12-14 August 2010
1933 Duesenberg SJ Riviera Phaeton by Brunn
Sold for $1,430,000
- From the estate of Mr. John M. O'Quinn
- Ex-Lt. Col. Jacob Schick, famed industrialist and razor pioneer
- A factory-supercharged Model SJ
- Original Phaeton body
- One of three built, beautifully restored and Amelia Island class-winner
After the landmark introduction of the majestic Duesenberg Model J on December 1st, 1928 at the New York Auto Salon, Fred Duesenberg immediately set to work at making it even more powerful. His favorite centrifugal-type supercharger was beautifully adapted to the Model J’s giant eight, just as he had done so successfully to his 122-cubic inch racing eights a decade earlier. Fred died in a Model J accident in 1932, and his brother Augie, until then independently and very successfully building racecars, was retained to put the final touches on the supercharged Duesenberg. Without a doubt, the resulting SJ marked the pinnacle of American luxury automobiles. Even today, it remains unparalleled in concept and execution.
The SJ delivered 320 horsepower at speed while retaining the outstanding naturally aspirated performance of the J at lower rpm. Alone among the Duesenberg Js, only the SJ embodied the input of both Duesenberg brothers. Just 36 SJs were produced, and conversion of a standard J to SJ specification was no small job, as the engine had to be completely disassembled to fit stronger valve springs, high-performance tubular connecting rods and other specific components. Since the SJ required external exhaust manifolds to accommodate the supercharger under its hood, the giant chromed flexible exhaust pipes became its signature feature.
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. While most of the leading coachbuilders of the day bodied the mighty J, many modern observers believe that Brunn & Company best combined exceptional design with outstanding build quality.
One of the most remarkable designs of the classic era, Brunn’s Riviera Phaeton was both beautiful and practical. Although a convertible sedan by function, it was cleverly engineered and brilliantly styled, with most experts agreeing that the Riviera was the best-looking four-door convertible offered on the Duesenberg chassis.
Whereas most convertible sedans had large and complicated top mechanisms, Brunn’s Riviera Phaeton top was compact and simple to operate. It was one of the few open designs that were equally attractive in open or closed form. This ingenious design allowed the entire rear body to open, hinged at the bumper, revealing a spacious compartment into which the top lowered completely. With the top down and hidden, the car has a very sporting presence, with compact lines emphasizing the muscular appearance of the high-performance chassis below.
Just three of these remarkable Brunn Riviera Phaetons are known to have been built, with SJ528, the car offered here, also representing one of the five percent of Duesenberg Js delivered new in supercharged SJ form.
The first owner was Lt. Col. Jacob Schick, best known today for two inventions: the cartridge-style Schick razor and the first electric “dry razor.” In June 1934, Schick purchased SJ528, driving it for a little more than two years before trading it in on a new car. Duesenberg sold the car a second time in October of 1936 to C.H. Oshei of Detroit, Michigan, the owner of the Anderson Windshield Wiper Company. Oshei traded J107, a well-known LaGrande dual-cowl phaeton, in the transaction.
In 1941, SJ528 was purchased by noted Chicago-area Duesenberg dealer John Troka, who resold the car to A. E. Sullivan of Rockford, Illinois. Sullivan sold the car to Margarite Feuer, of Rockford, Illinois, who kept the car just a short while before a musician named Vaughn purchased it.
Vaughan sold the car back to Troka in the late 1940s, who removed the supercharger for another project before reselling the car to Art Grossman of Chicago, Illinois. Grossman intended to undertake a restoration but instead sold the car in April 1950 to Harry Schultzinger of Cincinnati, Ohio, who immediately began restoring the car.
For reasons unknown, Schultzinger decided to replace the frame with one from J551 (frame #2577), although the rest of SJ528, including engine, body, firewall and drivetrain components, remained with the car. Harry Schultzinger was an inveterate tinkerer, known for his performance improvements and said to have only two speeds – fast and faster! During his ownership, SJ528 received a number of “improvements,” including the installation of a five-speed transmission from a truck, 17-inch wheels, and an engine rebuild using components from J467.
Schultzinger became SJ528’s longest-term owner, but finally in 1975, Dr. Don Vesley of Louisiana and Florida purchased the car. In 1983, he sold it to noted Florida collector Rick Carroll, who undertook a second restoration, this time in red, and reinstalled an original supercharger, transmission and 19-inch wheels.
After Rick Carroll’s restoration, Bob Bahre of Oxford, Maine purchased SJ528, sometime in 1986. Later, in 1988, Phoenix, Arizona-based dealer Leo Gephardt advertised the car for sale, before it passed on to the late Noel Thompson, a prominent New Jersey collector. Thompson sold the car to the Imperial Palace, where it was prominently featured in the Duesenberg Room for many years before Dean Kruse of Auburn, Indiana acquired it as part of a multiple-car purchase in 1999.
The next owner to purchase SJ528 commissioned the car’s third – and most comprehensive – restoration. Renowned multiple Best of Show-winning restorer Fran Roxas was chosen for the project. The complete, “nut-and-bolt” restoration included a bare-metal strip that revealed a remarkably solid and original body. Every mechanical component was completely rebuilt or refurbished as necessary and completely refinished.
The body was block-sanded to perfection before multiple flawless coats of deep, rich black paint were applied, wet-sanded and buffed to mirror-like perfection. The interior was trimmed in rich, dark tobacco brown leather and an immaculately tailored matching Haartz cloth top was fitted. Accented by perfect show-quality brightwork, the result was truly breathtaking and remains so today.
Prior to acquisition by the O’Quinn Collection in early 2005, SJ528 was road tested and revealed to have been among the best-running and most-powerful Duesenbergs the RM tester had ever driven in his experience. One can feel the additional power of the supercharger, especially given the engine’s desirable twin-carburetor intake system. Even more remarkably, the car’s steering was the lightest and smoothest in the tester’s experience, indicating a low-mileage chassis or an exceptional restoration, or perhaps both.
Today, Lt. Col. Jacob Schick’s magnificent SJ528 is one of a mere handful of original-bodied supercharged Model J Duesenbergs remaining today. It is one of three Brunn Riviera Phaetons built and, amazingly, one of two such factory-supercharged cars. In 2006, SJ528 was shown at the prestigious Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, where it was awarded Best in Class. As expected, it is an exceedingly rare event when an original-bodied Duesenberg with the specification, pedigree, provenance and rarity of SJ528 comes to market. For the confirmed collector of the finest custom-coachbuilt cars of the Classic Era, SJ528 is very likely the finest example available today.
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