1925 Duesenberg Eight Speedway CarSOLD

RM Auctions - Monterey Sports & Classic Car Auction - August 16-18

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Estimate: $125,000-$175,000 US

Offered Without Reserve

AUCTION RESULTS: Lot was Sold at a price of $330,000

Specifications:
225hp 121.3 cu. in. supercharged dual overhead camshaft inline eight-cylinder engine, three-speed manual transmission, live axle suspension with semi elliptical leaf springs, rear-wheel hydraulically-actuated drum brakes. Wheelbase: 96 ”

Fred and Augie Duesenberg were originals. Better than that, their talents and temperaments complemented each other. As a team they were far greater than the sum of their individual skills could have accomplished. When it came to American racing cars, Fred and Augie Duesenberg were among the leaders. At the same time they were also setting the standard in racing. Fred, the designer and idea man, had an intuitive genius for mechanical design. Unschooled, with no theoretical or quantitative tools, Fred felt what others calculated. The stories of him gazing speculatively at an engineer ’ s scale for a few moments then providing complete dimensions for a highly stressed part without putting pencil to paper are widespread and attributed to collaborators with first person experience. Augie converted Fred ’ s designs into metal, turning the dreams and concepts of Fred ’ s mind into living, breathing, and world-beating racing cars. Their work ethic, enthusiasm and dedication attracted like-minded mechanics and drivers. People were inspired to work for Fred, they were eager to work with Augie. In the first two decades of the twentieth century the Duesenberg brothers ruled America ’ s race tracks, first with their walking beam four-cylinder engines and eventually with the inline overhead valve eights, a layout Fred pioneered in the States after World War I. The Duesenberg eight started at 300 cubic inches, built to the immediate post war five-liter formula, then scaled back to three liters, 183 cubic inches, then further downsized to two liters and eventually a liter-and-a-half as performance improved and competition sanctioning bodies futilely tried to slow down racing cars by shrinking displacement. Fred and Augie kept improving their engines with feedback from the best drivers of the day, Jimmy Murphy, Tommy Milton, Eddie Hearne, Bennie Hill, Harry Hartz, Ralph DePalma and DePalma ’ s nephew, Peter De Paolo.

Duesenberg ’ s continuous development was legendary; changes came thick and fast and no possible improvement seemed to be too small for Fred to try and Augie to implement. The Duesenbergs also never appear to have become full of themselves, readily accepting advice and suggestions from others, learning from others ’ innovations and in many cases actively seeking advice from experts including Col. E.J. Hall on camshaft design and General Electric ’ s supercharging expert, Dr. Sanford A. Moss.

The Duesenberg 300 cubic inch eight had a shaft and bevel gear driven single overhead camshaft with a single intake valve and two exhaust valves operated from a single forked rocker arm. The first year Duesenberg raced the eights at Indianapolis, 1919, they suffered from insufficiently developed lubrication systems and bearings which led to the development of both high pressure forced lubrication and to the first application of babbitt plain bearing material directly poured into the connecting rods instead of using thick bronze shells. For 1920 maximum engine size was reduced to three liters, 183 cubic inches. The Duesenberg eight shrank in its dimensions and because of the mandated redesign could incorporate a number of improvements in construction, balance, bearings and lubrication. Still a single overhead camshaft 3-valve per cylinder and still with a removable head, this engine had only three years to run until the officials shrank it again in 1923 to two liters, 122 cubic inches.

