Published January 11, 2013
The 1934 Duesenberg J Murphy LWB Custom Beverly Sedan (Lot #5004) offered at Barrett-Jackson’s Scottsdale auction ranks among the world’s most-desirable and valuable pre-war classic cars.
With a striking and impressive body created by the Walter M. Murphy Company of Pasadena, Calif., which was a major coachbuilder for Duesenberg, this extravagant craft from the Golden Age of motoring will cross the block on Saturday, Jan. 19, as part of Barrett-Jackson’s Salon Collection of top-drawer collector cars.
The legendary Duesenberg Model J was conceived in the late 1920s as a grand touring car that would be America’s answer to the great luxury marques of Europe, such as Rolls-Royce, Mercedes-Benz and Isotta Fraschini. The huge chassis for such a craft was designed by Frederick Duesenberg, who with his brother, August, had engineered their company’s highly successful racing efforts, as well as their less profitable venture into automobile production.
Like many luxury automobiles of its day, the Duesenberg Model J was purchased as an unbodied chassis and running gear – including its magnificent straight-eight engine – that would be assigned by the buyer to one of America’s greatest coachbuilders, such as LeBaron, Rollston or LaGrande. This was an expensive proposition, as the chassis cost nearly $10,000, equivalent to well over 10 times that amount today. The custom coachwork could easily double that.
This Duesenberg Model J is one of 12 bodied by Murphy, and it is considered the finest one now in existence, with documented ownership history from 1934 to the present. A complete nut-and-bolt restoration to the highest possible quality was performed by Stone Barn Restorations of New Jersey.
A National First Prize winner from the Antique Automobile Club of America and the Classic Car Club of America, the Duesenberg sedan competed in more than 10 Concours d’Elegance events and reportedly never failed to win.
Duesenberg Inc. was purchased by the famed E.L. Cord in a bankruptcy sale, and it was Cord’s desire to market the mighty Model J to wealthy patrons who would appreciate, and could afford, the finest quality in motoring.
Duesenberg advertised the Model J as “The World’s Finest Motor Car,” and it became a favorite among the world’s rich and famous, including members of European nobility and top Hollywood celebrities. Duesenberg became synonymous with high style and elegance, and the well-known expression for greatness, “It’s a Duesy,” came directly from those who were awestruck by one.
The car’s stunning performance and unparalleled luxury details – the Model J was known for being as beautifully finished under the hood as it was in its passenger compartment – brought it to the highest level of the automotive world, where it remains today among the world’s most astute car collectors.
Bob Golfen, Automotive Editor for SPEED.com, is a veteran auto writer based in Phoenix, Arizona, with a passion for collector cars, car culture and the automotive lifestyle. SPEED.com fans can email Bob Golfen at email@example.com