THE ONLY MODEL-J DUESENBERG IN ENGLISH CAPTIVITY iHi UK Ill! It I.I.) VI’, I tt1:1.11 1929
Ihteseaberg. madel-.1 Barker .seiI,,,u,i 1/r. CS. Phillips phoPoprophe,1 in the grounds ?,1 his house in “nervy. F4AST year, when I started this series, M. C. S. Phillips, of I Windlesham, wrote to tell Me that he had what is believed to
be the only model4 Duessenberg in captivity in ibis country. Here, indeed, was a ” white elephant” worthy of inclusion, but Mr. Phillips is a perfectionist and it was not until last February that he considered his car to he sufficiently complete for me to sample it.
Then, on a cold but sunny Sunday morning, I was invited to go for a drive along Surrey roads in this rare and splendid motor car. When I arrived at the owner’s beautiful house his Ditesenberg Barker sedanea stood in the drive, its well-proportioned lines making it look more compact than a Rolls-Royce, although, in fact, it is the larger car. As soon as the great 6.8-litre straight-eight, twin-overhead camshaft, 265-h.p. engine was warm, Mr. Phillips took to the A 30 road and from
the manner in which he d his great car in and out of the stream of traffic that was on its way to a motorcycle scramble, 1 realised that he had complete confidence in the steering and brakes. The efficiency of the fatter was den fffff Nirated to me outside a certain Speed Shop, when my driver pulled up the three tons of motor car reassuringly, on locked wheels. Then, along winding roads, I saw how the Duesenherg could be cornered fast with a minimum of roll.
This is indeed a great automobile, The engine is as sibilant as that of a Rolls-Royce until the accelerator is depressed, when a hard awl purposeful note accompanie: astonishingly deceptive acceleration. In no time at all the car is cruising at an easy 70 m.p.h. The central gear-lever and the facia are typically top-class American in style but I have never sat behind a more completely-equipped dashboard—there is the control for adjusting the power Of the brakes servo to suit conditions a ice, snow, rain or dry roads, the indicator
lights telling that the automatic chassis lubrication is acting correctly and reminding the owner—or his paid driver—when to drain the sump and top-up the battery, and the brake pressure gauge which was fitted as standard. Nor had I met pres Musty a tachometer of ribbontype, to match the ribbon speedometer.
I was impressed, too, by the comfort of this great American car. In front the driver and his passenger Occupy a comparatively narrow compartment, snug and secure in eomfortable seats, but the closed ” back parlour ” is luxurious to the highest degree, upholstered in the finest grade leather and lavishly equipped. The forward view is pleasing, because the long bonnet is impressive yet quite annealboyant.
As the drive progressed I learnt of Mr. Phillips’ infectious enthusiasm for this Duesenberg. 11though he owns two HollssRoyees, one a Phantom III, a Mereedes-Benz, and other ears, he considers the modekl the best of them all. I heard of the enormous pains—and expense—that restoration of this car, which he obtained in a disreputable state from the stable of Sir Ralph Mallais, has entailed. Of parts collected one at a time from a great distance, of restoration carried out by old craftsmen at Hoopers and elsewhere, of how RollsRoyce were persuaded to chromium-plate the wheels at a cost of, was it £300 r Of the sheer painstaking perfection with which the mechanical parts of this rare chassis have been restored. Although speed—some 116 tn.p.h.—was not considered by the manufacturers as h? ally means the most important feature of the car, the twin-cam 32-valve engine is certainly an unusual one to find under the long bonnet of this luxury sedanca. although it certainly to endear the Duesenberg to the enthusia.t. It i.. 11101,01 that only fist del-is came to England and this car is the • which Barker is on their stand in the coachutwk section of the 1929 Motor Show. Its present owner has acquired sit oittelt information about the Doe.ciallerg and knows thc car he and his wile have restored so well. that I gladly hand 1I5 er to him for a ter! Jai and historical iippreciat of a quite staggeringly breath-taking and unique—and
Ner? active-white elephain.”—W. B. X” I -I \ -NINE the day of Al The Singing I: 11,1 er 1%,:llf111 111 1111 early 1111,•11,011, 1111 ill1.r; of the Cral Zeppelin anti the air,hito R.101. ‘the too-I:jean ‘,lump ita, aboo.t to echo in liritallo. and inerlea hail .1,1,1 1,0111 the ,ortalle,t and ii, /1 ti,. largest car, in the timid. The ” was It hoor-c‘looler air-cooled iL,i.i on a tilicellonsi• of -) ft.. is 1111 :111 overall
letc4lli 01 7 11. (I ill.: the 1.111ef it its lite I)tleselliterg. .1. d11.
