1. 1931 Duesenberg Model J SWB Sport Convertible Sedan

  2. 1931 Duesenberg Model J SWB Sport Convertible Sedan

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  52. 1931 Duesenberg Model J SWB Sport Convertible Sedan

  53. 1931 Duesenberg Model J SWB Sport Convertible Sedan

  54. 1931 Duesenberg Model J SWB Sport Convertible Sedan

Lot Number
53
Coachwork by Derham Body Co.
1931 Duesenberg Model J SWB Sport Convertible Sedan
The Pacific Grove Auction

ESTIMATE: $1,300,000 - $1,600,000
CHASSIS NO: 2486
• Exceedingly pure example retaining original chassis, engine, body and firewall
• Highly sought-after short-wheelbase chassis; one of only two with dashing “V” windshield
• Fascinating, well-known and unbroken history; limited ownership roster
• Offered from 45 years of single ownership
• Referenced in marque historian Fred Roe's book, "Duesenberg: The Pursuit of Perfection"
• Thrilling opportunity to acquire one of today’s finest surviving Model Js

420 cid DOHC, 32-valve inline eight-cylinder engine, 265 HP, three-speed manual transmission, solid front and live rear axles with semi-elliptic leaf springs, four-wheel, vacuum-assisted hydraulic drum brakes; wheelbase 142.5"


The Legendary Duesenberg Model J
From its landmark debut, the Duesenberg Model J remains a high-water mark of Classic Era design and engineering. When news first broke of its upcoming launch in 1928, the announcement halted trading on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Based on a truly mighty chassis with many leading-edge features and powered by a highly advanced and race-derived eight-cylinder engine with dual overhead cams, four valves per cylinder, and hemispherical combustion chambers developing 265 HP – some 100 horsepower more than its nearest competitor – the Model J was priced from $8,500 for the bare chassis alone. Fitted with bodywork and ready for delivery to the customer, it was America’s grandest and most expensive car by far. The Model J was publicly unveiled at the 1929 New York Auto Show with seven examples on display. Available to individual order with a multitude of stunning available bodies from the world’s most respected custom coachbuilders of the era, the delivered price of many Duesenberg Model Js approached $20,000, a truly staggering sum at a time when the typical new mass-produced family car cost only about $500. Famously, its magnificent specifications, luxury and regal proportions inspired the popular-culture expression, “It’s a Duesy”, which remains in wide use today.

Few could argue the car's features did not support its price. In fact, the Model J's specifications sound current even today: 265 HP, double overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder, power hydraulic brakes, and eventually, an optional supercharger. With two available wheelbase lengths, 142.5 and 153.5 inches respectively, the Model J carried some of the most opulent coachwork of the time, while providing remarkably strong performance and excellent driving dynamics that remain impressive even by today’s standards.

Derham Body Co.
Like the majority of coachbuilders, the Derham Body Co. earned its outstanding reputation from inception in 1887 by catering to the carriage trade – particularly the wealthy residents of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s “Main Line.” With the rise of the automobile, Derham’s elite clientele naturally looked to them to provide the same elegant and luxurious bodies for their new motorcars. Derham’s work was also a near-constant fixture on the world stage of the early-to-mid 20th Century, with the bodies it produced used by such figures as Pope Pius XII, King Farouk, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, film star Clark Gable, industrial designer Raymond Loewy, and many other luminaries. Derham-bodied limousines were also used in some 15 coronation ceremonies around the world. Notably, Derham was the sole custom coachbuilder of the Classic Era to survive the lean Great Depression years and World War II into the post-war era, successfully plying its trade until 1971.

Known primarily for their formal town cars and limousines, Derham built nearly 40 bodies for the Duesenberg J and SJ chassis, but relatively few were open cars. Among them, however, was what must be considered one the firm's crowning achievements, the adventurous and rakish Sport Convertible Sedan on the short-wheelbase Duesenberg Model J chassis. The combination of the close-coupled Sport Convertible Sedan body, elongated cowl, and short-wheelbase Model J chassis provided a unique and decidedly sporting appearance, a noteworthy trait even amid the prolific and stylistically rich Classic Era.

Derham Sport Convertible Sedan J-475, Chassis 2486
Just five Derham Sport Convertible Sedans were manufactured. Now offered from over 45 years of single ownership, this example bears Engine Number J-475 and Chassis Number 2486, and it is one of the only two cars in this select group originally equipped with a dashing and exceptionally attractive “V” windshield. The four other Derham Sport Convertible Sedans were J-488, J-505, J-170 (engine only remains), and J-469 (scrapped). The car offered here, J-475, was owned new by Maybelle Horlick of Racine, Wisconsin, who was one of four children born to William and Arabella Horlick. As known owners of three different Duesenberg Model Js in period, the Horlick family’s wealth was created when William founded the Horlick Milk Corp. in a Chicago basement in 1873. Seeking to create a healthy dairy beverage to fortify infants, the sick, and the elderly, William collaborated with his brother James, a British chemist, to develop a process whereby malt barley and wheat were dried into a powder and combining it with dehydrated milk into a highly-digestible form capable of indefinite storage in any climate. Soon known as “malted milk,” William and James patented their inspired product in 1873 and the Horlick Food Co. would go on to generate great wealth for its innovative founders, firmly placing the Horlick family among Racine’s wealthiest leading families. Eventually, Maybelle passed away in 1938, just days before her mother, Arabella.

After Maybelle’s death, the car changed hands and was then purchased on April 3, 1940 by noted Duesenberg re-seller, John Troka of Chicago. Mr. Troka sold J-475 to Mr. L.E. Adams of Olympia, WA on August 1, 1940. For a brief period, J-475 was owned by Mr. Miles Rorvig and then in 1952, it was acquired by Mr. Gerald Stroheker, also located in the Pacific Northwest. Upon Mr. Strohecker’s death, the car was willed to Mr. Charlie Norris of Portland, Oregon. According to ACD Club Newsletter No. 7 published in 1974, Mr. Norris sold J-475, in need of a total restoration, to the current owner, who was then a young physician in the Pacific Northwest and an ACD Club and CCCA member. A stunning restoration of J-475 was performed during the mid-1980s and he took the car to a several meets, including the annual Auburn, Indiana Labor Day ACD Club Festival and several Pacific Northwest classic events during his tenure. Clearly benefiting from proper care and limited use since restoration, J-475 has most recently been displayed at The LeMay – America’s Car Museum for approximately two years. In preparation for its current offering, the car was sent to LaVine Restorations in Nappanee, Indiana, where a new black convertible top was installed, new period-correct black sidewall tires fitted, and the exhaust manifold was properly repaired and refinished, along with a thorough detailing of the car.

Featuring captivating custom coachwork by Derham on the short-wheelbase Model J chassis, J-475 is uncommonly pure, complete, and correct throughout retaining its original chassis, engine, body and firewall. As one of just five cars of its kind built, and one of only two featuring the highly desirable and stylish “V” windshield, its offering marks an incredible opportunity to acquire an unquestionable and highly sought-after example of a true automotive icon.

1931 Duesenberg Model J SWB Sport Convertible Sedan
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