- Written by webmin
There are a lot of reasons to love Duesenbergs: the amazing engineering, the breathtaking bodies, the incomparable feeling behind the wheel. But the thing that makes some of us just go nuts is the history.
I don’t mean the Fred-and-Augie history; rather, it’s the wonderful, unlikely and often conflicting stories that seem to accrete around every Duesenberg like twigs around a caddisfly larva. J315, which will come up at the Auctions America (RM) Ft. Lauderdale sale in March, hits all the buttons.
J135′s story goes back to 1932, when the Rollston “top hat” limousine coachwork on a 1930 chassis was completed for Mary Evans, part of her fleet of three. She held onto it for two years, then traded it in (!) for another long-wheelbase Rollston. The (New York) dealer couldn’t unload it, however, and sent it to Chicago, where they took a Dietrich coupe body off a Lincoln and fit it to the Duesenberg. Duesenberg’s own Donn Hogan ended up driving it around, possibly as a company car, as it was still listed as inventory when they went out of business in 1937.
When J315 last traded hands in 2006 (where Dave LaChance took the above photo), RM speculated that Harry J. Felz Motors of Chicago may have purchased it at that time; it was listed for $1,850, which for comparison would about buy a new V-8 Cadillac 60 convertible sedan or Packard 120 touring limousine. The war years are mostly obscure, but by ’44 it’s in Des Plaines, Illinois. Between 1944 and ’52, it changes hands three more times; then gets stored in Auburn for seven years, goes to California in ’62, and is sold there in 1964 and 1968.
Finally, in 1974, it was acquired by Harry Andrews, a California Lincoln collector. The Lincoln part is significant, because Harry removed the Dietrich body, I’m presuming for a Lincoln project. In its place, he started the process of mounting one of three Murphy dual cowl phaeton style bodies he had made. He didn’t get far at all, though, and sold it later the same year.
It stayed in the possession of that next owner for five months, when it went to the McGowans in Connecticut. They spent nine years working on it and didn’t get the Andrews body done, and off it went in 1984 to a well-known collector in West Palm Beach. Finally, thanks to Bruce Alfee in Florida, upholsterer Adolph Purich and Rick Carroll, it was completed to an AACA National First Place standard.
As I mentioned, RM sold it in 2006, at Amelia Island to John O’Quinn for $370,000, plus $33,000 commission. The ACD club’s Chris Summers says the Andrews body is “very, very good,” and it was in near-concours condition when sold. But it is a Seventies body, not a Thirties body. It also has the side pipes of a supercharged car, but is naturally aspirated.
This is a seriously appealing car and it is a “real” Duesenberg, one of several that have had new bodies built after the the War. That the body doesn’t come from an established coachbuilder is sufficient to knock a million dollars off the price: The estimate for March is $350,000-$450,000. I can be mighty picky about provenance and authenticity in some instances, but I love this car. Duesenbergs are never just cars; their extraordinary stories make them something closer to living beings.