The Duesenberg 122 incorporated an important improvement: a gear-driven dual overhead camshaft head with four valves per cylinder and pent-roof combustion chambers in 1923, replaced with two-valve hemispherical chambers for 1924 and later. Based upon their experience with supercharged aircraft engines during World War I, the Duesenbergs also began to experiment with superchargers. Forced induction wasn ’ t envisioned by the rules-makers in their displacement reductions, offering an unexpected source of horsepower. Dr. Moss of General Electric was one of the pioneers in supercharging and had worked with the Duesenbergs during the war. Duesenberg and the other American racers concentrated on centrifugal blowers as were used in aircraft. Both engines shared similar operating parameters, requiring maximum output at high and relatively constant engine speeds. 1924 brought success at Indianapolis to the supercharged Duesenbergs when Joe Boyer captured the victory after taking over from L.L. Corum on the 109th lap. The effectiveness of Duesenberg ’ s supercharger can be traced in part to a fortunate circumstance of the 122 eight ’ s layout. Placement of the accessory drive at the middle of the engine with an accessory shaft driven from the front of the engine acted as a torsion bar to absorb acceleration and deceleration shocks from the rapidly-rotating supercharger impeller. It also located the supercharger conveniently in the center of the engine, ideally placed equidistant between the front and rear cylinders. The housing was tucked tightly up against the block, perpendicular to the crankshaft axis, giving the supercharged Duesenbergs their “ sidewinder ” nickname. Driving a Duesenberg eight to sixth place at Indianapolis in 1924 was Peter De Paolo. Pete De Paolo learned about racing literally at the side of his uncle Ralph DePalma as DePalma ’ s racing mechanic. They finished together in fifth place in the 1920 Indy 500. In 1921 they took DePalma ’ s Ballot eight to the French Grand Prix where they finished second to Jimmy Murphy ’ s Duesenberg. De Paolo began his own career in 1922 and in 1924 was able to convince Fred Duesenberg to give him a spare car, the only unsupercharged car of four on the team. He was the team ’ s only survivor aside from the winning Duesenberg of Corum and Boyer, finishing sixth. That earned De Paolo a supercharged factory car for the 1925 season and with the bright yellow Duesenberg he scored a convincing win at the 500, in the process setting a speed record of 101.13 mph, not only the first 100 mph plus average at the Speedway but a record that would stand for seven years. Even taking a long time out of the 1925 season to travel to Italy to drive a factory Alfa Romeo in the Italian GP at Monza, De Paolo ’ s AAA season was so successful he finished the season, the last for the 3-liter formula, with twice as many championship points as runner-up Tommy Milton. The car offered here from the storied collection of David Uihlein is highly unique as it retains what is thought to be the only known surviving three-liter Duesenberg engine as well as several other notable parts and components. The car was found in the course of David Uihlein ’ s unceasing search for the surviving artifacts of America ’ s earliest racing history and his time, contacts and resources were invested in re-creating the car that Pete De Paolo called his “ Banana Wagon ” , because “ I won so many bananas with it. ” It was not only a restoration project, proceeding from the drivetrain, but also required the builders to recreate the twin cam cylinder head which was missing from the engine. David Uihlein recounted some of the effort required. “ E.J. Healy, an Allis Chalmers turbine designer by trade, and an Offy midget man by avocation and hobby … made a layout using the block and geartower, plus a piece of an earlier Duesenberg head. That ’ s all we had to work with! … the late Hugh Conway, Chairman of the Board of Rolls-Royce Jet Engine [found a patternmaker in the UK.] ” Another British craftsman, Alan Brett, finally made the casting which was machined by Uihlein ’ s Banner Welding Systems company. Banner also made the cylinder sleeves for the original aluminum block and crankcase which still bear the scars of many racing mishaps. Uihlein ’ s article continued, “ Joe Gemsa reground the cams. When all these parts were machined, I sent the entire collection to Chris Leydon … for assembly. He re-welded the crankcase and meticulously assembled the engine. Joe Silnes of Indianapolis fame reconstructed the body virtually from scratch with assistance from the Indianapolis Museum who had very kindly provided the original frame drawings and blueprints available. Paul Freehill of Stutz Specialty finished installing the engine and did very nice cosmetic work on spring hanger assembly, shock absorber mounts and a myriad of other details. ” This 1925 Duesenberg Eight Speedway car has an abundance of choice details including Duesenberg ’ s advanced hydraulic brakes on the rear wheels and semi-elliptical leaf springs with streamlined rubber mountings. The rear springs are curved tightly over the axle housing in a deft combination of form and function that precisely located the axle without the extra-unsprung weight of spring shackles and brackets. The body is tightly wrapped over the mechanical components and around the driver ’ s single seat. No less an authority than Griffith Borgeson commented, “ It sang, steadied by the soft purr of the new impeller in its supercharger…. Dave Uihlein ’ s 10-year project will bring joy and wonder to many for a long time to come. ” The opportunity today is for this irreplaceable, beautifully constructed, unique artifact of the genius of Fred and Augie Duesenberg and the driving talent of Pete De Paolo to be passed into the care of a new custodian.

Addendum
Please note that this vehicle is a race car and therefore offered on a Bill of Sale

Reference Number 10083

as of 6/1/2007

Overview
Car 1925 Duesenberg Eight Speedway Car
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