Lifestyles of the rich and the famous indeed. Back in 1935 this one-off Duesenberg SJ553 cost a hefty $20,000 at a time when the average car cost $625 and the average house cost around $3,400. Proportionally, something like this Duesenberg would cost nearly $1 million today, however luxury cars of this magnitude are a thing of the past. The closest thing still around would be a Rolls Royce Phantom, but even that costs about half as much as this Duesie would.
This SJ553 was commissioned by Mars Candy Company heiress, Ethel Mars, and served as the ultimate status symbol of its day. It was even featured in Time Magazine in 1936 being hailed as the costliest car in the United States. Similar to a Bugatti Veyron today, supercharged Duesenbergs were some of the most powerful cars of their era. This SJ553 is one of only 36 factory supercharged Duesenbergs built, with an impressive 320hp being produced by its 420ci (6.9L) dual overhead cam Straight 8 engine.
In addition to its staggering price and performance, the SJ553 was one of the most elegantly styled Duesenbergs around. Its sinister Art Deco bodywork appears to have been draped gently over the underpinnings of its massive frame. The SJ553 was a sight to be seen, even surrounded by other stunning Duesenbergs at the 2014 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance. Let it serve as a glimpse into the wonders of a bygone era of the automobile.
-Photos by Nick Walker