is ol 12 ft. 9.1. in., an iii cmiii length 14 1, er In ft., aml.
21.7 brake hoir,e.poiver. the 1110,1 11011 o•rrill 111’01/11111011 as 111 1111. N,01111.. the III.. Ittitia slio1i 111 IA11111.011 tItat year there 5,15 all arra. of Inxiiri ears: von could bit.. a Ilispano Siliza. tor :tit Isotta-Frasellitii. a thoeolit. Nlinerva. l’aekaril. l’icreo. 1rroit or it large It111k. it fri.tu 0.57:1 for a Cadillac 1111
to almo,t 1:2,51111, Hut oser ott the Duesenherg stand, a bar,. listed at 1:2,389 and a 1.01111111.11. aunt to :11111074 t3.500 tIe ion a, !lie world had ever ,Ven. Iii lact. the Itmesetilherg. In ith its glittering chrome wire is heels, cost almost hall agalin the 11″,‘ rr”in h’11″”
yoco van judge if thi, th,parity in price was justified b? the r,,,Ts. ihe 1)11e,eitberg 1 … gall in 1926. SiN years earlier. al Day lona. a Ditesetilierg hall rill, at 156.111 m.p.h. a record to stand unbroken until 1927: and -o, closely w a, raving practier reflected ito the design cd the new Ihmsenherg that an almost ,tantlard model, lbongll lilted with II ,IIPer’ilargl’r u huh “I”. late’ as,iilu}tIi’ “” production cars, rail it tus er 152 m.p.h. for an hour ‘cud. perhap es et( noire e. kept tip an average of 135.17 m.p.h. for 21 hours. Fitted o it ii passenger bootie,. produet ion ears would go op toe about 1341 m.p.h. (not to mention 1)12 m.p.h. in second gear): them. (Motels ‘o ere littm u ithi th‘ centrifugal supercharger. and Ow top speed of ears without it (such as the writer’s model .1) was about 116 m.p.h, in top and 91/ in second. or a little dependent oil the lyre of coachwork fitted. 111 car. Uhiltever the coaellw ark. would clic 1(111
m.p.h_ or more. 1 base mentioned speed first in order to dispose oil’ it. for 111(17,6(11110 evenii gh it approached ass Orhil record not IOW: broken. never It leallire of the car. and in sale, promotion was seldom’ men
tioned: it was just one lir thing, .?011 got. al”ttlz s. jib It Onv’en’.
