It seemed that within moments of the Duesenberg Model J’s debut at the New York Auto Show on December 1, 1928, the world’s business moguls, movie stars, and social elite lined up for their chance to own the glamorous new “supercar” from Indianapolis. At the heart of the Model J lay a 420-cubic inch, Lycoming-built inline eight-cylinder engine featuring twin overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder, rated at 265 horsepower in naturally aspirated form. The Duesenberg brothers engineered a superb and highly advanced chassis featuring powerful hydraulic drum brakes and fully automatic chassis lubrication that operated every 30-60 miles, features years ahead of their time. The Model J vanquished nearly everything else on the road and was by far the fastest, most exclusive, and most expensive car in America. Unfortunately for E.L. Cord, the car arrived just before the onset of the Great Depression, and at nearly $10,000 for a chassis alone, sales never lived up to his hopes of 500 vehicles per year. In reality, production topped off at just 481 cars in total, and sales gradually trickled on through the late 1930s. Today, the Model J and its derivatives stand as the Gold Standard of Classic Era automobiles and hold a place of pride among the most iconic and desirable motorcars ever produced in America and are an enduring symbol of the style and grandeur of the 1930s.
Offered here is chassis number 2307, aka ‘J-288,’ a marvelous example of Duesenberg’s grace and elegance. This superb long-wheelbase 1930 Model J wears unique six-window Convertible Berline coachwork by Walter M. Murphy Co. of Pasadena, California, and is verified by the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg Club as retaining its original coachwork, firewall, chassis, and engine.
Thanks to exhaustive research compiled by the most recent custodian, we know that chassis 2307 was completed in late 1929 and delivered to Murphy’s coachbuilding shop shortly thereafter. Murphy finished the body by late spring of 1930, and the car was delivered to its first owner – Mr. Leander Hamilton McCormick of Chicago, IL. The sales price of $16,730 was indeed no worry for the fabulously wealthy McCormick, as L.H.’s father, uncles, and grandfather founded the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company, which, in 1902, merged with Deering to become International Harvester. Hamilton McCormick was not one to rest on his family’s laurels – he was highly educated and inherited the inventive gene. He held patents for hundreds of items, including a secure ballot box, pick-proof lock, and railcar couplers, some of which he earned when he was just fourteen years old.
Murphy is known to have built fourteen Convertible Berlines on the long-wheelbase chassis. To differentiate it from the convertible sedan, the Berline was intended for chauffeur use if so desired and featured a roll-up central divider window. Chassis 2307 is unique in that it is the only one with a six-window design, with two additional quarter lights aft of the rear doors. It also features a three-piece glass division, rear speedometer, and single jump seat. Murphy finished it in Ivory with a tan top, and the interior upholstered in silk mohair with tan seat covers and leather door panels.
Mr. McCormick died in 1934, though his family retained the Duesenberg until 1940. It then sold to fellow Chicago resident Oscar Unterschuetz of the Philip & Son Fur Company. On November 17, 1940, Untershuetz sold 2307/J-288 to Mr. John Troka, a Chicago-area chauffeur who dabbled in used luxury car sales when his clients and connections traded up to newer models. His records indicate the car was green at the time of purchase, and shortly thereafter, he sold it to Frederick Bott, taking another Duesenberg, J-498, on trade. Bott owned it for a couple of years before selling it on, and by 1945 J-288 entered the fabulous collection of D. Cameron Peck, one of America’s first major car collectors. Photo documentation shows the car remained intact and was never neglected throughout its life (it won “Best Duesenberg” at the 1958 ACD National Meet), and a long line of enthusiastic owners have respected its significance.
David E. Block acquired 2307/J-288 in 1972, and during his ownership treated it to a complete restoration and color change to its current livery of burgundy with black fenders and a beige leather interior. Block finished the restoration in 1980 and was known to drive the car throughout New England, including from his Connecticut home to his office at the Empire State Building! Subsequent prominent owners include General William Lyon and Richard and Linda Kughn. In 2004 it came into the care of Howard Fafard of Framingham, Massachusetts. Mr. Fafard displayed the car at the 2005 Amelia Island Concours and later commissioned marque experts Classic & Exotic Service in Michigan to perform an extensive mechanical overhaul, including a full engine rebuild with updated Carillo rods, Arias pistons, and reground original crankshaft. At the same time, they performed a thorough cosmetic freshening, and photos show that as Classic & Exotic removed mechanical components for service, they were cleaned, refinished, and detailed as needed before being re-installed.
J-288 came into the care of its most recent owner in 2013. Immediately upon acquiring it, he began the arduous task of meticulously documenting its history, enlisting the help of several Duesenberg historians and specialists along the way. The accompanying four binders include photos and documents tracking virtually every owner, every known show it’s attended since 1958, correspondence with marque historians, photographs dating back to its completion by Murphy, as well as service and restoration records. Along with compiling its provenance, the owner went through the car with a fine-tooth comb to ensure this is one of the best-sorted Model Js on the road. It is offered here in superb condition with excellent, well-preserved paint and beautifully finished bright work. Body details include polished side-mount covers, steerable driving lamps, chrome trumpet horns, and more. The cabin is also finished to a high standard with lovely tan leather piped in burgundy, rich burgundy carpets, and factory-correct fittings, controls, and instrumentation. It is equally suited for enjoyment on the Duesenberg Tour or a wide variety of concours, ACD club gatherings, or CCCA events.
The eminently desirable Model J is the crown jewel of classic era automobiles, and this marvelous example will undoubtedly stand proud as the centerpiece of your collection.
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