Auctions and Brokerage
Coachwork by Walter M. Murphy Company
*Please note that this car is titled by its engine number.
Formerly the Property of Bob Estes
The history of J-429 begins on December 30, 1930, when the newly completed chassis was tested at the Duesenberg factory in Indiana. Unlike many Model Js, which were immediately sent to coachbuilders and then sold through several regional branch agencies, this car was sold to its first owner as a bare chassis, allowing him to fit any body style of his choosing.
As confirmed by Fred Roe’s Duesenberg: The Pursuit of Perfection and J.L. Elbert’s Duesenberg: The Mightiest American Motor Car, J-429 was originally delivered to the Walter M. Murphy Company where it received the firm’s quintessential design: the famously stylish Disappearing-Top Convertible Coupe. Bearing body no. 913, it is believed that this car was among the last Model Js bodied by Murphy before the coachbuilder closed its doors in 1932.
While the pre-war history of J-429 has not been recorded, by the late 1940s the Model J had passed into the care of a Hartford, Connecticut, attorney. As noted by pioneering marque historian Ray Wolff, the Disappearing-Top Murphy Convertible Coupe possessed a definitive appearance at this time, finished in maroon and outfitted with external SJ-type exhaust pipes, Lyon metal tire covers, twin horns, and factory headlamps.
In May 1948, the attorney sold the Duesenberg through local exotic car dealer Russell G. Sceli to David S. Bloom, a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Apparently, Mr. Bloom did not own the Duesenberg for long. In June 1949, he sold the car to Charles Allen, a resident of both Pennsylvania and California. After taking delivery of the Model J, Mr. Allen installed sweep-hand instruments but soon discovered an issue in the clutch or transmission. Rather than address the problem, he stored the car in Pennsylvania until July 1961, when famed Los Angeles car collector Bob Estes paid $5,500 for it.
Bob Estes, born in car-crazed Los Angeles, was an automobile lover from early childhood. As a teenager, he raced Ford specials and achieved considerable success at the Dry Lakes and California Roadster Association events. After serving in WWII, he started the Bob Estes Lincoln- Mercury dealership in Inglewood, California, and in 1955 he opened Precision Motor Cars in Beverly Hills, where he was later joined by Otto Zipper to form Estes-Zipper Porsche Audi.
Throughout the 1950s, Estes was a fixture in the AAA Midwest Sprint Car Championship and the AAA National Championship, as well as a perennial entrant in the Indy 500. He even entered several of his cars in the famed Race of Two Worlds in Italy, which saw American Indy roadsters and European sports cars do battle for ultimate glory on the banks of Monza.
Having established himself in the automotive world, Estes eventually turned to car collecting. As he had admired the Bugatti marque since the 1920s, he became one of the founding members of the American Bugatti Club and purchased a Type 35B Grand Prix, a Type 55 Cabriolet, and a Type 52. From there, he went on to sample a remarkable variety of American and European classics, selecting only the finest, most important examples.
Between 1966 and 1985, Estes was a regular participant at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, where he displayed a number of automobiles, from a Vanden Plas-bodied Mercedes-Benz S-Type to contemporary Lamborghinis. Although his Bugatti Type 35B was a frequent sight on the lawn, the Duesenberg Murphy Roadster was his preferred show car. In 1970, J-429 won a class award in its first outing on the 18th fairway and returned in 1971, 1975, 1981, 1982, and 1983.
When Estes passed away in 2001, respected classic car collector John Groendyke of Enid, Oklahoma, acquired the well-kept, largely original car and, following a brief period in his collection, J-429 was sold to Duesenberg enthusiast Dave Kane of Bernardsville, New Jersey. In 2003, J-429 came into the hands of its current caretaker, a prominent Southern California collector with an exceptional stable of the finest antiques and classics.
Eager to return the grand car to its former splendor, the consignor commissioned a complete restoration with Stone Barn Automobile Restoration in Vienna, New Jersey, a firm known for producing award-winning classics. During the disassembly process, J-429 was found to be an impressively correct and pure example – an ideal restoration candidate.
With the exception of the transmission and rear end, every mechanical component of the Model J was restored, and the engine was completely rebuilt with expensive components, such as Carrillo rods and high-compression pistons. Finished with splendid light green coachwork, rich brown leather upholstery, and whitewall tires, J-429 was then detailed to the highest standards of cosmetic excellence and carefully prepared for show or tour.
Amazingly, since the restoration was completed approximately 10 years ago, J-429 has not been shown or judged at any major concours events. In a collection where only the very best will do, this car has been meticulously maintained and presents beautifully in all areas. Thanks to its handsome Murphy coachwork, refreshing color scheme, and professional restoration, J-429 is an especially attractive Model J Duesenberg – an American classic that any collector would be proud to own.
As long as people have been collecting automobiles, a Murphy-bodied Model J has been at the forefront of the classic car hobby, and few would question its status as the most iconic representative of the legendary Duesenberg marque.
Significantly, this highly desirable Disappearing- Top Murphy Roadster is an unusually correct and genuine example that still retains its original chassis, engine, and coachwork, a quality that few Model Js can claim. Those familiar with Duesenbergs hold J-429 in the highest regard, not only for its superb presentation, but also for its unblemished history and tremendous originality.
Since 1961, J-429 has benefitted from the care of just four knowledgeable caretakers, each contributing to the pedigree and provenance of this superb Duesenberg. A Model J of exceptional quality and distinction, it will continue in its grand manner and unsurpassed style with its lucky new owner.