berg. Apart from the fitting id a supereharger_ and detailed elcatsges to
‘moot tttttt Mate it. the design of the I’ii iseinained unchanged throughout it life. front 1929 to 1937, ‘I i.e chassis was. designed on alternati.t. wheelleasics of II rt. In,: in. u,tuj 12 ft. 9:!, in. Thin: even the ” short ‘• model was a larger car than, say, the liolls-111,?.coc Phantom’ III, while the it% erall length of the loug-w heelbase mode! illustrated is 19 ft. 2 in. line. ever. to exten,in e use of aluminium. as well as mod’ fooring out. the Cilr is light for its bilge size. weighing 21 ions Any doubts as to it, sturdiness are quick!) dispelled by a look at it-. astounding frame. which is made of alloy steel 7/32ncl-. of an inch thiek almost iptarter-ineh Sertion, are 8.1., in. deep. braced lo) ,ix cross-members and in .k -type diagonal brave near the frout. not
unlike that on the cce Phantom I chassis. for size. ‘Chit brace on the Phantom I is I in. fluids mill in, long: that on the litie,enberg. 2 in. t hie). and 21 in. long. Th,.. mid 011,..r ruelors in an ,,ttert ttttt +1.1.11 1111 1111’1 other car : stand III1 the running-board of the Ihie,enberg outol try to rock the car inni y-ott find it ,ant In. 111111V, Tilt’ 1.111 ire front end. ,ta?ing perfectly level as from side to side. just rises and halls sec-) -lightly. Thus it kat. 011 a wist y road. the Ihtesenberg corner, as if om rails. without a vestige of roll. at ,peeris e0/1,,iderati(1) greater than are possible w ith ‘any other
large car. By waxof illustration. I w as on Inv way tow ards Guildford Lite -other day in the Ditesenberg when I I.:nit:ill up suit 1i Ii 1.11.1-1111,‘ tug mmoreveli,t who. glaneing (us-pi’ his shoulder iti a bend. noted I sits not far 111’11111(1, rh, road beemning 1’tear of traffic. ue both inereto,ed ‘peed, t he motorcyclist leaning lar itcw arils in order to take the bend,. The road ca tr. too leo i,t y to overtake in comfort. so ihiescniterr, behind and Judd an even pace. Later, approitelling It parked car, the iiiiitore? :danced perlitiletiirily liver /tit, shoulder
and his astounded expression when he saw 1111. Ihm,ettlocrg :dill there It’d him to ease lip slightly: so 1 %% pot by gniekly and, apart front Ii brief sliocii it, the min of. neVer ,itNe him ;again. ..ts, regards performance and handling, the features of the Ihcesett. berg. as of man% at trill iv’. ears, are well balanced. Speed there certainly is, and also ,cceeleration: from In m.p.h. to Mt in top takes Ii’,,,, 22 to 311 dependent 1111 11011y 101’11% power and torque being so :xi-ranged that there is ciboont IIICI b.h.p. al :my speed for
acceleration. The brako••• which are hydraulic al111 sPrs-11-aSA1S11.11. 111111. fool1.1-in. 2: in. wide. Gentle toe pre:sure produces 2fIn lb. ‘mi, in, land i:oh that is nei-e,lary for normal upping, alibi) nail the system still gise SI10 It Nil. iii. ii rtuuiireil. Th.. degree of aSsistance is adiu-lable by a lever on the instrument panel whirl’ ha, four setting,. 14y-1i:tin-Snow -Ice.— lit use_ the brakes are idiotst do
om:4 pow refill I fia? o’ 11S1.11 which., perhaps, is nod surprising. sitter it io’ais Illie,•1111Prg 10111 I ” •ered hydraulic. brake, in America. The arrangement tilt lip brake phd on ii. the front wheels is ‘tart icularly ingenious. the piston being the king-pin, long o ith out,tandirot lived, acceleration and braking there is also wide flexibility. the car 11111111118 smoothly doss uu to :thou’ 8 m.p.h, in lop 2oar. ‘nt it
ohivil [nice 11 1,111 111111 …may es luul ss ilIuutit Any. ” period.”
The engine was de-igned as a straight-eight ilv t aeluilde lae ail of chrome nickel steel and an aluminium crankcase. l’istmt• anti connecting roils ore 1.1 coluntinicun alloy, heal-treated. llore atiol stroke core 31 . 111.. g11 ittg a 1•111111.1t y Of 1-20 111, or approxiniatel? 7.1itres. with a compression-ratio of 3.2 to 1. 1.11111 IIs (.1111.O1 ,-.1111011111,. eadi a yarll long. and chain driven. operate 1?1111′ .11, 111.1′ cylinder. in fully machined combust” chamber,
11.1, Mijil?ter :Ind Clive(‘ intervene between ram-lobo. .1,11 ‘..1,c•-.to.:11. The e..ankshaft is a chrome niekel steel forging
With five main bearings each 21 in. in diameter, and varying in length
from 1; in. to 3 in. The engine is rubber-mounted at six points, and inereury•filled cartridges are bolted to the crank cheek, the movement of the mercury checking any vibration at its source. A complete system of fully-forced lubrication is provided, with oilpressure readily adjustable by spanner at a fitting on the near side of the engine. Fuel supply from the 20-gallon tank is by triple electric pump housed in the frame side-member, and, in addition, by a mechanical bellows pump driven by the left accessory shaft and so feeding in proportion to the speed of the engine. Dual Schebler carburetters are used, with a common float chamber (of about a pint capacity !), and the inlet jacket is water-heated. Fuel consumption works out at about 101 m.p.g., which could no doubt be improved if the car were driven sedately
Cooling is by honeycomb radiator, with external thermostatic shutters readily adjustable for range by a simple nut. An enormous reserve of cooling is available, the correct adjustment in this country being shutters almost completely closed. In addition, two large hand-operated side ventilators are provided towards the rear of the bonnet, whelt is louvred. Plugs, valve-guides and cylinders are water-jacketed all round and for their entire operative length. External finish of the engine is green enamel, with all bright parts either chromium plated or of polished aluminium. The six-volt electrical system operates single ignition through two coils.
