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1932 Duesenberg Question


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This picture was posted on a Facebook group with the following caption “1932 Duesenberg Model J Tourster in the style of Derham.”  The use of the description “in the style of” caught my eye and got me wondering if this particular Duesenberg has been rebodied.   Does anyone recognize this car and do you know the history and what body this car originally had?

C9240980-4EFA-44D3-8F04-C547329F1847.jpeg

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"In the style of..." is most definitely code for "rebody." I don't know anything about this car, although if it's a rebody it shouldn't be wearing that award badge.

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There are 9-10 "Billing" bodied toursters.   Built by Ted Billing in the 1970s.   I was around for the very tail end when I worked for Ted in HS.

 

Note the sponsorship of my Soap Box Derby below.

SoapBoxDerbyDemonstrationBackToTop2Worcester1977-small.jpg

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17 minutes ago, John_S_in_Penna said:

If someone fixed up a Pontiac Tempest

"in the style of" a Pontiac GTO, would it be

given as much respect as such a Duesenberg?

 

Certainly it's a nice looking car.  But it would

only be fair to refer to such a Duesenberg,

I think, as a "clone."

 

I think clone is a mischaracterization of it. It's esoteric and kind of hair-splitting, but it's still a Duesenberg. It's just wearing different bodywork than it did when it was new. To use your GTO analogy, it would be more like having a real GTO and using reproduction hood, fenders, doors, quarters, and trunk lid to restore the car. It's still a GTO, just not the same GTO it was when it was new. Not original, but not really a clone, either.

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With the unmolested J’s bringing crazy money now, the nice rebody stuff is climbing. Lots of private sales lately on J’s and the numbers are becoming astounding. The disappearing top Murphy’s are now hitting in the 4’s. Making the regular roadsters look like a bargain till they play catch up. The last public sale of 6 miles really pushed the market. Fortunately for all of us forum regulars, we don’t need to worry about the current market of the J’s.

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1 hour ago, Matt Harwood said:

 

I think clone is a mischaracterization of it. It's esoteric and kind of hair-splitting, but it's still a Duesenberg. It's just wearing different bodywork than it did when it was new. To use your GTO analogy, it would be more like having a real GTO and using reproduction hood, fenders, doors, quarters, and trunk lid to restore the car. It's still a GTO, just not the same GTO it was when it was new. Not original, but not really a clone, either.


It is more of a sliding scale. Some of reproduction coachwork cars have reproduction frames, front axes, etc.  There are Duesenburgs where literally the only part that is original Duesenberg is the motor.

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2 hours ago, Matt Harwood said:

"In the style of..." is most definitely code for "rebody." I don't know anything about this car, although if it's a rebody it shouldn't be wearing that award badge.

Hmmm?

This is interesting.

If you were to hazard a guess Matt, would it be that this car was rebodied from a closed car to this open tourer, rather than due to a simple need of body panel restoration?

Also, I didn't realize a rebody precludes a car from the award process (which does make complete sense) in turn lowering its value if not its appeal.  I would think this result alone would be enough to dissuade anyone from going that route.

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2 hours ago, Matt Harwood said:

I think clone is a mischaracterization of it. It's esoteric and kind of hair-splitting, but it's still a Duesenberg. It's just wearing different bodywork than it did when it was new. 

 

I appreciate everyone's thoughts, including Matt's above.

If I could continue the analogy of a Pontiac Tempest converted

to a "GTO":

 

It's still a Pontiac.  It's just wearing a different grille and

model script than it did when it was new.  Well, maybe

a different Pontiac engine too...

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I'm sure one of the guys on this forum knows which Duesenberg this is and from that they can look up what kind of body it wore originally. But it's a safe bet that it was a sedan. 

 

My impression of rebodies is that many people simply turned their less desirable cars into what they wanted rather than restoring what it was originally, with reproduction bodies being somewhat common in Duesenbergland. Many of them were excellent. The important thing is that they were reproduction bodies--reproductions of bodies that actually existed. They weren't just creative  inventions or modern versions of something that never existed. Even as recently as the 1990s, there was far less scrutiny on authenticity and historical preservation so rebodies were not really frowned upon they way they are today. That's a relatively recent phenomenon, coming to the forefront at the same time as old cars as "investments." For investments to work, there have to be some that are better than others, and as AJ points out, there's a definite pecking order to Duesenbergs and their authenticity.

