Monterey

17-18 August 2012

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Lot 229

1929 Duesenberg Model J Disappearing Top Convertible Coupe by The Walter M. Murphy Co.

  • Chassis no. 2134
  • Engine no. J-108
  • Body no. 102

Sold for $1,897,500


265 bhp, 420 cu in DOHC inline eight-cylinder engine with four valves per cylinder and hemispherical combustion chambers, three-speed manual transmission, beam-type front and live rear axles with semi-elliptic leaf springs, and vacuum-assisted four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 142.5"



• First chassis-only purchase from Duesenberg Inc.

• Bespoke coachwork for Mr. & Mrs. Harry Robinson

• True custom coachwork; ACD certified

• Recent concours restoration by Fran Roxas



The announcement of the Model J shook the industry and even momentarily halted trading on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. The first opportunity members of the public had to see the new car was at a chassis display at the 1929 New York Auto Show. Hundreds came to see this new wonder and they were not disappointed: there on the floor was a brand new, bare chassis on display.



Duesenberg J-108/2134 was purchased by the wife of department store scion Mr. Harry Robinson, of Los Angeles, in the spring or summer of 1929, and it was notable as the first chassis-only purchase from Duesenberg Inc. The Robinsons were good clients of the firm. In J.L. Ebert’s Duesenberg: the Mightiest American Motor Car, a letter written by Mrs. Robinson, identified as “Mrs. H. R., of Beverly Hills,” writes, “I am happy to talk of our Duesenbergs—we have had four three-special bodies. My husband’s white car, a green sports sedan—with the back seat higher than the driver’s—and two town cars… My most beautiful 1929 town car I still use daily.” The Robinsons, in fact, owned three or four Model A Duesenbergs, and by the time that J-108, their first Model J, was ordered, they would have had plenty of experience in specifying the appearance of a new car.



The rolling chassis was delivered to the Walter M. Murphy Company, where it was clothed with a full custom body in the form of this disappearing top convertible coupe. It can be presumed that either Mrs. Robinson, or both she and her husband, had a hand in influencing the sketches penned by Murphy’s designers. Other notable Murphy features include the steeply raked windshield, front-hinged doors, rounded side panels, and a slightly vee-crowned rear deck lid that hints at a vestigial tail fin. The body was painted white, as was the chassis, which would only have been done at the direction of the client. A photographic print included in the file depicts a very smartly dressed lady, perhaps Mrs. Robinson, leaning against the door of the new Duesenberg, one foot propped up on the running board.



At some point, chassis 2134 was sent to the factory to be equipped with radiator shutters, as well as a Stromberg downdraft carburetor. In 1934, it was driven by Ginger Rogers in The Gay Divorcee, and a later photograph included in the file depicts Ms. Rogers with the car. The second owner of 2134 is believed to be a Mrs. Cody, followed by Marshall Merkes, of Glendale, California, until 1947. J-108/2134 was then purchased by a Mr. Ed Griffin, and later his widow, until 1960, when it was purchased out of the estate by Mr. Gerald Strohecker, of Oregon, who restored it with Mr. Charles F. Norris, of Portland, Oregon. It was later willed to Norris upon his death, along with two other Duesenberg Js.



Marque expert Brian Joseph performed mechanical maintenance on the car while in Mr. Ken McBride’s ownership in the mid-2000s, which included installation of new transmission bearings; a rebuild of the differential, which included a high-speed ring and pinion, as well as new differential and torque tube bearings; a rebuild of the lower chain tensioner and a new cam timing set; porcelain coating of the exhaust manifold; rebuilding of the fuel gauge; installation of a new wiring harness; rebuilding of the radiator shutter thermostat; rebuilding of the wiper motor; replacement of the right tie rod end; and a check and adjustment of the brakes, including installation of one new wheel cylinder. It later passed to the current vendor, who, after a time, commissioned Fran Roxas to perform a full concours-quality restoration, which was completed in 2010.



As-restored, it shows a mere 73 miles on the odometer and is finished as it originally was, in white with matching white chassis, and sports a flawless, highly attractive, light camel leather interior with tan carpeting. The chromed wire wheels are shod with sleek blackwall tires, which focus attention on the quality of the early Murphy convertible coachwork. It is also equipped with the original dual side-mounted spare tires with pedestal mirrors and retains all of the unique Murphy features that make this a one-off custom. In May 2012, it was awarded Best of Show at the second annual Celebration of Automobiles, which took place at the Indianapolis Speedway on the opening day of the historic 500 race. As presented, it would make a great tourer or concours entry and also retains ACD certification D-065. It has been featured in Fred Roe’s Duesenberg: The Pursuit of Perfection, as well as twice in the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg Club newsletter. The new owner can be assured that with the quality of the Roxas restoration behind it, it will remain in high-point condition, as long as it is well looked after, and will remain a truly unique, exceptional example of the fabled marque.

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

aweaver@rmsothebys.com

+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

asabatie-garat@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 74 1511 4179
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

bruprecht@rmsothebys.com

+1 203 912 7168
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

dswig@rmsothebys.com

+1 415 302 2247
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

drose@rmsothebys.com

+1 617 513 0388
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

dgould@rmsothebys.com

+1 954 566 2209
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

gduff@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
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

Ian Kelleher

ikelleher@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

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

Jake Auerbach

jauerbach@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
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

Jonathan Sierakowski

jonathan@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
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

kforry@rmsothebys.com

+1 717 623 1638
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

mmalamut@rmsothebys.com

+1 805 231 6410
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

msquire@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
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

mfairbairn@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
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

ocamelin@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 75 0110 7447
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

pdarvill@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
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

pfisher@rmsothebys.com

+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. He att... read more

Peter Wallman

pwallman@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
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

smyers@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
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

tvandervelden@rmsothebys.com

+31 653 84 19 60
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