Growing up in Indiana I learned that Duesenbergs were fast and beautiful, and there wasn’t much more to learn.
That was, until I found out there were many varieties due to various coachbuilders creating the bodywork on the 1920s and 30s models. Now Automodello goes and creates one of the all-time most beautiful Duesys ever, the J with Murphy-bodied Torpedo styling. This one is in 1:43 scale, which makes it all that more remarkable for its exterior detail.
The first Model J was unveiled at the 1928 New York Auto Show, just a year before the Great Depression. That alone tells you what the likelihood of success was for the model. Duesenberg, run by two brothers in Indianapolis, had gained worldwide acclaim for mechanical excellence by winning the Indianapolis 500 several times and the 1921 French Grand Prix. Duesenberg was the first American car to win a GP, the second being Dan Gurney’s Eagle in 1967. They are still the only two.
But E.L. Cord bought Duesenberg in 1926 and demanded large luxury cars that he could sell to the nation’s elite, folks like Clark Gable, Greta Garbo and James Cagney. Fred Duesenberg responded with exquisite cars with ladder frames and six cross members to restrict vibration, plus an automatically lubricating chassis. Its heart was a 32-valve, double overhead cam, 6.9-liter straight-eight engine creating 265 horsepower and a world-beating 120 mph top speed.
Ultimately only 481 Model Js were made and just six of this short-wheelbase Walter M. Murphy-bodied convertible coupe, known for its boat-tail shape and polished aluminum rear deck.
Hastening Duesenberg’s demise in 1937 was the death of Fred in 1932 when he crashed a supercharged version of this car, which reportedly had a top speed of 140 mph.
Automodello has created another small gem in resin with a beautifully executed body with fine seams and detailing from its tiny chrome door handles and key holes in both doors to the photo-etched side hood grilles and four ribbed exhaust pipes that curl between the hood and right front fender.
The gorgeous wire wheels, including two spares strapped in the front fenders, scream high-end luxury of the day. All tires are treaded and feature broad white sidewalls and each spare tire has a chrome mirror strapped atop it. Front and rear bumpers are chrome and the well-shaped grille up front features a crisp arrow-like Duesenberg hood ornament atop it. Lights front and rear are realistically executed and there are step rings by each door above the chrome ribbed running boards.
I like the chrome bodywork too, which spreads from the car’s nose to surround the two-seat cockpit and extend to the boat-tail rear-end. The black convertible top comes on the car, but is easily removed to make the model appear sleeker and show off that aluminum rear deck that swallowed the convertible top.
The car was about $15,000 at the time and it looks pricey even in this scale. With the roof off it’s also easy to see the white with red trim seats, black three-spoke steering wheel and a nicely detailed dash.
Mine was the Tribute Edition in bright red and matching the car now displayed at the Martin Museum in Arizona. Just 85 Tribute models are being made ($149.95 each), while 999 of the Museum Edition Duesy’s will be made and are green with silver upper body. This car matches one at the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum in Auburn, Ind.
There are two other rare editions planned for release. One is a violet Tribute edition at $149.95 and the other a black Homage Edition at $199.95. Automodello has a strong track record with beautiful finishes and detail on these 1:43 scale resin models.
FAST Stats: 1930 Duesenberg J Murphy-Bodied Torpedo Convertible
Stock No.: AM43-DUE-JMT-TE-RD (red), AM43-DUE-JMT–ME-AC (green)
MSRP: $149.95 (Tribute), $119.95 (Museum)