 

On the awards front, clubs vary. The CCCA ostensibly forbids rebodies on the show field, but I doubt it's enforced to any significant degree. The AACA doesn't seem to care as long as it could have existed. The ACD Club knows which car is which so it's easy for them to know which cars are authentic, so they've created a certification process that differentiates levels of originality. I personally agree that rebodies should not qualify for awards. Of course, that leaves open the debate of what constitutes a rebody--how much original body has to remain if you're restoring a car that was a basket case? It starts to hurt my brain after a while making me glad I don't play in this particular sandbox.

 

All that said, I'd happily own a Duesenberg created from nothing but an engine. Less cash, same great taste.

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The other thing I think makes this a kind of fuzzy subject is the fact Duesenberg  never sold a car with a body on it out of their shop, they made chassis for sale to custom body makers.   I would think that could technically make any Duesenberg "of the style of" whoever bodied either originally or thereafter.  I'm not even questioning whether or not the car is wearing it's original body so much as the language used to describe it.  Why not just say "rebodied" or original body...

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A CCCA car with fake or replica coachwork will be asked to leave the field immediately, unless it has been pre approved by the classification committee. They are definitely frowned upon in the CCCA. They can tour with the club ONLY if they are pre approved through the same committee. As recently as fifteen years ago, I saw a pile of J reproduction frames in a garage near my house.......enough to build five or six cars. And stuff is still kicking around. Engines are easy, rear ends and transmission not so much, steering boxes can be made for 80k...........it takes too much time and money to make bodies today. It’s thirty cents on the dollar to buy something that’s driving. 

Edited by edinmass (see edit history)
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Along with almost any human interests and endeavors, the antique and collector car hobby has gone through its share of fads and silly side excursions through bad ideas. Sadly, it is the cars themselves and the history lost that suffers the most from that. Too few true survivor cars, unmolested by hard use or unnecessary changes exist today because back in the 1960s and '70s, everybody (almost everybody?) insisted that the best way to restore a car was to buy the best original survivor you could get, and restore that from the ground up. The cars that should have been preserved were being restored, while the cars that should have been restored were turned into parts cars. The cars lost out in both areas.

Another silly thing is fads of color combinations that are really not era correct. While that may not actually ruin the car in a long-term sense, It really does not do the car justice, or present any sort of accurate picture of what the cars of the past were like. 

Rebodying a classic car should not be a wrong thing to do, IF the original car is truly too far gone to be restored. However (okay, my opinion), a decent original sedan or coupe, limousine etc should also be restored and cared for for what it was and is. It has always saddened me that fine classics had the original bodies tossed aside and replaced by copies of more desirable styles. It not only denies people being able to see a fine sedan or coupe (styles that I personally love!), it to some extent cheapens the phaetons and all-weather coupes by having too many of them and most people not knowing whether what they see is real or reproduction.

I recall (don't remember who it was?) getting a club tour through a fine collection many years ago. I was admiring several cars, and one of the other club members asked why a certain dual cowl phaeton in the collection was never taken out and shown. The owner's response was that a couple other local hobbyists had very similar cars with reproduction bodies, and he just didn't enjoy showing it and hearing "OH, another one?" about his real one.

 

Personally, I am pleased to see more interest in which such cars are real, and which may be good partial recreations, and which are simply good looking, but not real.

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11 hours ago, Matt Harwood said:

I'm sure one of the guys on this forum knows which Duesenberg this is and from that they can look up what kind of body it wore originally. But it's a safe bet that it was a sedan. 

 

 

J356.     The engine originally powered a Willoughby Berline.   This car is made up from several cars.

 

Not all were sedans.   Like I said before, some of the cars were built around only engines.    One of those engines had been powering a boat.

 

Anybody buying a Duesenberg that doesn't know what they are doing is an idiot.

Edited by alsancle (see edit history)
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57 minutes ago, alsancle said:

J356.     The chassis originally carried a Willoughby Berline.   This car is made up from several cars.

 

Al, do you (or does anyone here) have a picture of

what the Berline style originally looked like?

