1929 Duesenberg Model J dual-cowl phaeton. Photo courtesy
Glenmoor Gathering, via HemmingsDaily.
Today is Fred S. Duesenberg's birthday. People forget this now, but Indianapolis, Indiana, was a center of automobile manufacture in the early years of cars. Cord and Duesenberg were based there, among others (Cord owned Duesenberg). There's a reason the Indy 500 is America's best-known auto race.
The Duesenberg Model J marked the high point of automotive craftsmanship in the U.S.—it's all been downhill ever since. Duesenbergs are given their own category at the Concours at Pebble Beach so they don't run away with every prize. Only Mercedes-Benz and Rolls-Royce are similarly singled out among European marques.
An automotive writer in the 1970s estimated that even to build a true replica of a Model J at that time would cost $250,000. It would probably be ten times that much today. The most expensive American car ever sold at auction is a Ford Racing GT40, but Duesenbergs account for three other spots in the top ten, including #2. (Number six is the Batmobile!)
Fred, who was born in Germany, died after crashing one of his Duesenbergs, driving very fast.
ADDENDUM: Today is also Alfred Eisenstaedt's birthday. His reputation has been gradually slipping, but he was once considered the premier LIFE magazine photographer as well as the quintessential Leica photographer. It's a real shame that there's no great Eisie book in print right now, but Viking's Witness to Our Time was one of the great popular photobooks of the 1960s and is well worth seeking out as a used book. Your library may have it if you don't want to buy it. It's a fine and highly entertaining overview of Eisie's globetrotting, extroverted work and notable for its luxurious gravure printing.
...And Dave Brubeck's birthday as well. This is a superlative box set and an outstanding bargain.
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Featured Comments from:
Richard: "What a Duesy!"
Mike replies: Right you are Richard. The expression "what a doozy!" or "that's a doozy!", meaning something extraordinary or outstanding, derives from the Duesenberg.