Six months back, Nick, Shane, and I were all in attendance at the 2015 Concours of America, over in Plymouth MI. Nick’s shown us all the highlights and I’ve done a few features on one or two muscle cars and a set of dry-lake race cars, as well as a very unique Corvette. However, nothing gets in front of Best of Show, and at this show, one award is given to the best American car, and one is given to the best imported car. The winners this year genuinely embody the best of what the pre-war world of cars had to offer 80 years ago. Continue reading Best Of Show Winners from the 2015 Concours of America at St. John’s
We visited The Elegance At Hershey this past weekend out in Hershey, PA. There were many beautiful cars in attendance, but the swoopy 1948 Daimler you see above won Best in Show. This was my second time seeing that particular car. It won Best in Show a few years back in Detroit, and it stunned me just as hard this time around.
This is the first Gallery of highlights from the show, with much more to come.
Duesenbergs and Pebble Beach go together like Los Angeles and celebrities. They are genuinely made for one another. Last summer at Pebble, there was a class of five Duesenbergs competing for class prizes. The one here, a 1934 SJ Limousine with coachwork by Rollston, was not an award winner by the book, but has a history for the books, like most Duesies. Continue reading 1934 Duesenberg SJ Rollston Limousine at the 2014 Pebble Beach Concours
Here is the first batch of our highlights from the 2014 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. It was a great year this year, with loads of unique automobiles in attendance, including 16 of the 17 remaining Ruxtons (shown above). Maseratis were also featured this year for the marque’s centennial, as well as a stunning showcase of Ferrari 250 Testa Rossas, and some truly beautiful machines with coachwork by Darrin.
This is rolling artwork at its finest, so enjoy the photos. There’s much more to come!
This gorgeous 1935 Duesenberg SJ562 won Best In Show at day one of the Greenwich Concours d’Elegance (Day one is American cars). Its two-tone mix of tan and very dark blue was breathtaking, and this was the first time that my own personal pick for Best In Show actually won in quite some time.
The Model J is what most people think about when they hear the name Duesenberg. These really were the standard of the automotive world at the time, and that’s why so many Duesenbergs are still in fine running condition to this day. Notice the lower headlights that turn with the front wheels, the leather-clad storage trunk on the back of the car, and the green-painted engine block of its powerful straight-8, all beautiful details on a car from this period.
This is American pre-war at its finest. Enjoy the photo gallery!
This is the “Mormon Meteor,” a one-off Duesenberg that set a world land speed record in 1935. Based on Duesenberg’s Model J chassis, it was commissioned by famed driver Ab Jenkins for the purpose of setting a land speed record. Much to the delight of his sponsors, who funded the build of the car, Jenkins set a speed record by averaging 135.47mph over a 24 hour period at the Bonneville Salt Flats in October of 1935. The record stood all the way until 1961, which is quite impressive considering the caliber of racing cars that came out between 1935 and then (Jaguar D-Type, Ferrari Testa Rossa, etc).
After setting the speed record, Jenkins made the necessary adjustments to the car for street use and drove it another 20,000 miles around his home area in Utah. This is a very significant automobile, and a real testament to the quality of Duesenberg’s engineering, because it was based on a production car, the Model J. Now obviously it wasn’t just a standard Model J with a body kit, no, it’s 420ci (6.9L) supercharged straight-8 engine was heavily tweaked to produce a massive 400hp, a huge amount of power for the day. Most road cars on sale today can’t even reach 135mph, let alone average that for a whole day, so the Duesenberg Mormon Meteor is really an engineering marvel. As pre-war automotive technology goes, this car might just be the pinnacle.
The Elegance at Hershey was my second encounter with the Mormon Meteor. It took best in show at Pebble Beach in 2007, which, incidentally, was my inaugural visit to the events of Monterey Car Week. Naturally, if it can win Pebble Beach, then it can win other concours events, and it did just that by taking best in show this year at The Elegance at Hershey. All Duesenbergs are special cars, certainly the pinnacle of their era, but the Mormon Meteor may well be the the king of them all. It is a mighty impressive, and very beautiful machine, with the craftsmanship and quality to withstand the ages.
I just hope my photos do it justice, enjoy!
We made it out to The Elegance at Hershey 2014 in Hershey, PA where Hershey’s chocolate is made. It is a great event at a wonderful venue, the five star Hershey Hotel. With beautiful gardens and fountains supplementing all of the stunning cars, it is surely a great place for photos.
There were many rare cars this year, everything from a French-market Cadillac built for the Rothschild family to the best-in-show winning Duesenberg “Mormon Meteor” Speedster. Enjoy the highlight gallery of the event and check back for features on some specific cars.
“They don’t make them like this anymore…”
That is a phrase I must have heard uttered over a dozen times during the weekend of the Greenwich Concours d’Elegance by people gazing at the magnificent pre-war automobiles on display. And they definitely don’t make cars like these anymore. In fact, most manufacturers of these majestic machines have long been defunct. The likes of Duesenberg, Packard, Minerva and Delage are all absent from the vocabulary of modern automobillia, and it’s a real shame because the cars they made were nicer (relatively) than even the top-of-the line Rolls Royce today.
In fact, as I’ve said before, Rolls Royce is really the only company from this era that still makes the same type of cars today as it did back then. Cadillac and Mercedes-Benz still exist, but have both moved their base of operation far down market. Yes, the pre-war era was a different time, when the automobile was a blank canvass for craftsmen to as they pleased. There was a lot of art-for-art-sake in these cars, and that’s something that is mostly absent from modern cars now that accountants and health and safety people run the show.
So the relative gray-scale of the cars we know today makes ogling over these pre-war gems an activity to be savored. I am really hoping for a renaissance of creativity in the auto industry, where the artistry will come back and add to all of the modern technology and design. The cookie-cutter designs of modern cars have gotten extremely old, and a design that aims to please anyone is also boring to everyone. So I’ve got my fingers crossed.
For now, though, just enjoy gazing at these incredible pre-war machines. The attention to detail, and the sheer craftsmanship is simply breathtaking to behold. Enjoy the cars!
Deusenbergs are an example of a truly bygone era when cars were truly built to order. There is an air of royalty to the history of this particular car, although it’s not just in the styling. Barbara Hutton, heiress to the Woolworth fortune, ordered this SJ, but not for herself. She was married to Alexis Mdivani at the time and actually ordered this car for her brother-in-law, Serge Mdivani. The Mdivani family was the Georgian royal family, which fled their home country after the Soviets indvaded, and indeed married well. Hutton’s generosity was apparent in giving this gorgeous automobile to her brother-in-law, who passed away after a polo accident a short time later. This is one of the most unique Duesenbergs Id have seen in some time and the dark red finish looked great along the golf course amongst its rivals. In fact, this stunning convertible won Best in Class this year. I hope to see more of this car at various Concours events down the road. I doubt I’ll tire of it. Enjoy the photos. Continue reading 1935 Duesenberg SJ 509 Roadster at the 2014 Amelia Island Concours
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.