 

Personally, at shows I'd rather see a Cunningham,

a McFarland, a Revere, an early 1920's Lincoln, a

Haynes V-12, a big Lafayette (when they were luxury cars)

than a  beautiful but much-too-hyped Duesenberg.  Here are

pictures of a 1924 Lafayette sedan from the internet:

 

1924 Lafayette sedan 1.jpg

1924 Lafayette sedan 2.jpg

Edited by John_S_in_Penna (see edit history)
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10 hours ago, alsancle said:


It is more of a sliding scale. Some of reproduction coachwork cars have reproduction frames, front axes, etc.  There are Duesenburgs where literally the only part that is original Duesenberg is the motor.

  It’s a delima in the antique speedboat world also. Most boat building companies in the ‘20s and ‘30s stamped the boat number on many pieces of the boat. That way a member of the building team could go to the pile of frames or planks and pull the ones with the number of the boat he’s working on.

 A known current boat builder salvaged a burned and sunk Hacker from the bottom of a lake. While restoring it, he removed several pieces of the numbered frames and was able to build 4 “original” numbered boats. 

 Over 90 years, a boats planks get cracked, damaged or rotted. If you replace one plank a year for 90 years, is it more or less of an original then if you were to replace 90 planks in one year?
 It’s a major question trying to figure out when a boat stops becoming a restoration and becomes a new boat.

I’m feeling the same about antique cars.

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On a Duesenberg, motor, chassis, and body swaps were normal maintenance when they were new. Thus a "a factory built car" meaning a chassis, engine, fire wall, bell housing, steering box, rear end, and a body that was initially placed on a Model J is considered fine. We call these cars "scrambles" because it was done back in the 30's to the 60's. These car are still considered correct, and a Category 1 for certification to being "real". These cars value depends upon the amount of the scramble. Example, a 100 percent original car with a different engine. Known as a "engine swap" in the J world. Still a great car, and 90 percent "intact" and the price adjustment depends on several factors including body style, and the possibility of getting the correct engine back in it. Market conditions in the world of J's more complicated. Pure intact cars bring HUGE premiums because very, very few cars have never been messed with. Severe accident history will also affect price......may J's have beed totaled and put back together. I don't know how many different J's I have driven.........probably over 20. You can tell a good car from a pile of floor sweepings easily going down the road. I drive many more rolling junkyards than I do good J's. Have a Duesenberg J with a pure provenance? It will sell instantly at above market prices, regardless of body style. 

Edited by edinmass (see edit history)
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31 minutes ago, yachtflame said:

  It’s a delima in the antique speedboat world also. Most boat building companies in the ‘20s and ‘30s stamped the boat number on many pieces of the boat. That way a member of the building team could go to the pile of frames or planks and pull the ones with the number of the boat he’s working on.

 A known current boat builder salvaged a burned and sunk Hacker from the bottom of a lake. While restoring it, he removed several pieces of the numbered frames and was able to build 4 “original” numbered boats. 

 Over 90 years, a boats planks get cracked, damaged or rotted. If you replace one plank a year for 90 years, is it more or less of an original then if you were to replace 90 planks in one year?
 It’s a major question trying to figure out when a boat stops becoming a restoration and becomes a new boat.

I’m feeling the same about antique cars.

 

I have a small piece of the USS Constitution in my collection that was taken from the wood they replaced in the 1970s, which is one of my favorite pieces to be honest. 

 

For the Duesenberg, I agree that losing the closed bodies is such a shame. I much prefer the looks of a closed car than an open car. 

 

One thing I have not seen mentioned is that maybe the owner didn't care about judging and actually just wanted to drive the car.  Just a rumination, as Duesenbergs are well above my level, I have no insight other than a thought. 

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So lets take a 1929 Duesenberger chassis sold in 1932 .Custom Body with a not too bad looking low roof sporty sedan body.. 

It gets rolled over in 1939..and rebodied to a all weather phaeton(roll up windows with convertable top) or it sits till after the war and gets rebodied or a discarded sedan body fitted in 1949

That car is no good now?  

 

There have been Rolls Royces built in the teens and rebodied 3 times up to 1942 to keep up with the times.

So those are shxt cars?

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10 minutes ago, Flivverking said:

So lets take a 1929 Duesenberger chassis sold in 1932 .Custom Body with a not too bad looking low roof sporty sedan body.. 

It gets rolled over in 1939..and rebodied to a all weather phaeton(roll up windows with convertable top) or it sits till after the war and gets rebodied or a discarded sedan body fitted in 1949

That car is no good now?  

 

There have been Rolls Royces built in the teens and rebodied 3 times up to 1942 to keep up with the times.

So those are shxt cars?

