1935 “J” DUESENBERG
Rollston Convertible Torpedo Victoria
Body No. 2597
Engine No. J-409
Only a few of these great automobiles received truly exotic coachbuilt bodies, this Rollston Convertible Torpedo Victoria is one of those few.
An exceptionally stylish design with swoopy front and rear fenders, rakish laid back windshield, long, low, sexy, wild! An American Classic that can stand up to even the most exotic European automobiles.
Four Convertible Torpedo Victorias were designed by Gordon Buehrig and produced by Rollston for Duesenberg clients. This is one of only two designed with the stylish scoop fenders, front and rear. It was delivered to its first owner, Curtis King of the famous Texas King Ranch, on July 22, 1935.
This Model Rollston Convertible Torpedo Victoria body (Number 2597) was transferred to the present chassis with Engine No. J-409 which was originally an SJ supercharged chassis and would be correct returning it to that designation. An original Duesenberg-bodied Rollston Torpedo Victoria body on an original Model J Duesenberg chassis. This is a fully recognized Classic having received both Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg Club & Classic Car Club of America Certified Category No. 1 Full Classic status.
Restoration was undertaken by internationally recognized Duesenberg authority and historian, Randy Ema in Orange, California.
Awarded Best In Class at the Pebble Beach Concours d’ Elegance and also presented the Pebble Beach Concours d’ Elegance Design Excellence Award.
The paint is miles deep burgundy color with tan top and saddle leather interior. The chassis is as perfectly restored as the exterior body finish and the mechanics are as new. Although started regularly and driven around the block, this point show car has logged very few miles since completion.
J-409 was invited back to the August 20, 2006 Pebble Beach Concours d’ Elegance and we decided to paint it again (2006) for this prestigious event. A great time was had by all as we participated in the Tour d’ Elegance, a fifty mile drive through Monterey and Carmel. Although a high point contender, having already won Best In Class we decided to enter it for display only and allow others to receive their first time awards.
A late 1940s photograph appears on Page 220 of Fred Roe’s book “Duesenberg, the Pursuit of Perfection” identified as J-573. A double full page photograph appears on Pages 38-39 of the Automobile Quarterly Duesenberg issue, Volume 30, #4. An Automobile Quarterly article titled “Regally Rollston” can be seen at http://www.autoquarterly.com/rollston.html. Other early unpublished photographs are on file with a complete photographic history of the meticulous restoration of this great automobile.
Launched at the 1928 New York Auto Show, the Duesenberg Model J was the result of a design process influenced by both Duesenberg’s rich racing heritage and owner Errett Lobban Cord’s demands. Cord envisioned the new Duesenberg to be the greatest American automobile ever. No expense was spared and a legend was created by the design team led by Fred Duesenberg. Today the name Duesenberg alone makes many automotive enthusiasts’ hearts beat faster.
“It’s a Duesie” is still a common expression today.
Duesenberg first stunned the world in 1921 by winning the French Grand Prix, the first and only American manufacturer to ever win the event. The three liter racer featured a state of the art eight cylinder and hydraulic drum brakes all-round. In the same year Duesenberg entered the passenger car market with the Model A. Many of the features that made the Grand Prix racer successful were found on the road car as well. The Model A was the first road car ever to be fitted with hydraulically operated drum brakes all-round.
Unlike the racing Duesenbergs, the road cars were not an immediate success. The Duesenberg brothers were great designers and engineers, but their business and marketing talents were limited. Poor sales results pushed Duesenberg to the edge of bankruptcy. E.L. Cord stepped in and bought the company. Cord decided to abandon the nimble Model A and requested Fred Duesenberg to design a large, luxurious and powerful to be bodied by various coach-builders.
Dubbed the “Model J”, the new Duesenberg was equipped with a wide variety of technical novelties. In its design the chassis was very simple with a ladder frame and solid axels front and rear. Six cross-members made sure the chassis was twist-free and could accommodate all body-types regardless of the body’s rigidity. An ingenious lubrication system was installed, which automatically started lubricating various parts of the chassis after sixty to eighty miles. Two lights on the dashboard indicated the lubrication progress and two others lit up at 750 and 1500 miles indicating the need for an oil change and battery check respectively.
It is the engine that really made the Model J stand out from its competition. With 32 valves, double overhead camshafts and a detachable head the eight cylinder engine was the most advanced engine ever designed in the United States. Displacing just under 6.9 liters, the engine produced an earthmoving 265 bhp, more than could be tested on any contemporary dynometer. Although the engine was designed by Fred Duesenberg, it was constructed by specialized engine-builder, Lycoming, also an E.L. Cord company.
Officially Duesenberg constructed rolling-chassis for coach-builders to body. A rolling chassis usually included all mechanical parts, the dashboard, front fenders, radiator grille, running boards, bumpers and optional swiveling spotlights. The chassis were shipped to coach-builders to be fitted with a body or the other way around. To make sure a wide variety of bodies was available at the launch, a blue-print of the upcoming car was sent to all major coach-builders six months before the New York show. From 1930 Duesenberg ordered bodies in small numbers and offered complete cars.
Despite the enthusiastic public response at the New York launch, sales were disappointing. The estimated production figure of 500 cars per year was never matched and eventually only 481 Model Js were constructed. An estimated 280 Model Js exist today. An extremely expensive automobile for the day, the Model J was popular with the rich and famous. Among the owners were many greats from the showbiz industry like Gary Cooper, Clark Gable, James Cagney and Greta Garbo. Various kings and queens were Model J owners as well. Part of the Duesenberg legend is based on the many famous owners.
A series of minor modifications were carried out during the production life, but most of the design remained the same up until the factory closed in 1937. First to go was the four-speed gearbox, which proved unable to handle the engine’s power. It was replaced by a unsynchronized 3-speed gearbox, which was fitted to all Duesenbergs to come.
Throughout the production run, the engine dimensions remained the same. An increase of 55 bhp was achieved by adding a supercharger. Only a handful of supercharged Model Js were constructed and they are commonly known as the Model SJ.
Production ceased in 1937. Today the Model J is considered to be one of the most legendary cars ever constructed. The combination of state-of-the-art racing inspired engineering, the era’s finest coach-building and the cars’ many famous owners have all contributed to that legend. One of the most told stories about the Model J underlined the engine’s incredible power; the Model J could smoothly accelerate from 10 mph to 89 mph in second gear.