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Another Dusenberg question


HarryJ
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Dusenberg has never been at the top of my list in cars to own; however, the history of the individual serial numbers is quite intriguing, considering how the cars have been mixed and matched since they were assembled! Has anyone ever composed a history of all of the remaining cars and parts?.....................Provenance A friend has a saying, I believe about Derham Touristers "this is one of the seven survivors of the two they built".

Edited by Harry J. (see edit history)
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Thanx.......................guys..............watched the Ema/Leno video......great! Is there a public record for the collector to reference? I think not. Mr. Ema (who i kiss the ground he walks upon) needs to do more videos plus publish his database. What he has in his head is very valuable. This needs to be preserved!

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I have never seen any other car brand surviving today with so many mixed and matched & swapped parts ; chassis, engine, bell-housings, body, etc: as the Model "J" .

Chrome flexible exhaust pipes & superchargers have been added, Sedans, & formal car body etc replaced with a reproduction roadster body.

These cars have changed color & body configuration and have been "Re-Restored" so many times it is unbelievable !

Few sedans are left !

The real question on the model "J" should be~~~

How many are still preserved as built originally at the factory ?

I guess if you wanted "J" as a collector, and you had the money you built whatever you wanted from existing original cars !

And WE complain about the streetrod & hotrod guys chopping-up good original cars !

Edited by Silverghost (see edit history)
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There are no public records but Randy or Chris Summer's can give you the history of any particular car if you are thinking about buying one. I think there was 8 to 10 original Touresters produced. Ted Billings rebodied about 10 in the 1970s so the saying is more like "8 built but 18 still exist".

As far as the rebodies, swapped engines, etc, go - as long the the price accurately reflects the state and history of the car I don't see a problem. Some guys can only afford a 400k Billing's Tourester as the originals would be 3 to 4 times that. Passing off a Billing's bodied car as an original would be unethical and the buyer foolish for not doing their homework up front.

Which reminds me of a funny story. About 25 years ago I was at a car show and a guy pulled up in a Derham Tourester Model J. I happened to have Byard Libby with me who worked for Ted on at least the last 6 cars to go out of the shop. Byard remarked to me that this was one of the cars he had built when working for Ted. I went up to the owner and introduced Byard as one of the guys that built his car. He got a really funny look on his face and asked "what do you mean by built?". He did not know it was a Billings bodied car. It was a bad day for him.

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Ghost

You haaven't checked 'Bugatti History(?)'' The number of fake cars far exceeds production

My wife's brother has a whole car made from part, ONLY PART, of a back axle!!

I concur. There was a man in Wisconsin, just across the river from Stillwater, Minnesota, who was dismantling Bugattis and building three out of one. One car had an original engine, another had the original chassis, and the third would have the original body. I remember walking into his shop once, and he had this huge machine that would "read" the original chassis, and at the same time cut new pieces.

There was another guy and his son in South Carolina who was doing the same thing. As in the Duesenberg world, there are a couple of people in the Bugatti world (and Delahaye, and Delage, and Bentley, and Packard LeBarons/speedsters, Cadillac V-16s, ad naseum) that you need to contact before buying.

The same is now true in the muscle car world, if you're interested in having a #'s matching hemi or big-block COPO or whatever.

Me, personally... I'm not "in" to numbers because my wallet is not thick enough.

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I have a nice Derham Tourster print hanging in my office behind my desk. Signed by the man himself, Gordon Buehrig. (he did not do the print, but as many know he designed the body for this model.) Many people do not know what it is but know it is a great car. I use it to make the point to younger staff what can be accomplished in your 20s if you put your mind to it.

Al, as you know the car in your picture is from CT, is it still with John P? He has another J also, but I had heard he was selling them?

Speaking of accomplishing a lot at a young age, Chris is a pretty knowedgeable young man, no? My guess is he passed on the video games as a teen...

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Don't forget DV-32 Stutz cars either. Several of them started life as SV-16's, or worse, model M's. Ever wonder why you never see an SV-16 Stutz with a desirable body? Well it's because most of them have been converted to DV-32's. I know of a DV-32 Rollston victoria that was originally an SV-16. Again, the people who "know Stutzes" know which cars are authentic. Four 1931 & up boattail bearcat bodies were reproduced in the 1970's as well as two phaeton bodies. Also, many 1927-1928 boattail bodies have been made over the years too, some better than others.

