Pair of Duesies Come to Auction After Five-decade Ownership

RM Sotheby’s, the world’s largest auction house for investment-quality automobiles, is thrilled to announce a pair of hugely important Duesenbergs, offered from more than 50 years of single-family ownership, as star attractions for its annual Hershey, Pennsylvania auction, October 6-7. The 2016 event represents RM’s 10th anniversary sale alongside the Antique Automobile Club of America’s renowned Eastern Division Fall Meet, again promising a fantastic showcase of automotive history and design.

The pair of headlining Duesenbergs is led by the 1930 Model J Dual-Cowl Phaeton, J-347, one of only three Dual-Cowl Phaetons originally bodied to coachbuilder Walter J. Murphy’s stunning open design. Of this select group, J-347 boasts the purest and most fascinating ownership history, dating back to its very first caretaker, John F. Howard. Typical of the interesting men who owned Duesenbergs, Howard was famous as “the Mayonnaise King,” having made millions from a line of salad dressings produced to his wife’s recipes in Massachusetts. He later relocated to Mexico, where he took delivery of what would become known as the “Mexican Duesenberg”. Following a succession of short-term Mexican owners that included a film studio, the car’s last Mexican owner placed J-347 into storage in the parking lot of the Mexico City airport, where it remained—surrounded by a short brick wall—until discovered by late Duesenberg historian Raymond Wolff in 1962.

Wolff promptly purchased the original automobile and brought it back to the United States, soon after selling it to the father of its current owner, with whose family it has remained for a remarkable 54 years. It comes to Hershey sporting its well-preserved, original restoration, mirroring its appearance when displayed at Hershey in October, 1963. Aesthetically, J-347’s dark purple finish and red leather interior have an appealing rich patina; a wooden steering wheel from a 1930s Mercedes-Benz, a feature the car has donned for decades, adds additional character and has become something of a signature. Wonderfully pure, original and rarer than its contemporaries, J-347 has made several appearances at concours d’elegance and at the ACD Club National Reunion over the years. It comes to auction an ideal candidate for a renewed show career or for enthusiastic driving in vintage events (Est. $1,600,000 – $2,000,000).

“There’s no better way to celebrate a decade of incredible auctions in Hershey than by presenting great American classics, offered out of long-term ownership and with truly fascinating histories,” says Gord Duff, Car Specialist, RM Sotheby’s. “Our Hershey auction boasts a great track record for selling world-class Duesenbergs; we’re thrilled to continue the tradition this October as we present what are surely two of the most significant Duesenbergs to come to market in recent years.”

As exhibited by J-347, every great Duesenberg has a tale to tell, beginning with an interesting owner. The second car set for the Hershey podium, the 1927 Duesenberg Model A/Y Phaeton Prototype, also fits this bill. After acquiring Duesenberg Motors in 1926, E.L. Cord, along with founding brother Fred Duesenberg, set out to build the world’s greatest automobile. They put together a prototype, dubbed the Model Y, using the chassis of the Model A and a prototype engine based on the Model A’s SOHC unit evolved for a reported output near 200 hp. Two examples of the Model Y were produced, each with prototype styling developed by the brilliant Alan Leamy. The first car, a sedan, was delivered to actor Frank Morgan, best known for his title role in 1939’s The Wizard of Oz, though it unfortunately did not survive the Classic Era. The second car, a phaeton bodied by McFarlan, was sold in 1932 to Fred Duesenberg’s brother August, the genius racing mechanic, on the condition that he destroy the prototype chassis. After doing just that and moving the engine into a racing car that still survives today, “Augie” installed the full McFarlan bodywork on a used Model A chassis, no. 912, and sold the car to Indianapolis businessman Hugh R. Baylor. 

Following Mr. Baylor’s passing, the Model A/Y remained with his family until 1951, when it passed through the hands of James T. Leeson, who overhauled the car mechanically and cosmetically before selling it to the father of its current owner in 1957. It has since been conscientiously preserved by its third family owners for nearly six decades, during which time it has been on long-term display at the ACD Automobile Museum in Auburn, Indiana. One of the most historically significant Duesenberg in private hands, it comes to RM’s Hershey sale presented as it was when sold by Augie Duesenberg in 1932 (Est. $450,000 – $550,000).

The historic pair of Duesenbergs lead a carefully curated selection of approximately 120 important automobiles set for RM Sotheby’s 10th annual auction at the Hershey Lodge. For further event information and to view a frequently updated list of entries for the sale, please visit www.rmsothebys.com or call +1 519 352 4575.