St. John's

28 July 2012

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Lot 158

1930 Duesenberg Model SJ Convertible Victoria by the Rollston Company

  • Chassis no. 2293
  • Engine no. J272
  • Body no. 516-4435

Sold for $957,000

320 bhp, 420 cu. in. DOHC inline eight-cylinder engine with four valves per cylinder and centrifugal supercharger, three-speed manual transmission, solid front axle and live rear axles with semi-elliptic leaf springs, and four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 142.5"

• Owned by noted band leader Paul Whiteman of “Rhapsody in Blue” fame

• Recently detailed, mechanically inspected on a limited basis, and serviced

If ever a car was designed and engineered to be larger than life itself, the Duesenberg Model J was it. Its cutting-edge, competition-derived engine specifications alone made it equal, if not superior to, the most exotic European marques of its era and even among American luxury cars. It really had no close rivals in terms of sheer power and performance.

It is difficult today to imagine the excitement with which the Model J was received in 1929. Here was a chassis with a dual overhead cam, four-valve engine that—at 265 horsepower in naturally-aspirated form—beat its nearest competitor by more than 100 horsepower! Coming from a company whose racing successes were already the stuff of legends, it was the perfect marketing move at the time. The timing of the introduction could not have been better: with the economic successes of the 1920s, America’s wealthiest business, entertainment, and social elite were ready to indulge themselves. The all-new Model J soon gave them the perfect opportunity.

The announcement of the Model J shook the Automobile industry and the occasion even momentarily halted trading on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. The first chance most of the public had to see the new car was when the chassis displayed at the 1929 New York Auto Show. Hundreds came to see this new wonder, and they were not disappointed, for on the floor there were several magnificent examples on display.

It’s tall, elegantly-shaped radiator shell and long tapered hood, along with a choice of two lengthy wheelbases, made the mighty Model J the ideal platform for some of the most stunning and luxurious custom coachwork produced during the classic era. With a price of some $8,500 for the bare chassis alone and $9,500 in supercharged form, the Model J occupied the pinnacle of the price range for American luxury cars, including the Springfield-built Rolls-Royce Phantom II. Add the requisite custom coachwork and fittings, and these conveyances easily approached, and in at least one instance surpassed $20,000, at a time when the least-costly Ford Model A was delivered for about $450 and a good single-family home was still available for less than $10,000. Befitting their regal nature, Model Js received custom-coachbuilt bodies and the example offered here is no exception. It carries one of the rarest and most attractive bodies ever produced—the quarter-window Victoria—from the highly regarded Rollston Company.

The Rollston Company was founded in 1921, but it was in 1927 when Rudy Creteur moved to Rollston from Locke as chief designer. Creteur was responsible for most of Rollston’s designs from that point on, including this wonderful example. As one of just 218 Rollston bodies built between 1927 and 1931, this specific design incorporates many of Creteur’s design hallmarks. In all, Rollston bodied 57 Model Js, with 16 of those being convertible Victorias. The low windshield and compact top lines give the car a sleek, low-slung look. This style in particular combines the good visibility of the convertible sedan with the sportier yet still-elegant open two-door body.

The story of chassis 2293 begins when it was purchased new by famous band leader Paul Whiteman, best known for his arrangement of “Rhapsody in Blue” in May 1930, who had a LeBaron Sport Phaeton body installed. Sometime in 1932, the car was bought by G. Tucker Smith, of Virginia, from the Duesenberg factory branch in New York City, with the phaeton body still installed. Mr. Smith did not like the open coachwork on the car, and in 1935, he purchased the striking Rollston Quarter-Window Convertible Victoria and had it installed on the car. The body was likely built from 1930–31 and was likely installed on another vehicle before being shown in Duesenberg’s inventory later on. He also purchased a supercharger, although it is not known by whom the body and supercharger were installed, nor if the body was purchased directly from Duesenberg Inc. At some point later in the car’s life, the supercharger was replaced with a highly accurate reproduction unit. In the period, the Rollston body had skirted fenders and a more flowing trunk, both of which were modified at some point in its life.

Mr. Smith kept the car until 1938, when he traded it to Jones Motorcar Company, a Cadillac agency in Richmond, Virginia. Jones in turn sold the car to Mr. A. D. Price Jr., who was a local undertaker. In 1941, the car went to Mr. Bruce Woodson, of Virginia, who changed the color to green before selling it on to Mr. Mike Hodich in 1945. By 1955, the car was owned by Dr. J. F. Martin in Pennsylvania, who kept the car for 21 years before selling it to Judge John North, of Easton, Maryland, in 1976.

The next owner was Leo Gephardt in 1977. Gephardt sold the car to Dr. Don Vesley in 1978; the next owner was John Farrell of Seattle, Washington, in the early-1980s. Farrell kept the car for 15 years, conducting a thorough concours-quality restoration before selling it to noted Packard collector David Kane, of Bernardsville, New Jersey, and in 2001, it came into the current ownership.

Under the current owner, J272 was recently detailed and returned to running and driving order. Among the items addressed, the wheels were removed from the car and the brakes and wheel cylinders were inspected, the fuel tank was removed and cleaned out, the carburetor was rebuilt, and a new battery was installed. In addition, the car was serviced, with fluids flushed and the oil changed.

Now offered for the first time in over a decade, J272 marks a significant opportunity for collectors. Simply put, supercharged Duesenbergs are the Holy Grail for collectors of American classics, and J272 represents an outstanding opportunity to acquire an example with strong provenance and beautiful and distinctive Victoria coachwork by the Rollston Company.

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

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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 9... 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. He is a life-long automobile enthusiast and ... 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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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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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

Ian Kelleher

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Ian Kelleher began his automotive career immediately following his graduation from Oberlin College with a Bachelor of Arts in Politica... read more

Jake Auerbach

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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

Jonathan Sierakowski

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Ontario, Canada

Jonathan Sierakowski developed a passion for classic cars while working at a Connecticut restoration shop as a teenager. He graduated with a... read more

Kurt Forry

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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

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Ontario, Canada

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

Peter Wallman

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United Kingdom

Peter Wallman joined RM Europe in 2007 following nearly two decades in the international advertising industry, where he was based out ... read more

Shelby Myers

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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