Auto World’s latest 1:18 pre-war model a striking beauty …
Car nuts know the Duesenberg name, but its cars were often rare, built in small quantities, while others were raced successfully, winning the Indianapolis 500 three times in the 1920s.
Duesenberg was launched in 1920 in Indy, but only lasted until 1937, a short run for such a famous name. Me being an Indianapolis native I’ve always been fond of Duesenbergs, both the racers and their high-end luxury cars known for their power.
But did you know that just two 1935 SSJ Speedsters were ever made? Yet the car is famous for its styling, speed and celebrity.
Now Auto World introduces the SSJ in a cream and tan color scheme that was the original choice of Duesenberg designers, yet none exist in this trim. The 1/18 model is another in Auto World’s vintage pre-WWII collection of die-cast metal models with opening hood, doors and steerable wheels.
Here’s the skinny on the two SSJs, which were made for movie stars Gary Cooper and Clark Gable.
None of the cream and tan models remain because both celebrities had their roadsters repainted from the original Duesenberg color scheme. Cooper’s became a gray-on-gray beauty and Gable’s a red and metallic green Speedster.
What makes the SSJ so special, beyond its rarity, is that it was a shortened version of the popular and widely respected Model J, made from 1928 until Duesenberg closed. The Model J came in two lengths, the long 153.5-inch wheelbase model and a shorter 141.7 model. Yet the SSJ was shorter still, featuring a 125-inch wheelbase, making it lighter. Both were known for their power.
The SJ, a supercharged J, reportedly had a top speed of nearly 140 mph back when cars were considered exceptional if they crested 100 mph. Zero to 60 mph was said to be reached in 8 seconds, and this from a car with an unsynchronized transmission, which was the norm at the time. A special speed record version, known as the Mormon Meteor, used a 750-horsepower V12 Curtiss Conqueror aircraft engine and set various speed records approaching 160 mph.
Well, the SSJ was quick too, reportedly doing 0-60 in less than 8 seconds as it was smaller and lighter than the J models. The Straight 8 Duesenberg motor cranked 400 horsepower and the car featured 4-wheel hydraulic brakes, a Duesenberg creation.
How special is the SSJ now? Well, some consider it the most important American car ever made and it’s certainly the most expensive as Cooper’s model sold for $22 million in 2018. Auto World’s is much more reasonable at $129.99 MSRP. Many 1:18 scale models now top $175 and are made of composites.
There’s a lot to like here, besides the car’s heritage and importance as the fastest pre-war car made. Oh, and the styling. The SSJ is beautiful.
Auto World doesn’t scrimp on details while maintaining an affordable price point.
The model’s door hinges are metal and well blended into the brown scallops on each side of the car, the hood likewise has a bright metal hinge that allows the hood to be raised on either side to see the sharply detailed Straight 8. Wiring and plumbing are present, but most notable are the four impressive chrome articulated exhausts coming out the passenger’s side of the hood and completely visible with the hood raised.
There are the air cleaner, radiator and brake fluid containers here and then on the driver’s side the raised hood reveals the full length of that massive engine and the chromed exhaust ports leading to the four big pipes on the opposite side. Cool!
Naturally, for the time period, there’s a massive chrome grille and lights along with two big horns under those lights. Atop the grille is the art deco style arrow-sharp Duesy hood ornament. Both front and rear bumpers also are chrome.
Likewise the large step plates on the running boards, slim door handles and windshield frame are chrome, as is the wheel cover on the trunk-mounted spare. Hub caps on the cream-colored spoked wheels are chrome with red centers.
That windshield in front of the two-person cockpit also includes dainty wing windows to deflect air from the passengers so as not to disturb their hair or chapeaus.
The cream tonneau cover features painted silver snaps and the interior is matte brown, similar in shade to the side scallops.
Duesenberg featured a chrome-faced dash with a bazillion gauges and dials, all nicely reproduced here by Auto World. There’s also a “holy Jesus” handle on the passenger’s side dash, just like in today’s Jeeps and other vehicles meant for off-roading. This one was to comfort a passenger at 100+ mph.
The Duesy’s steering wheel is black as is the floor-mounted gear shift lever while a rearview mirror rests atop the dash’s center.
For folks with mirror-bottom display cases, Auto World continues to create realistic looking undercarriages that allow you to see the engine, suspension and exhaust system, here feeding into twin chrome-tipped pipes.
The SSJ is another well-executed historic pre-war car model from Auto World at a price point that makes it a good fit in many collections. Snazzy!
Vital Stats: 1935 Duesenberg SSJ Speedster
Maker: Auto World
Stock No.: AW305