Some American writers have claimed that the original Dueeenberg headlamps were not too effective, so we are lucky perhaps, in having Marche! Strilux 12 in. reflectors inside the original Duesenberg headlamp shells, which were of a special design. Two large batteries are used, housed one either side in the running-board valances, and a charging socket is available beneath the instrument panel on either side.
The exhaust system has some unusual features. First, the exhaust header is covered in black porcelain-enamel and is a yard long, with main passages 4 in. in diameter. This discharges into a $ in, pipe leading to the 54 in.-long silencer. By using a controlling lever by the near-side front seat, the gases can be made to pass either through the body of this, following a deflected course through perforated baffles, or this system can be by-passed and the gases released via a” straight. through “system, the latter giving just a little more power at the cost of a sharper exhaust note. The two systems end in a dual aluminium tailpiece. Power is transmitted from the engine via a two-plate dry disc clutch, incorporating a vibration damper similar to that used on the Rolls-Royce. There is a three-speed gearbox, of which bottom gear is definitely only an emergency ratio and normally used only up to walking pace, the spacing between this and the silent second gear being considerable. Second gear is in constant mesh and is engaged by movement of a light splined shaft, this arrangement permitting a quick and light change even at speeds up to 60 m.p.h. When maximum acceleration is required, this is in fact the best speed at which to change up to top, it being still only two-thirds of the available speed in that gear. Alternatively, top gear can be used, if one is feeling lazy, at anything over about 10 m.p.h. and still provide good acceleration. A torque tube encloses the peopeller shaft, the front end of which is supported in a large aluminium rubber-mounted yoke. Two universal joints, one metal, one rubber, isolate both vibration and larger movement. Final drive is by a hypoitl bevel set 2 in. below centre. The axle shafts are almost 2-1 in. in diameter and bored out for lightness, the pinion gear being forged integrally with its hollow
shaft. The 19 in. centre-lock chrome wire wheels carry 7.00 19 tyres, with two spares mounted in the wings from which, however, they are held clear. Incidentally, each securing bolt for the spare wheels is 6 in. across, over a foot long, and ineorporates a Yale-type lock. A ” one-shot” ‘chassis lubrication system is provided, operated automatically by the engine every 70 miles, tell-tale lights on the
instrument board confirming that this is done and also indicatingeach 700 miles that engine oil should be changed and each 1,400 that the battery water needs topping up.
Suspension is by 1-elliptic springs front and rear, the rear springs being 62 in. long. All springs are gaitered. Shackles are of large size with bronze bushings in protective housings. and are supplied with Oil from the centralised system. Double-acting hydraulic shockabsorbers are fitted front and rear.