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Steve,

The car in question is one of the best if you want to talk about history/integrity and style. I think it's only for sale as long as the buyer is willing to pay the premium for 50 years of one family ownership - which is a lot I'll bet! The other Duesenberg is a barrel side which I believe came out of an Italian Museum sometime in the late 50s.

I've had nothing but great experiences with both Randy and Chris.

A.J.

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Don't forget DV-32 Stutz cars either. Several of them started life as SV-16's, or worse, model M's. Ever wonder why you never see an SV-16 Stutz with a desirable body? Well it's because most of them have been converted to DV-32's. I know of a DV-32 Rollston victoria that was originally an SV-16. Again, the people who "know Stutzes" know which cars are authentic. Four 1931 & up boattail bearcat bodies were reproduced in the 1970's as well as two phaeton bodies. Also, many 1927-1928 boattail bodies have been made over the years too, some better than others.

This reminds me of a circa early 70s CCCA magazine story of a DV-32 Rollston which shows the dash having a clock in place of the tach. Made me scratch my head. The other one I'm thinking of is a gorgeous low windshield DV32 that early pictures of don't seem to exist.

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I won't name names here on the internet, but If you're thinking of the maroon LWB conv coupe thats supposedly a Rollston - it isn't . Look at the body mouldings on it - standard 1929 & up Stutz. Nothing on that car is Rollston except the look of the slanted windshield. That car was built up in the early 1970's. My dad sold them the 4 speed transmission that's in it. I think it may have even been a model M body they used. I bet if you lift up the seat cushion there's no Rollston body tag with the car number on it. That car was at Hershey about 15 years ago on a cloudy, drizzly day. Several big name collectors have owned that car, and when they figure out what it is, they get rid out it like a hot potato. The thing that makes me mad is that it's a CCCA & AACA senior car, so to many unknowing people that legitimizes it.

Edited by K8096 (see edit history)
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Thanks for the complements, guys. The best advice I ever received from my best mentor, Jordan historian and AACA judge Jim Lackey, was "Make people feel like they can talk to you." I've tried to live up to that. I also like CCCA historian Walter Gosden's quote in a recent "Hemmings Classic Car," "Take the cars seriously, but not yourself."

The "owner discovering he owned a reproduction" story has come to me several times from several different people. Caveat emptor, as they say.

One of my favorite versions came from a friend who went to an AACA national show in the late 1980s. A noted, now-deceased collector brought a Duesenberg which Bob knew to have been built up from an original engine and not much else. Bob, very knowledgable about Js, asked a simple question about the car's fuel line and the owner looked down at him and said, "What are you, some idiot?" Off the owner and Bob went.

Bob walked back around a few minutes later and the owner was standing with the group of judges, convincing them with his best showmanship that this was an original Duesenberg. Bob walked past and said, "Hey, (owner's name), great job on the replica body!" The owner turned blue, the judges started asking questions, and the car went home awardless. Karma's a kick.

Gary Cooper's Tourster was J-431 / 2425. It survives, restored in its original Goldenrod Yellow and Spring Green, in the Heritage Plantation museum at Sandwich, MA.

Edited by ChrisSummers (see edit history)
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How about the thousands of Model A roadster and roadster pickup bodies sold over the years.Pretty much all the early V8 open cars,32-4 3 window coupes, 57 Chevy convertibles, muscle cars,and more. All being reproduced,sometimes turnkey. This doesn't really bother me as it gives the rodders something to play with but they say a lot of these cars fool the judges and wear senior badges. I still like seeing unrestorable cars being returned to the road.

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Anyone know what happened to the Duesenberg chassis/speedster that Art Brummer owned in about 1970? Any history on it? He offered it to Dad and I for $3500 and of course we passed on it. This was before he bought the sedan out of a garage not 3 miles from our home. We could have bought that one for 10 grand but of course passed again...lol

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Bob, unfortunately that one is a parts donor now, transformed into a Murphy Dual Cowl Phaeton with replica bodywork by the current owner. The upside is that it is an excellent restoration and a really beautiful, well-done car. It was at Auburn this year.

