The sale of a matching-numbers, unmolested original Duesenberg as it was delivered new from the Indianapolis manufacturer, is news in and of itself. Add in the fact it has only been owned by women and you have an extra dimension to this story.
That’s the case with a 1929 Duesenberg J Convertible Coupe sold at Morphy Auction recently. It was originally ordered by a steel magnate’s wife, given to a doctor’s wife, and then owned by two more women before being sold at auction for $2.53 million.
Over its 86 years, this Duesenberg J Convertible Coupe has been driven a comparatively short distance with only slightly more than 33,000 miles on the odometer. Maybe its longest road trip was from Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania to Battle Creek, Michigan where its original owner was treated for tuberculosis in the early 1940s.
It appears she spent a long time there. She gifted the then 21-year old car to her doctor’s wife in January 1950. The missus kept it for 30 months (maybe she wanted something newer?) before selling it in June 1952 to another woman. She kept it for nine years before selling it to Katherine Hedburn in April 1961.
It would stay in her and her husband’s collection for 54 years before finally being sold to a man, thus ending its reign of female ownership probably unmatched in automotive history. Oprah really should have bought this car.
So, what did the unidentified Florida owner get for his money? A car with unique coachwork by the Walter M. Murphy Company of Pasadena, California that was further customized by its original owner. She needed a Packard trunk rack framed with chrome, and a Packard trunk fitted with four cases – a dress case, two overnight cases and a hat box. It was one of 60 convertibles the Murphy company would make for Duesenberg between 1926 and 1932 when production of the car ceased.
Mechanically, the Duesenberg J Convertible Coupe had a Lycoming-built 420-cubic-inch straight-eight producing 265 horsepower at 4,200 rpm. At the time that made it the most powerful engine on the market.
Since its original days, the body has never been removed from the chassis and much of the car remains as it was delivered from new, including paint. In September 2005, according to Morphy Auctions, the gas tank was removed and cleaned and the interior treated. At the same time, the head was removed (without removing the fenders), the valves lapped, and the valve stem tolerances set. The pan was dropped and new rings installed. In all, she is a fantastic specimen and looks to be in marvelous conditions, worthy of its price.