Besides being all-embracing, the instrument hoard deserves special mention, for it is surely one of the most beautiful ever produced. Of slightly curved shape, the surface is of brass, which has been given the effeet of engine-turning and afterwards lacquered. Most panels were lacquered black, but I’m glad to say ours is brown, which tones well with the polished walnut screen-rail and brown leather upholstery. The panel is enclosed in a narrow chromiumplated strip, and at either end of it is a small locker, one wall of which has been made removable for better access to instruments and the other turned into a golden mesh grille which, at option, can dig. chargefresh air drawn from the front of the car. The panel is lighted by two pendant lights fitted with diffusers, with the intensity controlled by rheostat. The instruments comprise the signal lights already referred to, the brake adjustment lever, with its dial, ammeter, brake pressure gauge, rev.-counter. eight-day clock with stop mechanism, fuel, oil and temperature gauges, 150 m.p.h. speedonteter and the usual switches, plus some extras mounted just beneath the panel and so out of sight. These are heater controls, reversing-light switch, fresh-air-intake lever, Klaxon horn button, spot-light switch, and lever for operating the flashing-light turn indicators, for which there is also a tell-tale on the panel. All instruments have white figures on black dials and a small detail indicative of the care taken in planning is that the needles of all instruments, when at rest, lie parallel—ndetail which contributes to neatness of this array.
Now the alert reader—not to mention Duesenberg enthusiasts overseas—will by this time be saying, ” But flashing indicators weren’t in vogue in 1929.” And the account of certain other fittings may draw more vivid, if less factual, comment front purists here and abroad. Let me therefore say that, while it is true that for convenience we have added one or two things to the original equipment, we have tried, wherever this has been done, to make the addition invisible, at least to the cursory glance. Thus the turn indicators are concealed in the body of the existing side lamps; the tell-tale occupies what, on a left-hand-drive car, would have been the position of the ignition switch, and the operating lever is out of sight anyway ! And whilst on this subject. there is a somewhat similar point it brings to mind. There are occasional ears which carry such a variety of badges that, if one were to do them justice, there would scarcely be time to look at the cur. With the Duesenberg, We could fall into the same error if we fitted all the badges of the Clubs and Societies who have helped us in restoring it; and since to fit one and not others could offend, we have decided that the car will carry no badge of any kind. It also carries no name, except for the British Licence disc and an original plaque under the bounet on the centre of the dash. For all that, I’d bet that anyone who has once seen the car will know it again !
So far as restoration is concerned, we were lucky to find the car in as good shape as we did. Even so, we hesitated, for though we’d known, my wife and I, for some years of Duesenbergs and what they could do, we had no mechanical knowledge of them.
Much of the first year was spent in getting information, all of which had to come from America, and I exchanged about 140,000 words of queries, instructions and advice freely given by both friends and strangers. So, gradually, we learned what to do, where to get parts and how to fit them.
While this was going on, we had gone ahead with the bodywork. The car earned a Barker sedanca body with winding glass division.
The front flexible roof rolled up, the side-members swinging inwards for stowage. The rear compartment ‘carried two inward-facing occasional seats, and was mounted on the long chassis. Moth was rampant. the glass orange and the rear floor had been cut and two batteries half sunk into it. a new false floor resting on top of them. Bumpers, horns, electric pumps, part of the bonnet hinge, keys, radiator cap and other oddments were missing. Re-wiring was necessary and clock, fuel gauge. Klaxon and tank filler cap were not working. Chrome and carpets needed renewal and the wheels re-spoking. The head-lining just crawled away by itself.
These matters were put right, not without heart-searing moments and lavish consumption of sedatives. One such moment was when the metal hub supporting the steering wheel, after replating, was dropped and broke in pieces. Another was when the urgently awaited and irreplaceable chassis oil pump, after repair in America, was delivered in error to an old furniture shop in Knightsbridge.
Restoration had moments of other emotion, too. When new rope. pulls arrived for fitting, the originals having been too dirty to clean up, it was clear that the close crochet work at the handle end of the ” pull ” was of much wider mesh than it should be. ” Yes,” it was agreed, ” it is. But there is only one man left now who does these. In fact, he’s retired but did these as a favour. He said he knew they’re not as they should be, but it’s the best he can manage. He’s over 80, you see, and Ilia sight’s going.” The panel clock was another difficulty; no-one in England could, or would, repair it. Eventually. it was done for us in Switzerland, to where a friend took it and brought it back.
