Die-cast: Autoworld 1935 Duesenberg SSJ Speedster

Auto World steps back in time to create a real Duesy …

Growing up in Indianapolis, the early auto world’s hub and home to the Indy 500, I was aware that the Duesenberg name was a big deal.

Even though the company that brothers Augie and Fred Duesenberg had built to fame had already been gone for 20 years or so, the make remained famous in Indiana. As a youngster I saw Duesenbergs at local car shows and I was well aware Duesenberg racers had won the 1922, ’24, ’25 and ’27 Indy 500s.

But long-term it was the luxury and performance of the Duesy road cars that stuck with folks. These were the legitimate supercars of their day, and none more so than the SSJ Speedster that Auto World has turned its considerable skills to reproducing in a high-value 1/18-scale offering.

Always a top maker of 1/18 scale 1950s, 1960s and 1970s muscle cars, Auto World branches out to create this handsome 1935 SSJ gem.

The History

The Duesenberg brothers and their engine building business bounced around a bit in its early days, but settled in Indianapolis in 1919 and the duo soon figured out that being successful at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s 500-mile race was good for the firm’s reputation.

So they pursued the top racers of the day, creating engines for their cars, while also building its own race team and, of course, its passenger cars. Known for high quality and speed, Duesenberg cars, and race cars, became well known. Some say it started in earnest when the Speedway used a Duesy as its 1921 race pace car. Then Jimmy Murphy won the 1921 French Grand Prix in a Duesenberg, followed by a win at the 1922 Indy 500 in a Miller racer sporting a Duesenberg engine.

While the Duesenberg business was not a huge success, its winning ways brought it attention and celebrities like Rudolph Valentino and Tom Mix became enamored enough to become customers. Top-notch engineering led by the two brothers led to the first mass-produced Straight-8 engine, but slow production put the company at risk, several times.

Then in late 1925 E.L. Cord, another automaker, bought the firm and ultimately combined it with his firm that made Auburn and Cord autos. All were high-end, but the Duesenbergs were world-class and considered some of best cars of the time, think Mercedes-Benz and Rolls Royce.

The SSJ was, and is, special because only two were made. It followed on the heels of the J and SJ models, but featured a shorter (125-inch) wheelbase, yet still packing the giant 6.9-liter Straight-8 that made nearly 400 horsepower. With a lighter body and being an open roadster, the SSJ was a rocket, for the times, reportedly capable of 140 mph.

Actor Gary Cooper owned one SSJ and Clark Gable was loaned the second, as he was already a good Duesenberg customer. Slow sales brought on by the Depression lead to Duesenberg’s demise in 1937.

 Yet due to rarity, beauty and performance, the SSJ holds the record for highest collectible car auction price at $22 million. What would the Duesenberg brothers think of that?

The Model

               As beautiful as Auto World’s vintage muscle cars are, the detail on this two-tone gray 1935 speedster are exceptional for the price. Most spectacular is the double-hinged hood, on both sides, to expose the massive engine. Heck, a lot of die-cast firms are happy to just create a sterling exterior, but Auto World goes one better with a detailed engine.

               So on the passenger’s side you can fold up the hood to reveal the Duesy’s straight-8 engine air cleaner, oil pump and plumbing, plus see how the glittering silver ringed exhausts feet into the manifold. On the driver’s side you see the superchargers, radiator and steering linkage. Sharp!

Auto World does a fine job of creating a bi-fold hood that opens to reveal the big Straight-8.

               Naturally you can pose either side of the hood up, or down to display the SSJ’s sleek lines, but the doors also open, the wheels are steerable, so posing this model offers several options. Chrome seems a bit over bright to me, but then there’s so much of it, the running board insets, the grille, headlights and bumpers, plus side screens on the hinged hoods.

               Chrome also surrounds the wind screen that is angled back to accentuate the car’s sleek appearance, plus includes clear vent windows attached to the chrome windshield frame. A sharp chrome hood ornament also adds realism.

     There are twin chrome horns beneath the headlamps, which include realistic etched lenses. In back are red-lensed taillights, a cool split exhaust pipe and a spare tire with cream colored cover and chrome centerpiece with red center. A chrome gas cap sits just above the spare on the driver’s side and there are chrome handles for the doors, hood and tool boxes below the doors. Door hinges look realistic in raw steel.

               Love wire wheels? Who doesn’t? These are sharp but the black sidewall tires are not branded. Yet flip the car over and examine the underside, which is richly detailed in gray to match the car body, with finely turned suspension and transmission pieces.

     Inside, the cockpit is tan with a cream-colored tonneau to cover the convertible top. The tonneau features snaps all painted silver to add a bit of realism. Then there’s a giant flat black 3-spoke steering wheel to adjust the front tires and the dash is all chrome (again this seems a bit too bright to me) with various gauges and a grab handle. There’s even a long gearshift lever with black shifter ball on top.

The SSJ Speedster’s interior is well detailed with a sharp tonneau cover.

               Another beautiful high-value 1/18 scale model from Auto World, and one that moves it into the stylish pre-war car market. Can’t wait to see what other color combos AW may offer.

Vital DC Stats:  

Maker: Auto World

Auto World creates a handsome box that can serve as a display for the Duesy.

Scale: 1/18
Stock No.: AW266/06
MSRP: $109.99

Link: autoworldstore.com


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