Auctions and Brokerage
Coachwork by LeBaron
*Please note this vehicle is titled as a combination of both the engine and chassis numbers as J1292151.
John Duval Dodge, Detroit, Michigan (acquired new in 1929)Bert Schmidt, Chicago, Illinois (acquired in 1932)Ken and Genelle Gibbs, Chicago, Illinois (acquired via Joe Neidlinger’s agency in 1939)B. Goldberg, Libertyville, Illinois (acquired from the above in 1948)N.R. Joffee (acquired in 1952)Bernard Berger (acquired from the above in 1953)E.A. Wente, Ohio (acquired from the above in 1954)Leo Gephart (acquired in 1971)George Wallace (acquired from the above in 1972)Ray Lutgert (acquired from the above, mid-1970s)Richard Kughn (acquired from the above in 1977)Private Collector, Grand Rapids, Michigan (acquired from the above in 2007)John Groendyke, Enid, Oklahoma (acquired from the above in 2008)Current Owner (acquired from the above)
Meadow Brook Concours d’Elegance, July 2010 (Best in Show, American)Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, August 2010 (Second in Class)Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, March 2011 (Hagerty Children’s Award)Art of the Car Concours at the Kansas Art Institute, June 2011 (Second Place, People’s Choice Award)La Jolla Concours d’Elegance, April 2014 (Reserve Best of Show)Greystone Mansion Concours d’Elegance, May 2015 (Best of Show)San Marino Concours d’Elegance, June 2015Desert Concorso, Palm Springs, November 2015
Introduced in late 1929, the Duesenberg Model J effectively raised the bar on the entire automotive industry, setting a new standard in power, luxury, and exclusivity. “Duesenberg Model J” was synonymous with wealth, prestige, and privilege, and customers could have coachbuilders complete them to satisfy their every whim.
The 38 bodies that coachbuilder LeBaron constructed for the Model J chassis include some of the most recognizable, significant, and attractive examples of all Duesenbergs. Only LeBaron, Murphy, and Holbrook were selected to build bodies for the first Model Js, which were displayed at the model’s 1929 debut in New York. LeBaron’s specialty was the Ralph Roberts-designed Dual Cowl Phaeton, and this configuration proved to be a very popular style, with 28 built. These phaetons are divided into two main types: the sweep-panel and the barrelside. The sweep-panel is arguably the more iconic of the two as it allows a natural inset panel for two-tone coachwork. It is a most impressive body of the highest quality, with outstanding proportions, beautiful details, and a presence that immediately evokes luxury, prestige, and power. Today, just as in 1929, a LeBaron sweep-panel phaeton is among the most significant and successful designs ever to be mounted on a Model J.
This magnificent matching-numbers Model J LeBaron Dual Cowl Phaeton is especially fascinating due to the family of its first owner, John Duval Dodge. His father, John F. Dodge was one of the founders of the Dodge Brothers Company. As one can imagine, the purchase of a nearly $20,000 Indiana-built automobile by a member of a Big Three family was scandalous, to say the least. Sold through Duesenberg’s Chicago dealership in black with a yellow sweep panel, J-129 is believed to be the only Model J Duesenberg ever to be delivered new in the city of Detroit.
John Duval Dodge had his share of high-speed brushes with the law and received prominent, though less than favorable, coverage in local newspapers. He broke with his family in 1918 by marrying, at age 19, a woman they disapproved of; the senior Dodge allowed him only a $150-per-month stipend from the estimated $50 million family fortune. It is possible that this Phaeton had to be sold to help fund John’s well-publicized 1932 divorce.
J-129 was acquired in approximately 1932 by Chicagoan Bert Schmidt, who passed away soon after, and the Duesenberg was then stored for all of 1934 in a workshop on Michigan Avenue. After being held in Chicago dealer Joe Neidlinger’s inventory, J-129 was acquired in 1939 by fellow Chicagoans Ken and Genelle Gibbs. The Gibbses kept the Model J until 1948, when it was acquired by B. Goldberg of nearby Libertyville. Under Mr. Goldberg’s ownership, the rear end of the body was modified with a subtle forward slant, incorporating a lower top line. Dr. N.R. Joffee owned the Duesenberg in 1952, and Bernard Berger acquired it in 1953. He changed the sweep panel cove to red, and sold J-129 the following year to E.A. Wente of Ohio.
In 1971, collector Leo Gephart acquired the Dual Cowl Phaeton and reversed Mr. Goldberg’s body modification; Gephart then transferred ownership to George Wallace in 1972. Mr. Wallace added the SJ-style external exhaust pipes and updated the radiator shell with chrome shutters before selling the car to noted collector Ray Lutgert, who maintained the Model J in his stable until 1977. That year, J-129 joined the distinguished collection of Richard Kughn, where it was shown and enjoyed for the next 30 years, when it was acquired by a collector in the Grand Rapids, Michigan, area. Near the end of 2008, J-129 was acquired by John Groendyke of Oklahoma, who immediately commissioned Fran Roxas’ Vintage Motor Group to perform a concours-level restoration. During the 4,600-hour process, Roxas took special care to ensure that the rear of the coachwork was just as designed by LeBaron. The restoration was finished in time for J-129 to debut, fittingly, on the grounds of the Dodge mansion at the 2010 Meadow Brook Concours d’Elegance, where it was awarded Best in Show, American. At Pebble Beach that same year, J-129 achieved Second in Class behind the Best in Show nominee Graber-bodied Model J Duesenberg. Mr. Groendyke, a well-known collector of American classics and past owner of several Duesenbergs, has described the driving experience of J-129 as the finest of any Duesenberg he has ever piloted. Since being acquired by the consignor, the Phaeton was honored with a well-deserved Best of Show trophy at the 2015 Greystone Mansion Concours d’Elegance as well as numerous other concours accolades. J-129 has continued to be refined and has been dutifully maintained as the centerpiece of his extensive and eclectic collection.
Finished in a brighter shade of navy blue with a subtly darker frame, and perfectly accented by a crimson sweep panel, J-129 is a stunner in the finest Duesenberg tradition. The red leather, expertly trimmed by Dan Kirkpatrick Interiors, continues to impress, and the engine bay sparkles as if under a spotlight with the correct green enamel paint, polished aluminum components, and innumerable chrome fittings. It sits upon proper 19", 78-spoke, snap-ring chrome wire wheels and, upon view, J-129 has a regal presence that goes beyond that of most classics and even a majority of Duesenbergs.
The LeBaron Dual Cowl Phaeton has been among the most coveted of all Model Js since the earliest days of car-collecting, and J-129 presents today as well as any Duesenberg ever has. It stands as one of the ultimate American classic cars of all time, among the very finest of its type, and is deserving of a place of honor in any of the world’s most refined collections.