Other gaps were filled after scouring juttk-yards, with regrets that these bore little resemblance to the siert deposits known to dx.b3t in the States ! Wipers were a special problem. The originals had their bulky motors on the screen itself, where they largely blocked the view. 13ut between the base of the screen and the top of the dash there was a bare 8 mm. clearance while the screen-rail had no space for wiper meters or gear’s. To solve this, the sides of the screen-rail were re-made into a slight bulge, large enough to take the tiny gear we designed. This consisted of two gear wheels set at an angle, one driving a shaft through the IS mm, clearance to the wiper blade and the other driven by a 24 in.-long shaft running down under the dash to a remote motor in the engine compartment.
If Wipers were difficult, the fitted trunk was easy. Answering an advertisement. we were lucky enough to rind a Brooks fitted trunk, made in the 1920s, which had never been used. It was perfect. We had telephoned, and were 10 min. ahead of the next applicant !
Body restoration work has mostly been done for us by troopers, who for many years had looked after the English State Coach, not to mention many of the Royal ears. Under their care, leather work cleaned up well and with woodwork repolished the interior began to look very Stuart. Wood capping is of figured walnut, slightly curved. Before restoration work was complete, however, news came that troopers were going to close down aria the work then became a race against time. In fact, troopers closed their doors on the lust day of Last October : amidst the turmoil and distress of a factory closing down, work had continued on the Duesenberg and now a few men stayed on to complete it.
So it was that, fourteen days after troopers had closed, we went to an empty factory to collect the car. At times, it had been difficult to get round it : now, it stood alone in the middle of the empty floor. After starting up, it made a wide sweep through the empty factory dOWn to the exit and thence to the front of the building, where I photographed it with flooper’s Manager and some of those wile had helped with its restoration, the last job to lie done by these famous coaelibuilders.
Our Duesenberg had first taken the road on November 18th, 1929. So, four days after getting the car back, we held a small ceremony. We had deliberately kept back the dashhoard cloek and now my wife pushed this home and the car was again complete, thirty years to the day after its first registration.
Those thirty years have proved the Duesenberg, as nothing else could have done, for of the 470 made, more than two-thirds are still running. to-day. In 1929 an average Duesenbcrg cost $16,000 and sales of a ea: at that price were necessarily only to the few. But in spite of its price, far above the next dearest, the Daesenberg not only sold but kept on selling. right through the 1929/30 World depression and years beyond it, to 1937, when sales stopped only because its sponsor, E. L. Cord, transferred both time and capital to aviation. For as long as the car was made, it was bought by prominent people all over the world. Its owners included Kings and Princes, Maharajas, leading industrialists such as Fleischmann, William Randolph Hearst, Roger Kahn, Kreug,er, Scripps, Wanamaker and Wrigley, to name but a few. It was used by Marion Davies, Gary Cooper, by Mae West and Greta Garbo, and it went all over the world toConcours &Elegance, many of which it won. It was fitted with coachwork by Castagna of Italy, Graber of Switzerland, Van den Plus of Belgium, Fernandez and Darrin, Franay, Saoutchik and others in France, by Barker and Gurney Nutting in England, not to mention the best coachbuilders of the U.S.A., of whom now only Derhant remain independent.
The very high proportion of Duesenbergs still running has had two results : firstly. a complete service Of spare parts is available, with a number of experts to advise on maintenance; and secondly, the re-sale value of a well-kept Duescnberg has stayed high. AS I write, I have in front of Me some advertisententa which have just appeared in a club periodical in the States : a big Mercedes-Benz is priced at $1,500, a 1930 Isotta-Fraschini at $1,750; a Packard is offered at $2,000; a Pierce-Arrow at $3,500. There is also on the list a 1929 Duesenberg. It is the first one I have seen advertised for some time. for they don’t change hands very often. If you -want it, I will pass on the address the price is $7,650—over £2,700 ! For, though it is thirty-one-years old now, a 1929 Duesenberg in good shape can still travel faster, more comfortably, and More luxuriously, than most cars on the road to-day.
Bought by the Great, surviving the Slump, used the World over, and with two-thirds still running, the Dueaenberg has not only held its price differential, but has increased it with the years. In the words of Mr. Borgeaon writing in True’s ” Automobile Yearbook ” :-” Nothing—absolutely nothing–like the model J Duesenberg had ever been produced itt the world before. Nothing, has been since.”