I would not say that the car is “no good.”  It is a Duesenberg.  But the market will place a large discount compared to a no issue car.   
 

 

Rolls Royce and especially Bentley are different markets. 
 

Each car has its own market.  Look at corvettes where they care about the casting dates of various components to be a “numbers” car.   Most other car markets consider a frame , motor and body that left the factory a numbers car. 

 

Edited by Cadillac Fan (see edit history)
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Is that picture of a Duesenberg that still exists today,

or a picture of J356 before it had its new body installed?

 

If a car was rebodied by a coachbuilder while the car

was in general use, that's a bit different.  That's still a

part of history--not something Joe Smith's restoration shop did

because the owner wanted a more "expensive" looking car.

And remember that these cars were often unwanted,

inefficient cast-offs by the World War II period, so it's not

likely that many were rebodied by coachbuilders long past

their original production date.

 

54 minutes ago, alsancle said:

 

D89E9543-0B47-4CE8-A6CD-0D4EDEEC3F8F.jpeg

 

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25 minutes ago, John_S_in_Penna said:

Is that picture of a Duesenberg that still exists today,

or a picture of J356 before it had its new body installed?

 

If a car was rebodied by a coachbuilder while the car

was in general use, that's a bit different.  That's still a

part of history--not something Joe Smith's restoration shop did

because the owner wanted a more "expensive" looking car.

And remember that these cars were often unwanted,

inefficient cast-offs by the World War II period, so it's not

likely that many were rebodied by coachbuilders long past

their original production date.

 

 

Pretty sure that is the style of the car the engine of the Billings green tourister came from that started the thread.  In other words, a Duesenberg with that body was disassembled and the engine was used to create a Derham tourister in the first post.  

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2 hours ago, Shipping reccomendations said:

Edinmass: with what you said about pure  provenance, it’s surprising that the one owner Duesenberg that belong to Coburn in West Hartford Ct. that sold about 3 or 4 years ago didn’t bring more money. From my understanding it was all original except for a White truck transmission.

 

 

Define all the money and state body style and coach builder please. And,  transmission is IMPOSSIBLE to get............so depending on the car........deduct 125 to 175k and possibly more. Also, if the mechanicals need to be gone through add another 150k. And 40K for new wheels and tires. It starts to add up. And we didn't mention the time value of money for the year to eighteen months waiting to get the car done. 

Edited by edinmass (see edit history)
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1 hour ago, Flivverking said:

So lets take a 1929 Duesenberger chassis sold in 1932 .Custom Body with a not too bad looking low roof sporty sedan body.. 

It gets rolled over in 1939..and rebodied to a all weather phaeton(roll up windows with convertable top) or it sits till after the war and gets rebodied or a discarded sedan body fitted in 1949

That car is no good now?  

 

There have been Rolls Royces built in the teens and rebodied 3 times up to 1942 to keep up with the times.

So those are shxt cars?

 

 

No one used the term shit cars...........the market dictates price. A rebody was at one time more valuable than a ugly sedan......NOT ANYMORE. Dates of body swaps do affect value. Cars that were restored side by side in the 50's in the same shop that were pure and ended up scrambled..........today are getting the owners back together and unscrambling the cars, even if they are 100 points. Why? Because the value added from a scramble to correct could add seven figures to the value.........many just re restore the car and get a fresh car with additional value on the outside. 

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I took this picture at the Buick Club National Meet in Strongsville, Ohio in 1977. I owned a 1939 Buick at the time and I was 28 years old. The picture is still with me today as well as the profound realization I had about my mission to save automotive history in the form of full sized cars for the future. Don't worry about it. In some manner or another it's been saved. There is no shortage.

 

39Buicks.JPG.9916e64144b802a042ce87c35ffeecd5.JPG

 

In the case of those coach-built bodies of the period, I have been under the cosmetics of those bodies built in caves where the real skill was hiding spilled body lead, pounded joints, and wooden splints. Those repops of the 1950's through '90's are light years ahead of the caveman originals. And today! If Maurice Schwartz stopped by my garage and saw my MIG welder he would be so excited I wouldn't be able to get him up to town to try the 2 slice of pizza and 32 oz. fountain drink for $5.

 

I just smiled real big thinking of the commotion I would cause at Bohman & Schwartz if I pulled up with my Chevy Avalanche while they were putting the truck grille on the Topper Buick.

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16 minutes ago, alsancle said:

B&S was not known for quality construction.

