Thursday, November 15, 2012
1940 Duesenberg Model SJ
The Duesenberg Model J was the result of Errett Loban Cord's vision of creating the greatest American vehicle ever produced. It had all the amenities available, lots of power, and carried the Duesenberg's prestigious name. It was introduced to the public at the 1928 New York Auto Show. As was the case with many manufacturers at the time, various coachbuilders were tasked with outfitting the vehicle with various designs and creations. Meaning a chassis was usually supplied to the coachbuilder, including all mechanical compoents. The coach-builders would then create a body for the vehicle. The chassis used for the Model J was a simple ladder frame with solid front and rear axles. They were designed to accommodate all the body types to be created, regardless of the size. A revolutionary maintenance system was installed on the Model J's that automatically provided lubrication to various parts of the chassis after a period of time. Installed on the dashboard were lights that illuminated after various mileages elapsed informing the driver to perform preventive maintenance on the battery and to change the oil.
The 32 valve, dual-overhead camshaft eight-cylinder engine was capable of producing 265 horsepower. The 6.9 liter power-plant was designed by Fred Duesenber and constructed by the Lycoming engineer builder. A supercharger was available increasing horsepower even further. A small number of the Model J's were outfitted with the supercharged, they became known as the Model SJ. A few SJ's were modified further through the use of a ram-horn intake which boosted horsepower to an astonishing 400. These very rare examples were dubbed the Model SSJ. A four-speed gearbox was initially offered but was unable to handle the engines power. It was later replaced with a 3-speed gearbox that was unsynchronized. Ultimately, the Model J was difficult to drive and control due to its size and its horsepower.
Through out the production life span of the Model J only 481 examples were produced, falling well short of the initial estimated production figures. Part of the reason was the price tag and the economical turmoil the country was facing. The World War's and the Great Depression were difficult times for many companies and it was hard to gauge the impact it would have on the sales of the vehicles at the time.
The Model J vehicles were purchased by the rich and the famous. The Model J was truly a paragon that defined style, class, performance, and quality. Their low production figures and the various body-styles produced by coachbuilders ensure their exclusivity and their ability to fetch top dollar even in modern times. It is not uncommon to see a Model J sold at auction for more than a million dollars.
Though the Duesenberg Company ceased production in 1937, there were still individuals interested in having a Duesenberg automobile. Less than 500 of the Model J and Model SJ combined had been constructed which left few options for acquiring an example. A wealthy German, named Bauer, commissioned one to be constructed, even though the company had gone out of business. A demonstration chassis was in the possession of Felz Motors though it had a damaged cylinder and a LeBaron body. Felz Motors had purchased most of the spare chassis when the company folded.
The chassis was lengthened considerably to accommodate a larger body. Bauer's goal was to construct the longest car ever to be driven on roadways. There were many considerations when trying to achieve this goal; such as is it feasible and could it be done. The weight of the body and the stress applied to the chassis, suspension, and tires would be considerable. The spare tire was moved to the rear of the vehicle and the running boards were discarded. The front end was lengthened and a new grille was used for the front. The largest Duesenberg hood ornament ever to grace a Model J/SJ was built and placed in the front of the vehicle.
The LeBaron body was removed and the engine was repaired. Bauer drew up the designs for his Duesenberg and commissioned the German based coachbuilder, Erdmann & Rossi to construct the body. The chassis was prepared for shipping and sent to NY to be loaded on a ship that would take it to Germany. Just before the vehicle was loaded onto the ship, Bauer had a change of heart due to the demise of the conditions in Europe. The car remained in the United States and sent to Rollson to be bodied.
In the early 1940's, the vehicle was completed and delivered to its owner. This is the last Duesenberg Model J/SJ ever constructed.
This vehicle is still in original condition and was shown at the 2005 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance where it was awarded a Second In Class in the preservation class.
By Daniel Vaughan
Posted by Palmer at 2:49 PM