Auctions and Brokerage
Coachwork by the Style of Derham
*Please note that this vehicle is titled by its engine number.
Mary “Merry” Fahrney, Chicago, Illinois (acquired new circa 1936)John Seelinger, California (acquisition date unknown)John Troka, Chicago, Illinois (acquired from the above)R. Riesmeyer, St. Louis, Missouri (acquired from the above circa 1953)John Troka, Chicago, Illinois (reacquired from the above circa 1953)Robert S. Douglas, Lake Forest, Illinois (acquired from the above circa 1953)John Troka, Chicago, Illinois (reacquired from the above circa 1954)Ken Gardner, Chicago, Illinois (acquired from above in 1969)Richard Boeshore, Lebanon, Pennsylvania (acquired from the above circa 1971)Russell F. Yordy Jr., Watsontown, Pennsylvania (acquired from the above circa 2001)Michael Longfield, Pefferlaw, Ontario, Canada (acquired from the above in 2010)Mark Hyman, St. Louis, Missouri (acquired in 2012)Terry Spilsbury, Charlestown, New Hampshire (acquired in 2013)Current Owner
If ever an automobile defined the end of an era, it would be the Duesenberg Model JN. The last, best effort of the famed luxury automaker struggled to find an audience during the Great Depression, and was limited to a mere 10 examples reserved only for the wealthiest clients. Long a staple of Hollywood glamour, Model JNs were owned by such figures as Clark Gable and Bill “Bojangles” Robinson. But in an age of social austerity, the exclusive automaker folded in 1937, taking with it a level of quality, precision, and elegance that has never been repeated.
There is no such thing as an “ordinary” Duesenberg JN. Each of the 10 examples is a unique masterpiece, with fascinating, well-documented histories and prestigious provenance. The rare opportunity to own such a car inserts oneself into that noble lineage, and affords a legendary driving experience.
All 10 of the JNs were bodied by Rollston in 1935. Low and sleek, the JN featured skirted fenders and a wider body which extended past the frame rails, imparting a lower appearance than traditional Duesenbergs. The battery and tool boxes were slightly redesigned so that the doors could close over the frame. Smaller diameter 17" wheels and bullet-shaped taillights updated the look.
The last of the last, the example offered here – known by its engine no. J-575 – was the 10th and final Model JN built for the public, and one of only three built on the long 153.5" wheelbase chassis.
J-575 was sold new from Duesenberg’s Chicago branch stock to heiress, actress and socialite Mary Fahrney. Ms. Fahrney embodied the Gatsby-age glamour synonymous with Duesenberg, coming into her grandfather’s multimillion-dollar medicine patent inheritance at the age of 25 in 1935. Two years earlier, she had changed her name to “Merry” after her first of eight marriages set her upon, as one newspaper wrote, “a whirlwind life of adventure, scrapes with government, and death-defying incidents.” At one point in 1938, “Madcap Merry” reportedly found herself married to two men at once – Baron Arturo Berlingieri and fashion designer Oleg Cassini. Emblematic of 1930s liberated women, she became one of the first female aircraft pilots, and appeared in Cecil B. DeMille’s 1934 film Cleopatra.
The next known owner of J-575 was a California car dealer named Seelinger, who passed the car to well-known Duesenberg specialist John Troka of Chicago. Mr. Troka sold the car to R. Riesmeyer of St. Louis, who reportedly kept the car only a month before trading it back to him in 1953. Troka again sold the car, this time to Robert S. Douglas of Lake Forest, Illinois, before again reacquiring it somewhere between 1954–1956. Troka then set out to restore J-575, removing the original Rollston body from the chassis, but leaving the original firewall, hood, headlights, radiator grille, and running boards in place. The body was stored in a separate barn, which caught fire and burned down, and was subsequently scrapped. The complete chassis was then reportedly sold to Ken Gardner of Chicago in July 1969 for $10,000.
It is believed Gardner kept the car until March 1971, when it was advertised by Herb Newport in that month’s Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg Club newsletter as a restored chassis ready for coachwork. Newport served as the chief designer for Duesenberg from 1932–1935 – whose designs included the famous salt-flat racer the Mormon Meteor – before starting his own design studio later in life. Many consider him to be the definitive creator of Duesenberg’s elegant image.
Shortly thereafter, J-575’s new owner Richard Boeshore commissioned C. Larry Amsley of Pebble Beach award-winning Amsley’s Antique Body Company in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, to construct new coachwork. Amsley has rebodied many Duesenbergs over the years, including three in the style of Derham Toursters, as he did for J-575.
With its original matching-numbers engine, firewall, and chassis, this stunning Duesenberg Model JN Tourster offers rarity, history, and effortless performance. J-575 is presented with a freshly installed interior and is from one of America’s most discerning classic car collections. This long-wheelbase Duesenberg JN appeals as both an icon of a glamorous bygone era, and an exciting open-air touring car welcome to many shows and driving events worldwide, such as the prestigious annual Duesenberg Tour that takes place on America’s most picturesque highways and byways.