1930 J Willoughby Duesenberg
Engine: #J-368, Straight 8 Dual Overhead Cam
Displacement: 420 Cubic Inches
Horsepower: 265 BHP
Top Speed: 119 MPH
Brothers Fred and August Duesenberg founded the Duesenberg Automobile and Motors Company in 1913. Although they were excellent engineers, they were not excellent businessmen and the company had limited sales success in its early years, even though their racing program did achieve several victories. E.L. Cord purchased the company in 1926 and challenged Fred Duesenberg to design an automobile that would be the best in the world. In February of 1928, the Duesenberg J Series was born.
In the showrooms, only the chassis and engine were displayed, since the interior and body of the car would be custom-made by an experienced coach builder to the owner's specifications. The chassis on most model Js were the same, as was the styling of such elements as fenders, headlamps, radiator, hood and instrument panel. The chassis cost $8,500. The completed base model cost between $13,000 and $19,000. Only two American-bodied Js reached $25,000 at a time when the average U.S. physician earned less than $3,000 a year.
Each Duesenberg has a story and this one is no exception. The original owner of this Duesenberg was Matt Kolb. A notorious political fixer and mafioso on the North side of Chicago, Kolb was also into bootlegging, gambling and speakeasies. Kolb was killed on October 25th, 1931, the same day Al Capone was convicted of income tax evasion. The press believed that Capone had Kolb killed either for refusing to contribute to Capone's defense fund or for refusing to appear as a witness for Capone by testifying that Capone had lost large sums of money to him in gambling debts, thus relieving Capone of a tax burden. The Chicago police thought it was more likely that Kolb was killed for trying to retake beer territory he had lost to Capone over the previous months. After Kolb's death, Capone sent a $100 horseshoe wreath to the funeral but Kolb's associate, Roger Touhy, tossed it in the trash behind the funeral home. A fierce battle broke out after Kolb's death in the streets of Chicago and the dirt roads of northwestern Cook County.
The next owner of this Duesenberg was David Smart, from 1923 to 1937. Smart was the founding editor of Esquire magazine in October, 1933. Esquire was known early for its racy pin up art from George Petty and Alberto Vargas. Both artists' work was used in the nose art of many World War II aircraft.
David Smart then sold the car and it was purchased by an up and coming radio star, Bret Morrison, who was from the Chicago area and had been hosting a radio show called the "First Nighter" Program. Bret went on to become the voice of the Shadow in the popular program for over ten years.
This vehicle is in outstanding condition and has been certified as a Category 1 Original car by the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg Club. Category 1 cars are said to be among the best examples of their kind, and carry their original coach work, as well as their chassis and motor. It is also a Classic Car Club of America Senior car.