When news of the Duesenberg J first broke in 1928, the announcement halted trading on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Can you imagine that today? In 1931, if you wanted the biggest, most powerful luxury automobile in America, this is likely what you purchased: The Duesenberg Model J. The Duesenberg Model J is a luxury automobile, intended to compete with the most luxurious and powerful cars in the world, it was introduced in 1928, the year before the stock market crash that led to the Great Depression.
We attended the London Classic Car Show in February and heard from Bradley Maurer of Haynes International Motor Museum. Bradley shared his extensive knowledge and specialist restoration insight into the Duesenburg Model J.
The Model J was unveiled on December 1st at the 1928 New York Car Show, making its European debut in 1929 at the ‘Salon de l’automobile de Paris.’ When introduced at New York, only one example had been built – J-101 – a LeBaron dual cowl phaeton, finished in black and silver. By October of 1929, the beginning of the Great Depression, Duesenberg had built around 200 examples.
At the core of the Model J was a straight eight engine based on the company’s successful racing engines of the 1920s. They were designed by Duesenberg but manufactured by Lycoming, another company owned by Cord. The 420 cubic-inch powerplant had dual overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder, and produced 265 horsepower in normally aspirated configuration. Top speed was achieved at 119 mph, and 94 mph in 2nd gear.
The Model J initially came with a four-speed transmission, vacuum-assisted four-wheel hydraulic brakes, a front beam axle, live rear axle, and standard 142.5-inch wheelbase. As was common practice among the luxury car brands, only the chassis and engine were displayed, the body and interior trim of the car would be custom-made by a third-party coachbuilder to the owner’s specifications.
Duesenberg ceased production in 1937 after Cord’s financial empire collapsed as a result of the great depression. As such with most classic cars, the rarity, history and immaculate condition of these beautiful cars means they’re expensive and incredibly desirable.