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Duesenberg J

Duesenberg: the joy of driving. From early on, the company established itself with a rich heritage in motor sports. Works driver, Jimmy Murphy, was the first driver to race an American car to victory at the 1921 Lemans. This helped elevate Duesenberg name which was already associated as a world-class super-car.

Enter the Model J

During the early 1920s, racing efforts and the Duesenberg Model A caught the attention of Errett Loban Cord. He purchased Duesenberg Inc. of Indianapolis in bankruptcy court then set out to revive the marque. His first major step was commission one of the brothers, Frank Duesenberg, to design a grand touring chassis that would be American alternative to Rolls-Royce, Hispano-Suiza, Isotta-Fraschini, Mercedes-Benz and Minerva.

First seen at the 1928 New York Auto Show was the hulking Model J chassis. It weighted in at 2000 lbs without coachwork. Such a large chassis was grand enough to capture the car's intended market, America's elite. It was sold at $8 500 USD which would have been $90 000 in 2002. Prices for a bodied car varied from $15 000 to $20 000 USD.

Most cars were sold as a bare chassis to be fitted with an interior and body by a third party. Such artisans included LeBaron, Murphy, Derham with Rollston and LaGrande bodying later cars. In 1929 Gordon M. Buehrig became the chief designer and started to standardize the Duesenberg design language. His work included designing standard hoods, lights, radiators and bumpers.

Especially among the press, initial impression of the Model J chassis was favourable. With the boisterous figures released with the car, it was the fastest and most powerful American product. It was also one of the first American cars to have an engine compartment as finely detailed and worked over as it's exterior.

Model J In Detail

The engine was the technical highlight of the Model J. When Fred Duesenberg started the Model J project, he used developments learnt with the successful Indianapolis cars. Such refinements included four valves per cylinder and twin camshafts. The resulting engine was far more powerful than any engine built in America, with little roads that could satisfy the cars 265 horse power. In fact, the closest American engine to Duesenberg's was the 115 horse power Pierce Arrow unit.

It should be noted that the power figure of the Model J was based off a factory experimental car which was timed to offer a decent amount of peak horsepower. Most of the chassis received a conservative timing favouring low end toque and engine reliability. For most applications the Model J was a 205 to 210 horsepower vehicle with an impressive torque output of 335 ft lbs (454nm) at low 500 rpm! More specifics on the output can be found in Robert Dearborn's Technical Ramblings found in the 1953 May Road & Track.

Introduced in 1932, a supercharged variant of the Model J was offered called the SJ. This forced induction version raised power to 320 horses and increased the 116 mph top speed to 129 mph. The supercharger itself offered eight psi of boost @ 4000 rpm. Because the supercharger sat in the way of the exhaust manifold, all supercharged cars featured the well distinguished external exhaust system. This exhaust system featured chromium flex-pipe headers which could be ordered as an option on the standard Model J for $927 USD.

Both the chassis and suspension were quite conventional in design. Two deep pressed chassis side members, measuring eight inches tall, were sufficient to support any custom coachwork that would adorn it.

Special attention was paid to the handling and braking of the Model J. Specifically, the spring rates were equalized to provide a smooth ride and hydraulic assistance on the braking made stopping an ease. A knob on the dashboard could modify the level of assistance based on dry, rain, snow or ice conditions. For the period, this was remarkable technology.

Year 1930
Make Duesenberg
Model J Murphy Town Car
Engine & Transmission
Position Front Longitudinal
Configuration Lycoming Straight-8
Valvetrain DOHC 4 Valves / Cyl
Displacement 6876 cc / 419.6 cu in
Power 197.6 kw / 265.0 bhp @ 4200 rpm
Torque 507.08 nm / 374 ft lbs @ 2000 rpm
Bore 95.25 mm / 3.75 in
Stroke 120.6 mm / 4.75 in
Redline 4650
HP / Litre 38.54 bhp per litre
HP / Curb Weight 110.88 bhp per weight
Gear Type Warner Hy-Flew 3-Speed Manual
1st Gear Ratio 2.485:1
2nd Gear Ratio 1.397:1
3rd Gear Ratio 1.000:1
Final Drive Ratio 3.8, 4.1 4.3 or 4.7:1
Top Speed 186.7 kph / 116.0 mph
0 - 60 mph 13.0 seconds
Body / Chassis
Drive Wheels RWD
Curb Weight 2390 kg / 5269 lbs
Length Not Available
Width Not Available
Height Not Available
Wheelbase 3620 mm / 142.5 in
Front Track 1425 mm / 56.1 in
Rear Track 1425 mm / 56.1 in
Steering Ross Cam and Lever
Body / Frame Steel over Steel Ladder Frame
Front Brakes Drums w/Hydraulic Assist
Front Brake Size 381 mm / 15.0 in
Rear Brakes Drums w/Hydraulic Assist
Rear Brake Size 381 mm / 15.0 in
Front Wheels F 48.3 x 17.8 cm / 19 x 7 in
Rear Wheels R 48.3 x 17.8 cm / 19 x 7 in
Front Tires Not Available
Rear Tires Not Available
Front Suspension Rigid Axle w/Semi-Elliptic Springs, Hydraulic Shock Absorbers
Rear Suspension Live Axle w/Semi-Elliptic Springs, Hydraulic Shock Absorbers