Nor, apparently was Darrin and his 'cut-'n-paste' custom Packards, as coined by the late Jim Hollingsworth!

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Pretty sure I won’t be in this stratosphere anytime soon but as an outside observer, I’d be tickled to own or drive this car. To each his own but I don’t understand any issues with who did the work whether it be 1932 or 2010. A guy or group of guys took drawings on a piece of paper and used their skill to shape panels into art. None were mass produced in a stamping as far as I know so my hunch is old timers would have been thrilled to build customs with more modern equipment if possible instead of a mallet.

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38 minutes ago, alsancle said:

B&S was not known for quality construction.


Or good looking stuff 90 percent of the time. 

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9 minutes ago, deaddds said:

Pretty sure I won’t be in this stratosphere anytime soon but as an outside observer, I’d be tickled to own or drive this car. To each his own but I don’t understand any issues with who did the work whether it be 1932 or 2010. A guy or group of guys took drawings on a piece of paper and used their skill to shape panels into art. None were mass produced in a stamping as far as I know so my hunch is old timers would have been thrilled to build customs with more modern equipment if possible instead of a mallet.


 

you get on a plane, and fly to Paris, to go to the Louvre and look at the Mona Lisa. 
 

or you can type it up on your computer and look at it on your screen. I can tell you that it’s not the same experience. 

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I love reproduction cars.  I am thinking of SWB 250 Ferraris, the recent Jaguar reproduction cars.  I think muscle car clones are cool, and have no problem making  a hemi car out of a 318.
 

BUT, they are what they are.  And to not understand why and original car is worth more and more desirable I find puzzling.  
 

 

Yes, a bitza Duesenberg is cool.  But not as great as something that was originally produced in 1929. 

Edited by Cadillac Fan (see edit history)
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42 minutes ago, 58L-Y8 said:

Nor, apparently was Darrin and his 'cut-'n-paste' custom Packards, as coined by the late Jim Hollingsworth!

 

My enlightened self interest stopped me from naming Dutch as a hammer man.

 

Build quality in US coachbuilders goes something like this:

 

1.  Brewster

2.  Dietrich

3.  Lebaron

4.  Rollston

5.  Murphy

6.  A bunch of guys

7.

8.

99. B&S

 

After I buy a B&S Duesenberg I will edit this list so please do not quote me.

 

 

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2 minutes ago, alsancle said:

 

My enlightened self interest stopped me from naming Dutch as a hammer man.

 

Build quality in US coachbuilders goes something like this:

 

1.  Brewster

2.  Dietrich

3.  Lebaron

4.  Rollston

5.  Murphy

6.  A bunch of guys

7.

8.

99. B&S

 

After I buy a B&S Duesenberg I will edit this list so please do not quote me.

 

 

How about derham?

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3 hours ago, Billy Kingsley said:

 

I have a small piece of the USS Constitution in my collection that was taken from the wood they replaced in the 1970s, which is one of my favorite pieces to be honest. 

 

For the Duesenberg, I agree that losing the closed bodies is such a shame. I much prefer the looks of a closed car than an open car. 

 

One thing I have not seen mentioned is that maybe the owner didn't care about judging and actually just wanted to drive the car.  Just a rumination, as Duesenbergs are well above my level, I have no insight other than a thought. 

 

Also known as George Washington's axe.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ship_of_Theseus

 

In the metaphysics of identity, the ship of Theseus is a thought experiment that raises the question of whether an object that has had all of its components replaced remains fundamentally the same object. The concept is one of the oldest in Western philosophy, having been discussed by Heraclitus and Plato by c. 500–400 BC.

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2 minutes ago, Cadillac Fan said:

How about derham?

 

I think middle of the pack,  but in fairness I've never seen the inside of one - I was too young when the Pascucci Tourster was apart in the shop.

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1 hour ago, edinmass said:

 A rebody was at one time more valuable than a ugly sedan......NOT ANYMORE. Dates of body swaps do affect value. Cars that were restored side by side in the 50's in the same shop that were pure and ended up scrambled..........today are getting the owners back together and unscrambling the cars, even if they are 100 points. Why? Because the value added from a scramble to correct could add seven figures to the value.........many just re restore the car and get a fresh car with additional value on the outside. 

Ed,

           What became of all those "original" bodies from these revisioned cars?  Were they simply tossed on the scrap heap?

Greg

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