Neighbors in an earlier life, these rare, eclectic Model J masterpieces meet again after decades in Miami

The Duesenberg Model J is one of the most renowned American automobiles of all time. About 480 examples were produced between 1929 and 1937, each one finished with custom coachwork by one of the leading American firms of the Classic Era and powered by an innovative dual-overhead-cam inline eight-cylinder engine that, in standard tune, produced 265 horsepower, enabling incredible performance for the time. 

Part of what made these Model Js extraordinary was that most examples were built specifically for their original owners, who were often as fascinating as the automobiles they drove. The original owner of the 1929 Duesenberg Model J ‘Sweep Panel’ Dual-Cowl Phaeton by LeBaron offered at Miami was Philip K. Wrigley, scion to the Chicago chewing gum fortune.   

Wrigley’s family were major shareholders in the Auburn Automobile Company, and this allowed him inner access to the Duesenberg plant in Indianapolis that few other owners enjoyed. Not only did Wrigley visit the factory, but as sort of a visiting apprentice, he actually participated in the assembly of his 1929 Model J chassis. Such was his affection for the car that, after delivery, when he admired the LeBaron body on a friend’s Model J, he arranged a trade of coachwork between themso that he could retain his original chassis.  

The 1930 Duesenberg Model J ‘Disappearing Top’ Convertible Coupe by Murphy was built for Esther Fiske Hammond, granddaughter of the head of New England department store chain Jordan Marsh, and ex-wife of another Boston retailing scion. 

With money in hand, Ms. Hammond relocated to Santa Barbara, California. She would drive her Duesenberg between her homes in Montecito and, ironically, a second home abutting the Wrigley Mansion in Pasadena. As Philip K. Wrigley’s Duesenberg was eventually brought by him to Southern California, it is not inconceivable that both of these cars “knew” one another in period!

Ms. Hammond’s Murphy eventually moved to Chicago, and would go all over the country. The LeBaron “Sweep Panel” Dual-Cowl Phaeton, meanwhile, resided in Orange County, California, for decades, hidden from sight as part of the Reynolds family’s collection. It eventually emerged and was acquired in 1992 by the noted Duesenberg collector Terence E. Adderley, in whose distinguished collection it was kept for almost thirty years. 

This March, both of these cars will come together again, this time in Miami as part of the RM Sotheby’s Miami auction. Representing fabulous pieces of social history and magnificent engineering prowess, they would be welcomed at any number of concours competitions, or ideal for roaring down the road on tour as two of the most beautiful automobiles of the Classic Era. They share a heart, but each has a spirit all their own.

See what other desirable collector cars, from these magnificent classics to the sultry symbols of speed, that are joining our two featured Duesenbergs on the block in Miami.



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