (and a lot of restoration $$$’s) have been kind to this one. So that’s what I found! You never know what the new day will bring! Maybe posting this will class up da joint!
See also: CC Nostalgia: Curbside Classics–1972 Edition
Thanx to Nostalgia Motors, Boonton NJ for graciously allowing me to photograph (and share with you) this true American classic!
What a duesey of a find!
Simply beautiful and elegant; alway$ will be!! Timele$$!! 🙂
One of my ACCD instructors had one, postwar, but traded it for?, as it was just a “old” car!
Where was Mac’s crystal ball? DFO
If you think it’s amazing to actually see one on the street, you can imagine the feeling when you’re offered the chance to drive one.
Summer 1968, my dad’s old carburetor specialist at the Chevrolet dealership (who owned a Cord 810 Roadster, er, two seat Cabriolet) took me to the Auburn/Cord/Duesenberg show at a motel off a Harrisburg exit of the Pennsylvania Turnpike that had a large antique auto museum on the property (motel long gone, name long forgotten). Introducing me around to some of his friends, one of whom had driven (yes, driven, the car was only worth about $10,000.00 back then) his Model J touring to the event. He took it out on the Turnpike with Earl and myself as a couple of the passengers, and at the turnaround point, asked me if I’d like to drive it.
Barely 18 years old, had just gotten my ’37 Buick a couple of weeks earlier, and had less than a month of driving a manual under my belt. Which I certainly didn’t admit to, as I rather fearfully slid behind the wheel. Took the car up to about 45-50 (on the Turnpike), at which point the owner smiled and said, “It’ll do better than that.” Hint taken, and I’m passing pretty much everything on the road on the drive back.
Never had a chance like that again, and I’ll certainly never forget that day. I seriously doubt a young kid could possibly have a better introduction to the antique car hobby than that.
Wow. The number of people alive today who have driven a Model J on the highway at speed must be very very few.
“like seeing a live elephant for the frist time”..with the trunk in the back..
A Duesenberg being weighed before scrapping! That’s a sight never to be seen again. It looks to be in perfect condition too. Likely taken during WW2 during a scrap drive. With gas rationing going on this car was just a useless trinket taking up garage space.
“Likely taken during WW2 during a scrap drive.”
Very likely, given the tires have been removed. During World War II usable tires were more far more valuable than scrap iron.
Mean while over in bombed England owners put their Roll s up.on bricks . After VE day they were sold of for 40 pounds or so and converted in to station wagons or pickups.
A real muscle car that makes GTO’s look silly. Seeing that one on the scale makes me both angry and sad. And I agree, probably a WWII scrap drive.
During WWII tires, and many other things (*), were rationed; that’s why the Duesenberg’s wheels are bare.
Top priority was the military. Civilians needed a permit to get new or used tires; special cases for medical, law enforcement, and delivery of crucial materials got first non-military access. Recapping of tires also needed a permit and was widely performed because it used less rubber than replacing the whole tire.
(*) My father’s family was in the meat business. To make change for meat ration cards/stamps the government created little red celluloid/fiber coins (see below). After the war, my parents had thousands of these then worthless red tokens stored in old cigar boxes.
Red tokens were used to ration meat and butter; blue tokens were used to ration processed foods.
Yes, junking a Duesenberg seems terrible, but that car’s metal was immediately re-used to build tanks, aircraft, rifles, and other military needs.
Thinking about things like this always makes me a bit misty. Firstly because it reminds me of my grandparents, now long gone and still dearly missed. But mostly, because I struggle to imagine how today’s society would respond to the call to sacrifice in such a widespread, daily fashion. Not to be a downer, but it’s unfathomable to me when viewed in perspective of the average American today.
MTN, I think about this often.
In the USA:
. Everyone knew we were in WWII.
. Everyone knew we were in Vietnam.
. Most people knew were in Afghanistan right after 9/11/2001.
. Not too many people knew we were still in Afghanistan in 2020.
. Even fewer people can recall the details and/or reason for Desert Storm in 1991.
None of those wars other than WW2 involved the US homeland being attacked massively by a country. It was all-out global war on two major fronts. Americans were under genuine threat.
