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Lot 237

1929 Duesenberg Model J Convertible Sedan

  • Chassis no. J262

Sold for $907,500

1929 Duesenberg Model J Convertible Sedan

Coachwork by the Murphy Body Company, Pasadena Ca.

265bhp, 420 cu. in. four valves per cylinder twin overhead camshaft inline eight-cylinder, three-speed manual transmission, front beam axle, live rear axle and vacuum-assisted four-wheel hydraulic brakes. Wheelbase: 142.5"

The model J Duesenberg has long been regarded as the most outstanding example of design and engineering of the classic era. Introduced in 1929, trading was halted on the New York Stock exchange for the announcement. At $8,500 for the chassis alone, it was by far the most expensive car in America. With coachwork, the delivered price of many Duesenbergs approached $20,000, a staggering sum at a time when a typical new family car cost around $500.

Few would argue that the car’s features did not support its price. Indeed, the Model J’s specifications sound current today: double overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder, power hydraulic brakes, and 265hp in naturally aspirated form – or 325bhp when supercharged, as in the case of J527.

The new Duesenberg was tailor-made for the custom body industry. It had the power and stance to carry imposing coachwork, and the style and grace of the factory sheet metal was ideally suited for the execution of elegant custom coachwork. The Murphy body company of Pasadena, California is generally recognized as the most successful coachbuilder on the Duesenberg Model J chassis.

Associated initially with Packards, Murphy built bodies that suited the California tastes of the time. They were simple and elegant, with trim lines and an undeniable sporting character. Murphy bodies seemed all the more revolutionary when compared to their contemporaries from the east coast, who built heavier, more ornate designs.

The trademark of Murphy body design was the “clear vision” pillar. On the convertible sedan, the windshield pillars were designed to be as slim as possible, creating a sportier, more open appearance, while improving visibility for the driver. In fact, Murphy advertised that their windshield pillars were “narrower than the space between a man’s eyes,” a design they claimed eliminated blind spots. Perhaps the most popular of Murphy’s designs was the convertible sedan. Highly practical, it was ideally suited for almost any purpose. The convertible top made the car comfortable in the summer, while the four door configuration made it easy to accommodate two couples or a family. Although other companies offered convertible sedans, the genius of Murphy’s design was that it looked light and elegant, effectively concealing the heavy top mechanism and supporting pillars that made others look heavy, even ponderous. The Murphy convertible sedan offered here is one of the best-known examples of this popular style.

Our research was unable to confirm the identity of J262/2284’s original owner, though one historian’s notes list the first owner as a man named Budd. The car’s second owner was Rev. J. A. Hawkins, who also owned J361 at one time. In any event, Ernest S. Hennessey bought J262 on May 16, 1939. Joseph Van Blerck, a successful powerboat racer and engine builder was the next owner of J262. Van Blerck kept the car until 1952 before selling it to Dr. Doug Rucker of Richmond, Virginia via Duesenberg dealer Jim Hoe in December of that year. Rucker kept the car for five years before enlisting Hoe’s assistance in selling the car to Henry Amsler, a businessman in Clarion, Pennsylvania in August of 1957. When the senior Amsler passed away in 1974, J262 passed to his son, E. Wilson Amsler, who kept the car until September of 1981 when it was purchased by real estate investor Paul Lapidus of Great Neck, New York.

Although the car’s original color was grey, by this point it was red. Lapidus embarked on a comprehensive restoration, though in December of 1989 he decided to sell the car – partly restored – to Cedar Grove, New Jersey collector Sonny Abagnale, who owned a company that rented cars to the movie industry. Abagnale finished the restoration, changing the color to the black it now wears for use in a movie with Mick Jagger.

In January of 1996, RM Classic Cars acquired J262 from Abagnale, later offering it at the 1996 Meadow Brook invitational collector car auction in August of that year, where noted collector John Groendyke of Enid, Oklahoma purchased it. Two years later, Groendyke purchased J448, a Derham Tourster, from RM, trading J262. The vendor purchased the car from RM in July of 1998, and has owned it ever since.

Although the restoration was completed in the mid 1990s, excellent storage and meticulous care have preserved the car’s high point condition. The paintwork is nearly flawless, as is the chrome and bright trim. The black top appears as new, perhaps because it has been fitted with a clear plastic cover since it was installed. Although the leather no longer looks brand new, it remains in excellent condition, with no cracks or marks.

The car starts easily and runs well, and a recent road test confirms that the chassis remains in excellent condition. Both under hood and under body areas are highly detailed, showing little or no evidence of road use since restoration. It remains entirely suitable for show and display as well as long distance touring for those more adventurous collectors.

So many Duesenbergs have suffered from ill-advised restorations, losing engines, bodies, and their even chassis in the process. J262 represents the ultimate Murphy Convertible Sedan – a car that retains all its major components as delivered by Duesenberg, and one that boasts a known and continuous chain of ownership throughout its history.

Please contact our exclusive automotive transportation partner, Reliable Carriers, for a shipping quote or any other information on the transport of this vehicle.

Alexander Weaver

+1 864 313 6844
California, United States

Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

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United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

Barney Ruprecht

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Ontario, Canada

Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 911. Barney l... read more

David Swig

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California, United States

David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. David is a life-long automobile enthusi... read more

Don Rose

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United States

Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould

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Florida, United States

Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff

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Ontario, Canada

Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

Jake Auerbach

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California, United States

Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

Kurt Forry

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California, United States

Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut

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California, United States

A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire

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United Kingdom

Michael Squire joined RM Sotheby’s European Division in the summer of 2016. He comes to RM with a prestigious racing background ... read more

Mike Fairbairn

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Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin

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United Kingdom

With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill

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United Kingdom

Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher

+1 519 784 9300
Ontario, Canada

Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. ... read more

Shelby Myers

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California, United States

Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden

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United Kingdom

Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more