1931 Duesenberg J ToursterSOLD

RM Auctions - The Florida Collector Car Auction - February 9th - 11th, 2007

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Sold $378,000

Coachwork in the style of Derham

265bhp, 420 cu. in. four valves per cylinder twin overhead camshaft inline eight-cylinder, three-speed manual transmission, front beam axle, live rear axle and vacuum-assisted four-wheel hydraulic brakes. Wheelbase: 142.5"

The Duesenberg Model J ’ s introduction on December 1, 1928 at the New York Auto Salon was front-page news. The combination of the Duesenberg reputation with the Model J ’ s grand concept and execution made it the star of the show – and the year. Duesenberg ordered enough components to build 500 Model Js while development continued for six months after the Model J ’ s introduction to ensure the highest possible build quality. The first customer delivery came in May 1929, barely five months before the notorious stock market crash on Black Tuesday.

The effect of the Model J Duesenberg on America cannot be minimized. Even in the misery of the Depression this paragon of power and luxury was a metaphor for prosperity and success. Duesenberg ’ s advertising became a benchmark, featuring the wealthy and privileged in opulent surroundings with only a single line of copy, “ He drives a Duesenberg. ” The outside exhaust pipes inspired generations of auto designers and remain, 60 years later, a symbol of power and performance. “ She ’ s a real Duesy ” still means a slick, quick, smooth and desirable possession of the highest quality. At the turn of the Twenty-first century the Duesenberg J remains the ultimate symbol of high performance luxury. The new Duesenberg was tailor-made for the custom body industry. It had the power and stance to carry imposing coachwork, and the style and grace of the factory sheet metal was ideally suited for the execution of elegant custom coachwork. One of the better known firms of the era was Rosemount, Pennsylvania based Derham Body Company.

Like many coachbuilders, Derham earned its reputation catering to the carriage trade - those wealthy Philadelphia customers who could afford to commission a specially designed carriage in which to travel, and be seen, in the fashionable areas of town. With the advent of the automobile, Derham ’ s clientele naturally looked to them to provide the same elegant and luxurious bodies for their motor cars.

Known for their formal bodies, town cars and limousines primarily, Derham built relatively few open cars. Among them, however, was the body that many consider to be the firm ’ s piece de resistance, the Derham Tourster. Starting with a close-coupled body, Derham added a very rakish top, a wind up tonneau windshield, and very smart (although not flamboyant) bodyside moldings and trim. The result was one of those rare instances where the overall effect was truly striking. Just eight original toursters were built. (The first one was built for Gary Cooper, who later traded it on his famous SSJ speedster).

The example offered here is a faithful recreation of the style, executed by Billings for a previous owner. The car is so well done that most experts would be unable to determine its originality on appearance alone. Little is known of the earlier history of the engine and chassis, although the records indicate that J206 was originally fitted Murphy Convertible Sedan coachwork and delivered new to H. R. (Harry) Curran of Chicago in September of 1930.

Curran apparently traded the car back to Duesenberg in 1936, when the Chicago factory branch offered the Murphy Convertible Sedan for $1,275. By 1941 the car was in the hands of Detroit machinist Howard P. Hughes, who is reported to have scrapped the body, selling the engine to A. Petryna for use in a motor launch. Several years later, Hughes bought it back.

Eventually, J206 formed the basis of for the lovely replica Tourster we have the pleasure of offering here today. The frame is believed to be of new construction, as is the front axle. The brakes, transmission, and rear axle are original components, as are many other elements, such as the Jaeger chronometer and altimeter. The project was completed in the mid 1970s, at which time it earned an AACA National First. Maintained in very good running order, its last major driving event was the 1994 edition of the Copperstate 1000, which the big Duesenberg completed without incident.

Finished in a striking grey with red accents and red leather, the car is nicely accented by its trim tan top. The car is well equipped, with a full set of chrome wire wheels, dual sidemounts, a second tail light, external exhaust and a correct Duesenberg hood ornament. It remains in very good, fully sorted mechanical condition and is ready to drive and enjoy on any event.

This stunning and distinctive Duesenberg will allow its next owner inclusion in a circle as exclusive now as it was over 70 years ago. Few Duesenbergs offer the striking lines of the example offered here. We encourage personal inspection as the quality of the workmanship offers the new owner perhaps the most attractive sport phaeton coachwork ever fitted to the chassis – at a small fraction of the cost of one of the nearly priceless originals.

Reference Number 6520

as of 1/22/2007

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Car 1931 Duesenberg J Tourster
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