None of those facts apply to those other military interventions.
It’s impossible to say what the response would be by Americans if we were genuinely under attack, but humans are known to generally respond altruistically when truly threatened.
Americans were quite loathe to get involved in WW1. And there was a lot of resistance to it in WW2 until Pearl Harbor.
Look at the huge patriotic mania that 9/11 induced. It went on for years. And that was just a terrorist attack with 3,000 some casualties.
I suspect that if Russia or China attacked the US, we’d see something in Americans that we haven’t seen since WW2.
It’s fitting to have this article along with the others about the Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow, simply because of the name recognition. There’s no young person that doesn’t know what a Rolls-Royce is or represents.
I would hope that the same can be said of the name ‘Duesenberg’. Yeah, some really ancient history there, but coming upon one in the metal by accident would be something not soon forgotten.
The story of the scrapped Deusenberg. The front license plate is 1941 Kentucky. That narrows things down. The Yount family built Spindletop Farms in Kentucky in 1933 to 1935. They had money from the Spindletop field oil strike of 1925 in Beaumont, Texas. The car was scrapped by the widow of Mr. Yount, who had died in 1933. The scrapping was done in 1942 to 1943, to support a metals collection drive for the war. A second photo of the doomed car is below.
The Younts had three Deusenbergs. This one was a Judkins berline Model J, one of two built. Mr. Yount bought the car new in 1933, and died of a heart attack the day it was delivered to him in 1933. A second one was crashed and scrapped. The fate of the third one is unknown.
This car was black with gold trim.
With the standard gasoline ration being about 4 gallons a week, it wouldn’t have seemed very useful to keep around at the time.
I’ve wondered about the relatively few people, like the Younts, who had more than one car. Was every CAR entitled to a ration of four gallons a week, or was it every car OWNER? The latter would have made it impossible to get around rationing by owning more than one vehicle.
Interesting question. I suspect it was “per driver”, otherwise people would have hoarded extra cars to get more fuel.
Mr.Yount was a huge fan of the Duesenberg (I need to learn to spell the name correctly). Mrs.Yount was into horses, not cars. She couldn’t have cared less about the Duesy. It is said that since the husband died upon delivery of the car roughly a decade before, it had very few miles put on it before it was destroyed. It certainly looks pristine in the photos, except for the missing tires. It is also said that someone had tried to divert and squirrel away the car between the time of her donation, and the actual scrapping of it. She found out, and made sure it was physically destroyed.
The good news is that nearly 400 of the just under 500 Duesenberg Model Js built still exist.
She obviously didn’t want the car for herself, but why did she care whether it was scrapped? Did she think it was her patriotic duty? That would make sense.
Zowie!! I have seen plenty of J/SJ Duesenbergs under power, but only because of my relative proximity to Auburn, Indiana where their annual owner festival has been held for decades now. The sound of one of those engines is truly a tonic.
Even now, I have frequent reminders of these – I periodically drive past Fred Duesenberg’s home on Fall Creek Parkway in Indianapolis and my daughter lives in some loft apartments in a building across from the company’s old Harding Street factory, where at least one of the buildings survives.
I sometimes wonder if this wasn’t America’s last truly great car. I am sure more modern cars would be in contention for that title, but none of them are of this scale.
Cord, Auburn and Duesenberg. Was there ever a better car lineup? Which just goes to show that fortune doesn’t follow the brave.
It looks lower slung that most cars of the time, perhaps due to more modern-style wheels and tires.
The first movie Duesie must be later than ’31 since it has skirted fenders. I’d say ’33 at the earliest, but I’ve read the chasses were all built in the late 20s, then bodied and sold through ’37.
What’s the car under the wrap?
According to Jay Leno the chassis’ were all built in 1929. The year of the car was determined by when it was titled. Super cool find! What a Duesy!
I like looking at old ads for these cars, and being amazed by the low prices – these ads below are from the New York Times classifieds in just one issue in 1953:
On the LaSalle 6-wheel convertible, I’m guessing that wheels 5 and 6 are spares, possibly sidemounts. I’ve never heard anything to the effect that the designers of the LaSalle picked up where the Reeves Sextoauto left off.