Restorer32, that's interesting, I don't have record of him ever owning any car but his sedan. Do you remember what the project speedster looked like? I can't promise anything but I may be able to fill in the blanks.

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It was just a running chassis with a cowl as I remember. He started it for us. We were just getting started in antiques and hardly knew what we were looking at. This would have been 1970 or so when Art had a wrecking yard here in the York, PA area. His sedan came from Quoitz Machine Shop in Dallastown, PA.

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The number of cars quoted in this discussion are not within a bull's roar of reality, if you check Appendix II of Fred Roe's 1982 book on Duesenberg. Seven of the original Derham Toursters exist in substantially original form. The body of the eigth car, originally that of Joe E. Brown was destroyed, and it carries a replica.

At that date there were twelve cars whose original coachbuilt bodies are quoted,

which became replica Derham Toursters. fred quoted engine numbers of a further five cars which carry replicas of other desired open body types.

I guess in all this, creating or destroying provenance are problems. Nevertheless, "In the land of the Blind, the one-eyed man is king". By this , I mean that it is understandable and beneficial to rebuild cars in authentic fashion around substantial original material wich would not otherwise have prospect of road use. For instance, I have gathered enough for a Tipo 8 Isotta Fraschini over a long period. Chassis and axles came from one lost car. An engine and gearbox were retired from a boat. An incomplete engine, but in better condition and closer in number to the original of the chassis came from another source. I have had to borrow other parts to copy. The 1913 Sunbeam I have is very similar in design to the later L-head Mercers, even to ratio of bore/stroke which is a key design factor. They saw performance of 90mph from these in racing. This has components from 5 or 6 lost cars, recovered from a geographical area with a long axis of around 4000 miles. Peugeot built 180 of their top-line 6 litre Type 156 cars in the early 1920's. One car remains in France that we know of, restored and running. (Jean-Pierre has helped me with details for parts I have to make). I have parts from around 8 or 9 lost cars, which is sufficient for me to construct two authentic cars by duplicating a lot of parts. This is the car with the extraordinary cuff-valve engine. A friend here had one car as everyday transport in the mid 1940's, when he also had Hispano Suiza and Isotta Fraschini, which he compares unfavourably to the Peugeot. These cars will never be other than faithful reconstructions. I know there have been DV32 Stutz engines fitted to earlier cars in recent time. I am doing this, but my engine, DV30004, is a 1928 prototype. I wonder what happened to the other few prototype engines.

Back to Duesenberg, it should be well known that the factory built new cars using parts from pre-existing cars. This did not happen just in the mid 1930's, but also as early as 1923. Alan Powell is gone now, but he told me that when he bought his A model at the factory in 1923 when he was 23, they were building a car from an earlier car. He was a graduate engineer with a lot of introductions. He said they had never met an Australian before, so he was a curiosity. Now I got my A Duesenberg stuff from Mexico at Ray Wolff's insistence in the early 1980's. There was a fair bit of a second car with 1923 matching numbers. Both chassis frames were cut and altered, so I was fortunate that a man in Montana let me buy the chassis with axles and wheels that had ended up as a one horsepower job there, --- it had literally become a horse-drawn vehicle. The chassis number in the correct place on the front cross-member was defaced but still identifiable. 333 is not a production serial number, because A Duesenberg numbers start at 601.A 1923 serial number, 808, was stamped in two places nearby. Obviously that chassis frame had been re-used from a previous car, maybe even one of the horizontal valve prototypes. I swapped the numbered cross-members so the 1923 car from Mexico has a good frame. (I have to copy quite a few parts for it). Jim Gilmartin did not have a chassis frame for his protect, so I made a jig and rebuilt the incomplete and chopped 1923 frame from Mexico for him, with the odd cross-memberrivetted into it: So Jim has that oddity now.

Jim came over from NY and stayed with us for a couple of weeks. I was a bit compromised by a back injury, my son Stirling was only about 15, and Jim didn't have a great deal of workshop experience; but the chassis turned out well and we shipped it back to him before he left.

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Ivan~~~

I believe these re-constructions you speak about are fine indeed~~~

Bravo to you for putting these parts back together again in the form of a complete auto.

