13 March 2010
From the Estate of Mr. John O'Quinn
1925 Duesenberg Model A Phaeton
Sold for $104,500
Fred and August (Augie) Duesenberg were self taught engineers who emigrated to America. In the new country, they established an amazing reputation for building sports and racing cars, beginning in the early 1900s. Inspired by contemporary French engineering – such as the much admired Peugot that proved the viability of the overhead valve, twin cam configuration – they soon developed their own reputation for building fast and reliable racing cars.
During World War I, they supported the war effort building aircraft and marine engines in Elizabeth, New Jersey. After the war, the two brothers decided to pursue passenger car production, and they sold their factory and moved to Indianapolis, which was, at the time, the center of advanced automotive engineering in America. They opened Duesenberg Automobile and Motors Company in 1920.
The new car, called the Model A, was extremely advanced for its time. It was the first production car to feature hydraulic brakes and the first production engine with four valve cylinder heads and an over head camshaft. Unfortunately, it was very expensive and sold poorly, with just 667 units built when production ended in 1927.
Neither brother was very business oriented, and when the company failed to flourish, they decided to turn its operations over to two investors named Van Sant and Rankin. Unfortunately, they made off with all the money, leaving Fred and Augie struggling to survive. Ultimately, the company filed for bankruptcy, from which it would be rescued by Erret Lobban Cord, who needed a flagship model for the automotive empire he was building.
While the early history of this example is not known, in the late 1980s or early 1990s, it was part of another very large Houston collection owned by Jerry J. Moore. In December of 2003, Moore sold this car to John O’Quinn, and it became one of the first Duesenbergs he purchased.
The car was restored many years ago but remains in presentable driver condition. It is finished in red with maroon fenders and beltline, a tan canvas top, chrome wire wheels with wide whitewalls and a tan leather interior. The upholstery and carpets show minor stains and patina, although there are no cracks, rips or tears. The chrome is generally quite good, particularly the radiator shell and front bumpers, although there is some minor pitting around the windshield frame. The panel fits are slightly off; the engine bay shows signs of recent maintenance but will require detailing to be presentable for show purposes.
The car is well equipped, fitted with a rear-mounted chrome spare, accessory folding rear windshield and a radiator-mounted Duesenberg Boyce Motometer temperature gauge.
The Model A Duesenberg was quite literally the foundation of an automotive legacy. It was the car that earned the reputation that attracted Errett Lobban Cord and lead directly to the mighty Model J – the car that coined the phrase “She’s a real Duesey” to refer to anything supremely desirable and the best of its kind. Even today, the stance and presence of the Model A shows the lines that would one day make it the most desirable car in all of America.
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