Lot 129

2014   |   Pebble Beach Auctions 2014

1929 Duesenberg Model J Convertible Sedan

Coachwork by Murphy


$1,350,000 - $1,750,000



Car Highlights

An Exceptional Unrestored Model J Duesenberg
Attractive and Versatile Open Murphy Coachwork
Just Five Documented Owners Since 1929
Beautifully Preserved Original Features
Impressive Concours Record Includes Two FIVA Awards

Technical Specs

420 CID DOHC Inline 8-Cylinder Engine
Single Dual-Throat Downdraft Carburetor
265 BHP at 4,200 RPM
3-Speed Manual Gearbox
4-Wheel Hydraulic Drum Brakes
Live-Axle Suspension with Semi-Elliptical Leaf Springs and Double-Acting Hydraulic-Lever Shock Absorbers
Register to Bid

FIVA Preservation Award WinnerAlice McCollister, New York, New York (acquired new in 1930)Peter Saladino, Jamaica, New York (acquired from the above between 1935 and 1939)Bob Bahre, Paris, Maine (acquired from the above in 1998)Mark O. Johnson, Rice Lake, Wisconsin (acquired from the above in 2000)Current Owner (acquired from the above)

Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, Pebble Beach, California, August 2001 (Preservation Class Award and FIVA Trophy)Concours d’Elegance of America, St. Johns, Michigan, July 2011 (Most Original – The Way It Was Award)ACD Club Annual Reunion and Festival, Auburn, Indiana, September 2011Greystone Mansion Concours d’Elegance, Beverly Hills, California, May 2012 (FIVA Preservation Award)Palos Verdes Concours d’Elegance, Palos Verdes, California, September 2012ACD Club Meeting, Santa Maria, California, October 2012 (Historical Preservation Award)Classic Car Club of America Annual Meeting, March 2013

The Duesenberg Model J was, without question, the ultimate luxury automobile of its day. The brainchild of industrialist E.L. Cord, the magnificent Model J was the crown jewel of a vast business empire, an engineering marvel, and the automotive expression of American optimism during the Roaring Twenties. Unveiled at the 1929 New York Auto Salon, the Duesenberg was aimed at a rarified clientele who could afford a $20,000 car at a time when most motorists were fortunate to own a $500 Model A Ford.

For as long as people have collected classic cars, the Model J Duesenberg has remained at the forefront of the hobby. No world-class collection is considered complete without one, and several prominent collectors have been sufficiently inspired by these exceptional automobiles to acquire as many examples as means allowed.

As with most American classics, the Model J came in a dizzying array of body styles – everything from splashy two-passenger roadsters to formal limousines. Nearly all the great coachbuilders tried their hand at the Model J, yet one firm clearly stood above the rest – the Walter M. Murphy Company of Pasadena, California.

Although Murphy constructed bodies for a number of expensive automobiles – including Rolls-Royce, Mercedes-Benz, and Packard – they are most famous for their work on the Model J Duesenberg, a chassis for which the company built at least 125 bodies. No matter what style, Murphy bodies are all characterized by their incredible build quality, elegant styling, and exemplary attention to detail.

Along with the iconic Disappearing-Top Roadster, Murphy’s elegant Convertible Sedan was the most popular body style offered for the Model J, with approximately 50 individual bodies built in total. Most often credited to famed designer W. Everett Miller, the Convertible Sedan was a specialty of the innovative California coachbuilder that had pioneered their signature use of thin “clear-vision” cast-brass pillars in the mid-1920s.

In fact, the attractive and versatile open body style became so popular that, by the early 1930s, Murphy had begun to construct these bodies “in the white” so that customers clamoring for a Murphy body would not have to wait months to receive coachwork for their new Duesenberg.

This handsome 1929 Duesenberg Model J Convertible Sedan (chassis no. 2194, engine no. J-173) was originally retained for use as a demonstrator, either by the factory or, more likely, the New York distributor.

In 1930, the black Convertible Sedan was delivered to its first owner, Alice McCollister, the famed Manhattan restaurateur whose popular seafood restaurant on 43 W 8th Street was a staple of Greenwich Village for many years.

The Duesenberg remained in Ms. McCollister’s hands until the mid- to late 1930s, when it was sold to Peter Saladino of Jamaica, New York. A remarkable file of service records and personal correspondence dating back to April 1952 offers a fascinating insight into the extraordinary care that this Model J received during its six decades with the Saladino family.

For the vast majority of its postwar existence, J-173 was looked after by Arthur James Hoe’s legendary Duesenberg shop in Weston, Connecticut. From the 1950s on, Hoe Sportcar was an automotive mecca for devotees of the extinct American marque, and its proprietor was immortalized when Ken Purdy published a short article entitled, “The Duesenberg Man.”

As the Murphy Convertible Sedan was primarily enjoyed during occasional outings in favorable weather, it was always maintained in fine mechanical order and accumulated very few miles. Thanks to this attentive stewardship, the Duesenberg remained in exceptional, unrestored condition with its original finishes and important components preserved.

In 1998, the Saladinos made the difficult decision to part with their beloved Duesenberg and, after 60 years in single family ownership, J-173 was sold to famed collector Bob Bahre of Paris, Maine. Even though the Duesenberg had joined one of the great collections, it remained virtually unknown to the classic car community until Mark Johnson of Rice Lake, Wisconsin, acquired it in 2000.

In 2001, J-173 was invited to take part in the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, where it was regarded as a standout in the Preservation Class. Not only was the Duesenberg honored with a Class Award, it also earned the prestigious FIVA award for the best-preserved and regularly driven automobile.

The current owner, a prominent Southern California collector, acquired the Duesenberg in 2011 and has continued to share this remarkable car with the public, earning a string of impressive awards at leading US concours events. Most notably, the Model J has earned a second FIVA award and numerous preservation honors – together, they are a powerful testament to this Duesenberg’s outstanding presentation and unquestioned authenticity.

Consistent with its recent concours awards, J-173 has been confirmed by the ACD Club as a Category One car – retaining its original chassis, engine, and coachwork – and was issued a FIVA passport with the ultra-desirable A2 classification.

Admired, respected, and coveted by knowledgeable collectors and Duesenberg authorities, this Model J is, without a doubt, one of the most charismatic examples in existence. Possessing a rich history, known provenance, and elegant open coachwork by Murphy, J-173 is one of the most impressive unrestored American classics that Gooding & Company has ever had the pleasure to offer.