I feel as you do that it is much better to have another complete car on the road again than a bunch of forgotten parts sitting around all over the world !

The only problem issue that I have with these re-constructions is when they do eventually come up for sale, or auction, and they are not properly advertised as re-constructed autos ; or autos with complete replica period-style coachwork !

Many innocent people are fooled after paying very high prices for cars that they thought were completely 100% original survivor autos; only to find out that they were just rolling chassis & drivetrains like the Joe E. Brown Duesenberg with re-created Derham Replica

coachwork.

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  • 10 years later...
On 12/23/2010 at 3:59 PM, Silverghost said:

The only problem issue that I have with these re-constructions is when they do eventually come up for sale, or auction, and they are not properly advertised as re-constructed autos.

 

Bingo.

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Posted (edited)

 Duesenberg collecting and market is a complete and separate world on to itself, and the rules in that world are their own ..If you can't understand them or do not want to follow them or they bother a person..go find another sandbox to play in.

 

After the Ford Model T and Model A the Duesenberg is probably the next most well documented automobile and certainly as far as past ownerships.

 

Edited by Flivverking
Correction (see edit history)
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13 hours ago, J3Studio said:

 

Bingo.


anybody that doesn’t know the market when paying almost 7 figures for something is asking to get screwed.   You can almost google the J number most of the time and get the story.   But in any case, a novice with money should have hired help.

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23 minutes ago, Ken_P said:

It's amazing that a 1 word reply resurrected a 10 year old thread! We should start calling these Lazarus threads. 🤣

I thought the same thing, and yes, I clicked on it too.......

 

They are not in my budget, but you never know when your wife will decide to tell you about that trust fund started for her 50 years ago. 
 

if that day comes, I’ll be calling some experts in to keep me out of the rough deep water.   I have some friends with them so they always catch my eye and I can’t help but look....

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The Duesenberg J and other extremely rarified high-end marques market is analogous to the fine art market, provenance is everything because "restoration" and skillful outright fakes for financial gain as motivation are entirely the norm.    If you aren't deeply converse with the individual car and its history, you make yourself an easy mark for the chiselers and grifters  

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I want a bitsa Duesenberg. One, it's [slightly] more affordable. Two I can drive it without worries. Three, only a select few will know the difference. And four, I don't have to worry about being a high-profile owner with some kind of heavy responsibility to the future.

 

High-profile cars can be a burden to own. I don't want that from my hobby.

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Posted (edited)

I am of absolutely the same thought as you Matt except with regards to something along the lines of a Lotus 11, 23, Elva Mk 6,7,8 , etc. Even genuine examples are of course much cheaper than a Duesenberg, say $100,000 - $150,000 or so. But for all practical purposes they are just as out of my reach as even the cheapest Duesenberg. 

 I have been in the hobby long enough that either a vintage racing lotus, or  Duesenberg Model A were in theory at least within my budget.

 Those day's are of course long gone.

 

A good friend's Father painstakingly restored a Model J over the final 50 years of his life. I was witness to about the last 5 years of that time. So I am well- acquainted with just how great a car a Model J is.  { J 149 } 

Edited by 1912Staver (see edit history)
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An 85 year old friend has Duesenberg/ White truck transmission(old conversion swap )in storage by way of  the McGowen brothers by way of Jim Hoe ..If someone wants to start a bit-sa cobbled up driver?  

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Just a question to ponder on real vs fake...........

 

Would you pay 1/3 the value of painting if it was a copy? How about 1/10th for a printed out poster of the same painting. Personally, if a car isn’t as delivered from the factory, it doesn’t interest me. There are many well done replicas, but the reason I traveled to Paris was to see the Mona Lisa in person.........I can see a copy on google images for free.

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While I agree 95% with what Ed said, I would be willing to own a Billings Tourster or a Torpedo Phaeton replica for exactly the same reasons Matt mentioned.  Yeah...it's got the real Duesenberg feel without the guilt of ruining a real artifact. It sits out in the rain? Gets dirty? Hell, gets in an accident? In those cases you wrecked a car, but not THE car. Unfortunately,  you blow an engine,  you've still blown a Duesenberg engine. 

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