History of Famous Automobiles The Dusenberg Part 3

About the history of the Dusenberg a luxury racing or sports car, some of the features explained.


THE DUESENBERG (1920-1937)

Interior appointments were mostly a matter of individual choice. The coachbuilders ransacked the world for the best silk, patent leather, ivory, silver, morocco, pigskin, and prime wood fittings. A bar, radio, and vanity case were generally ordered for the back seat people. Some buyers required fur seats, but others considered such things unnecessary luxuries; after all, they felt, one had to stop somewhere.

The various models were given names befitting them. Who would not have wanted to drive a Prince of Wales Sedan, Phaeton, Tourster, Town Sedan, Town Car, Town Limousine, Convertible Victoria, Torpedo Victoria, Berline, or Beverley? And who can say which was the best? They were all Duesenbergs. That was enough.

The prices, of course, were equally impressive. An SJ chassis sold for just under $12,000. From then on, the cost depended on which body style and fittings the owner wanted. A Duesenberg might cost $19,000 or $50,000 (in 1930s dollars!), which means that some Duesenbergs cost as much as 100 Fords.

Logically, Fred, and Augie Duesenberg and E.L. Cord should have become rich. They didn't. So much money went into making their precision machines that expenses often exceeded sales. Overall, even at such high prices, Duesenbergs lost money. Naturally, the Great Depression was no great help. Cord discontinued building Duesenbergs in 1937, when his Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg great-car empire fell apart. In reality, the Duesenberg was now dead.

Fred had already died by then (he crashed in a Murphy SJ with faulty tires), but Augie and a partner tried to revive the Duesenbergs in 1947; it was the wrong time, and the project failed. Since then, there have been a few attempts to make smaller, fiberglass-bodied, Detroit-motored ghosts of the car. They are not Duesenbergs.

Fortunately, the car was so finely made that most of the 500 or so Js and SJs--especially those sold in America and unravaged by W.W.II--still exist today. Duesenberg lovers restore and run them. Some have by now been driven well over 400,000 mi. and are still perfect. Anyone who wants a sharp Duesenberg can have one--if an owner is willing to sell--for about $150,000 or so. Maybe the price is worth it. After all, the car was responsible for a well-known phrase describing perfection: "That's a real doozy!"

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