BY MAZ WOOLLEY Sep 2015
Duesenberg’s time as a car maker was short with the last vehicles being made in 1937. From the introduction of the model J, which was the fastest and most expensive car from a US carmaker, in the late 1920s they made the chassis for some of the most memorable American vehicles. The use of Duesenbergs as “mob” cars in the rush of postwar Gangster films help cement the image of the Duesenberg into American history. Some models were bodied by the in-house body builder LaGrande but many were bodied by a wide range of US and even European bodybuilders.
Duesenbergs were popular in various ranges which emerged in the 60s and 70s specialising in Vintage cars. Here in the UK Matchbox made a nice model of a 1930 model J in the later stages of their Yesteryear series. Rio have had a 1934 SJ Torpedo Phaeton in their range for many years and Solido have made two models a 1931 model J 6 light Saloon and a 1935 Model J Tourer. More detailed models were made in White Metal by Western and others. Tin Wizard currently offer a 1935 Duesenberg SJ Mormon Meteor Speedster.
Over the last year or so a new generation of detailed resin model Duesenbergs in a variety of scales of Duesenbergs has been launched or announced. Lovers of Duesenbergs who can afford them can build a fine collection. This article looks at some of the models available or expected in 1:43 scale.
1937 Duesenberg SJ Town Car Chassis 2405 by Rollson.
This model is available fully closed, half open, or open. It was made for Mr Rudolf Bauer who was an avant-garde painter. This car, known as the Bauer SJ, was the last Duesenberg ever made and the longest at 20 feet and 6 inches.
Great Lighting Models (GLM)
Duesenberg SJ Rollston Arlington Torpedo Sedan 1933
Designed by Gordon Buehrig for Rollston this car was shown at the 1933 Century of Progress Exposition in Chicago, Illinois. It gained the nickname “Twenty Grand” since it was priced at 20,000 US Dollars which was an enormous price at the time.
Ilario Duesenberg Model J Murphy Coupe Whittell 1931
This LWB Convertible Coupe was Captain Whittell’s final commission for the Walter M. Murphy Company. It was purchased as a chassis from Duesenberg in 1929 and completed in 1931. It is a one-off coupe that is fitted with features already seen on Whittell’s earlier purchases. The designer of this car was Franklin Q. Hershey and the car features a low, raked windscreen, elegant flowing wings, a fixed roof, wind-up windows and very large boot where the rumble seat would usually be fitted. It was finished in black and chrome with a brushed aluminum top, and a red chassis. There is polished moulding that runs the length of the car ending at the radiator where there is a harpoon shaped ending, this is the only Model J with this feature.
Duesenberg SJ LaGrande dual cowl Phaeton 1933
This supercharged version of the Duesenberg was produced in small numbers. The LaGrande body was produced in house. Said to be able to reach 140 miles per hour despite a weight of about three tons there were few other vehicles on the US roads capable of such speeds. One feature of this car is the distinctive exhaust pipes which were also adopted on Cord and Auburn vehicles.
Duesenberg Model J Riviera Pheaton by Brunn black and red 1934
Only three Model J’s were fitted with a Riviera Phaeton body by Brunn. It was the first four-door convertible to have a fold down top that could be completely concealed when folded. When the top was lowered, the rear body section could be tilted back to allow the top to fold and be stowed away.
Duesenberg Model J Torpedo Convertible Coupe 1929
This model represents one of the earliest Model Js. Minichamps have also modelled this in 1:18 scale. But it also expected in their premium 1:43 resin range.
Duesenberg Model J Tourster Derham 1930
The Tourster is said to be Gordon Buehrig’s favorite Duesenberg. This is a five-passenger touring car on the long wheelbase Model J chassis. The length of the chassis exaggerated the car’s lowered proportions. The lowering was achieved by moving the rear seat ahead of the rear axle and fitting the foot wells within the frame which increased room for passengers while also allowing the top and sides of the body to be lower than on a standard phaeton.
The Tourster’s had a rear windshield that slid up and down out of the back of the front seat with the turn of a crank handle, providing a windbreak for the rear passengers. Toursters were built exclusively by the Derham Body Company in Rosemont, Pennsylvania. Eight Toursters were built.
Duesenberg SJ Mormon Meteor Speedster 1935
The Speedster was a one-off car built to take speed records. Ab Jenkins used it to set a one hour record of 153.97 mph and a twenty-four hour record of 135.57 mph at a circuit on the Bonneville Salt Flats. The 24-hour record would be held until 1961.
In search of further records the Duesenberg chassis was fitted with a Curtiss aero-engine and it appears that it was called the Mormon Meteor after this engine was fitted. It then went on to set more records. The V12 aircraft engine in a stock chassis apparently suffered from understeer at high speeds.
True Scale Models (TSM)
Duesenberg SJ Gurney Nutting Speedster 1935
This vehicle was designed by A. F. McNeil for J. Gurney Nutting & Company Ltd who were based off the King’s Road in Chelsea when this vehicle was built. Duesenbergs were an unusual chassis for the firm who were more familiar with building bodies for Rolls Royces, Bentleys and even Hispano Suizas. In 1931 the company had been awarded a Royal Warrant to the Prince of Wales.
Automodello has recently announced a 1929 to 1932 Duesenberg J Murphy-Bodied Torpedo Convertible Coupe. Prototypes show that this promises to be a fine model.
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Find them on
- Duesenberg SJ Town Car Chassis 2405 1937 Variants
- Duesenberg SJ Rollston Arlington Torpedo Sedan
- Duesenberg Model J Murphy Coupe Whittell 1931
- Duesenberg Model J Riviera Phaeton 1934
- Duesenberg Model J Torpedo Convertible Coupe 1929
- Duesenberg Model J Tourster, body by Derham 1930
- Duesenberg SJ Mormon Meteor Speedster 1935
- Duesenberg SJ Gurney Nutting Speedster 1935