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Lot 620
1929 Duesenberg Model J Convertible Coupe


Selling on Saturday Evening

Coachwork by Murphy

• ACD Club Certified Category 1, D-235
• Original engine, body, chassis, and firewall
• 2021 Auburn Cord Duesenberg Club Best Duesenberg
• The last full concours restoration completed by Brian Joseph’s Classic & Exotic Service
• Best in Class at Amelia Island and Concours d’Elegance of America
• Never before offered for public sale
• Regarded as one of the most authentic Duesenbergs in existence

420 cid DOHC, 32-valve inline eight-cylinder engine, 265 HP, three-speed manual transmission, solid front and live rear axles with semi-elliptic leaf springs, four-wheel vacuum-assisted hydraulic drum brakes; wheelbase 142.5"

Pasadena coachbuilder, the Walter M. Murphy Company, was the most prolific builder of bodies on the Model J Duesenberg chassis, renowned for the elegant lightness of their lines, very appropriate to the free-spirited and lighthearted California lifestyle. They were best known for the several variants produced of a classically simple convertible coupe, featuring their distinctive thin-framed ‘Clear-Vision’ windshield and reverse-hinged doors with cleanly disappearing side windows. This was one of the finest body styles produced for the Duesenberg, emphasizing the marque’s signature radiator shell to fine effect. Even today, when many enthusiasts picture a Model J in their mind’s eye, the car that they envision is a Murphy Convertible Coupe.

Approximately 25 examples of the standard convertible coupe design were produced, and the survivors are considered among the most beautiful, desirable, and highly prized of all Model Js. Their histories have been, like most all Model J Duesenbergs, well-researched and tracked, and the survivors seldom trade in public. Once a Murphy Convertible Coupe changes hands, it tends to become locked away for many years – and that was certainly the case with J-239, which quietly enjoyed one caretaker for 45 years before its exciting reemergence and restoration.

The earliest known owner of this particular Murphy Convertible Coupe was N.B. Coffman of California, in whose ownership, likely in the 1940s, the valance panel between the front seat and rumble seat was removed, possibly to create room for a parcel shelf or seat adjustment for a tall occupant. Otherwise, the Model J remained, fortunately, incredibly intact as it passed through several subsequent short-term owners on the West Coast. Among the most significant of these was Maurice Schwartz, one of the owners of highly respected coachbuilders, Bohman & Schwartz fame; by this point he was an independent contractor working for Harrah’s Automobile Collection and other noted West Coast enthusiasts of the era. Schwartz was a former Murphy staffer and one imagines he must have relished the opportunity to own an example of one of the grand automobiles that he had helped to build in the glory days of his youth.

In 1957, J-239 was sold by Ray D. Ewers of Texas to pioneering vintage automobile dealer Arthur Rippey of Denver, Colorado, known for the small museum he operated and as a significant early figure in the antique car hobby in the western states. Mr. Rippey passed the car in 1960 to Dr. Robert H. Brown of Atlanta, who kept it for most of the next decade. In 1968, Dr. Brown sold his Duesenberg to collector Edward Stolarcyk of New York, also a prolific enthusiast and owner of a small museum, who traded a Lexington touring car plus cash – a worthwhile investment, indeed.

Ray Ohmes of Naples, Florida, bought the Duesenberg from Stolarcyk in December 1969. For the next 45 years, it would remain in his ownership, unshown and with its existence known primarily only to Model J historians who murmured of it as “the Naples car.” Ironically, the Naples telephone area code is 239, the same as the ‘J-number’ of the car. Many attempts were made by those in-the-know to acquire the incredibly authentic Duesenberg over the years, all of them unsuccessful even after personal visits to the automobile in Mr. Ohmes’ garage.

The current owner succeeded where others had failed in acquiring the Model J from Mr. Ohmes in 2014. Restoration began soon after, and J-239, a Murphy Convertible Coupe long hidden away, would eventually become the last Duesenberg to complete a full restoration in the hands of noted marque specialist Brian Joseph’s Classic & Exotic Service before his retirement. Classic & Exotic Service was for nearly three decades one of the most prominent names in pre-war automobile restoration, producing exquisite show cars for some of the country’s most distinguished collections. They were especially highly regarded for the quality of their mechanical restorations, and as one of the country’s foremost shops for Duesenberg, over the years touching many of the very finest surviving examples of the marque.

As part of the Classic & Exotic Service restoration, much of the original sheet metal of J-239’s Murphy coachwork was preserved, with major work required only in refabricating the aforementioned valance between the front seat and the rumble seat; this was the only major metalwork required and is utterly remarkable of any car of this era. Such was the exceptional level of detail that virtually every original mechanical component was able to be faithfully preserved, along with much of the body wood, including the sill stamped with the original Murphy body number. The car is even complete with a pair of original mirrors and virtually unobtainable original locks on the side-mounted spare chrome wire wheels, as well as Pilot Ray driving lights. No expense was spared to make this one of the finest, most authentic, and important Model J Duesenbergs extant, using the best available parts and as many of the car’s original components as humanly possible.

Since completion of the restoration, the Model J has been judged Best in Class at both the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance and the Concours d’Elegance of America at St. John’s. It has been shown at the ACD Club National Reunion twice, as a partially restored car in 2015, earning its Category 1 Certification, and again in 2021 as a fresh restoration. In the latter, it received the Fred and August Duesenberg Trophy for Best Duesenberg, a remarkable honor. Significantly, the car has been selective and limited in its show appearances, and thus a raft of opportunities remain for a new owner to continue showing the Duesenberg in important national and international competitions and to truly make it ‘his’ in the eyes of the car collecting community. It remains ready for AACA and CCCA competition and for any number of additional concours, including Pebble Beach, at which it has yet to appear. Of course, it would be also welcomed back once again to Auburn, where its brethren continue to be celebrated.

Restored by experts and in immaculate order throughout, it is likely the very finest, freshly restored example of this highly prized model. J-239 is now offered for public sale for the first time. Its condition, authenticity, provenance, rich history and stunning presentation provide an outstanding opportunity to acquire an important Duesenberg worthy of a home in the very finest collections.

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