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William "Big Bill " Hunter Duesenberg "J" History & Info. Wanted ?

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Posted (edited)

William Hunter , an older great-uncle once owned a Model "J" Duesenberg in the late 1930s-just before WW II He was not the original buyer/owner.

He owned several business enterprizes & was also a President of a Pa. Steel Company.

He is said to have bought this car used off a Ford dealer's used car lot ! My late Father has photos of this car in a box someplace at home here.

I will look for them !

It is an open-style tourer with cochwork possibly built by Derham Body/ Coachworks in Rosemont PA according to Dad's past memory of this great auto.

Dad drove it many times !

There is a great old family story, with photos to back it up, of "Big Bill" Hunter hauling a giant cut Christmas Tree IN and ON this great Model "J" Duesenberg !

When WW II broke-out William Hunter was forced to sell because of his war work.

The car was supposedly sold for very little money as compared to it's initial purchase price. It sold in the early 40s , to of all people, Howard Hughes who is said to have been a business associate & aviation friend of my great-uncle William Hunter ! I know Howard Hughes owned dozens of cars and gave Rolls~Royce Springfield cars to many of his "Girlfriends" !

He liked powerful fast cars !

The story of Hughes buying the car sounds possible ?

Can Chris Summers the ACD historian, or any of the Duesenberg "J" experts here trace this Model "J" from extant Duesenberg ownerhip records ?

Sadly I do not know it's "J" number.

Who was this Model "J" s original owner ?


Any owners prior to William "Big Bill" Hunter ?

How about owners after Wiliam Hunter ?

Are there any extant photos or owner records of this model "J" at any time during it's history?

Does it still exist today ?

Where is it today ?

Any Photos ?

I sure hope it still exists ! ~

As I would like to contact the present owner with some old 30s photos and info that we have on this Model "J" and my great uncle William "Big Bill " Hunter.

Any info or photos of this Model "J" Duesenberg greatly appreciated !

I really wish old uncle Bill had not sold this great auto !

Thank You :

Edited by Silverghost (see edit history)

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Posted (edited)


Your great-uncle's car was Derham Tourster J-444 / 2456, the car originally owned by comedian Joe E. Brown. Hunter purchased it from Kal Karn Ford in CA and eventually sold it to Hughes who owned it during WWII. I don't have exact dates for either gentleman's ownership.

Please scan and post the photos - myself and others would love to see them!

The car survives although with a replica of its original body. At last word, it was held up in the O'Quinn estate in Houston, TX.

Mr. Hunter owned at least two other Duesenbergs as well: Murphy Disappearing Top Torpedo Convertible Coupe J-178 / 2199 (now has engine J-414, in the Blackhawk Museum) and Rollston Convertible Victoria J-420 / 2431 (now has engine J-337, in the Swigart Museum). He kept none of the three cars for very long.

Edited by ChrisSummers (see edit history)

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Posted (edited)

The ACD Club historian comes through again !

Thank's a million Chris !

Actually I did not know that "Big Bill" owned the other two Duesenbergs !

He sure went through quite a few World Class Classics in his days !

Dad always said that every time he visited him William always had another high-powered & fast car !

We have a photo album full of "Big Bill's" cars & aircraft; or as other family members called him "Wild Bill"

He seemed to travel with a very fast playboy Aviation and auto group.

He was friends with Howard Hughes, Roscoe Turner, Clarence Chamberlin and Wiley Post, as well as Gen Jimmy Doolittle and other famous early Aviation pioneers.

"Wild Bill" also went through tons of cash !

It would appear that he would often get tired of cars & aircraft very fast !

He was always like a kid with a new toy I am told !

What a collection I would have today if he had only just kept 10% of the cars & aircraft that he had once owned !

Edited by Silverghost (see edit history)

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Posted (edited)

Chris & others:

I would love to see any photos of "Wild Bill" Hunter's three Model "J" Duesenbergs that Chris Summers the Auburn, Cord, Duesenberg historian mentions above>

J 444 / 2456

J 178 / 2199

J 420 / 2431

J 190 / 2211 Possibly ?

I am stunned that they all survive !

Never knew he once owned THREE and possibly FOUR ! ?

Boy ~~~ Those Duesenberg guys sure went through & swapped blown engines often !

Dad & I knew Jim Hoe and visited his "Sports Car Garage" in Ct often.

Jim and the boys sure did not baby these model "J" s like most owners do today !

Jim would beat the living daylights out of his cars on Hill-Climb events here on the east coast !

I guess they were not worth that much back in the 50s-60s !

So instead they had lots of fun driving and racing them !

Those were the days !!!

Now they are mostly million $$$ museum displays for most owners !

Jay Leno seems to be one exception ; a real car guy who actually loves to really drive & use them ~

Good for Jay !

These Model "J" Duesenbergs were made to be DRIVER's Cars !

Now I just have to dig-up those old photo albums of "Wild Bill" Hunter & his friend's old Classics !

Stay Tuned !

Edited by Silverghost (see edit history)

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See attachments. First photo comes from the excellent French Trombinoscar website and shows J-178. The second photo is of J-444 and was taken at Meadowbrook several years ago by my friend Robert Armstrong. The car was owned at the time by John McMullen of Lapeer, MI.

Brad, Dennis Adler's Duesenberg book also includes multiple photos of J-444 in its restored form.



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Posted (edited)

Chris Summers the ACD Club Historian just emailed to tell me from his investigations my great uncle William "Wild Bill" Hunter

MAY have owned a forth Duesenberg !

He gets this info from Wolf's notes that William Hunter MAY have also owned~

Duesenberg J 190 / 2211

Murphy Convertable Sedan which is now in a long time LA collection !

WOW~ Thank's for the additional info Chris !

I am stunned & speechless to hear that my great uncle may have once owned FOUR great & now currently surviving Model "J" Duesenbergs !

I Must find a way to contact the current owners and possibly visit these great cars !

Time to dig_up the old family photo Album !

Thank's again Chris !

Still looking for more photos and info. on these above Duesenbergs !

Edited by Silverghost (see edit history)

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