Lot 134

Arizona 2023

1931 Duesenberg Model J Convertible Sedan by LeBaron


$1,050,000 USD | Sold

United States | Phoenix, Arizona



Engine No.
US Title
  • Formerly owned by the Petersen Automotive Museum and Aaron Weiss
  • Very rare coachwork on the short-wheelbase chassis
  • Well-preserved restoration by noted specialists
  • Classic Car Club of America (CCCA) Full Classic
  • Auburn Cord Duesenberg (ACD) Certified Category 1 (D-058)

The Duesenberg Model J was an engineering tour de force, with its 265-horsepower twin-cam eight-cylinder engine derived from everything that Fred and August Duesenberg had learned in over a decade of successful racing competition. Equally memorable, however, were the bodies mounted to this grand chassis, produced by a “who’s who” of the finest coachbuilders worldwide, and in every instance represented one of its builder’s most superbly tailored creations.

Some of the most beautifully designed coachwork on the Model J was produced by LeBaron, capable of a broad variety of designs, including especially handsomely proportioned convertible sedans. According to Marshall Merkes and Ray Wolff’s Duesenberg files, this particular LeBaron body was of a design intended for Packard, only to be acquired on 22 December 1932 by Duesenberg’s New York factory branch—new and unfinished “in the white”—for mounting to J-127/2152. This car had originally been delivered to John Paine of New York City, but after Mr. Paine traded it back to Duesenberg in 1933, the LeBaron body was acquired on 22 December 1932 and mounted in lieu of the original Holbrook sedan. This practice of installing more readily sellable open coachwork on a lightly used chassis for easy resale was common, accepted Classic Era practice.

The car would change hands through Metropolitan New York owners until the early 1940s, when it came into the ownership of Marion S. Roberts along with a Derham Arlington sedan, J-338/2350. Born in Maryland, Mr. Roberts was known as a racing driver in the 1930s before relocating to Buffalo, New York, where he worked as a fleet mechanic for Bell Aircraft while also establishing his own shop to work on the fine automobiles of the Classic Era. Model J Duesenbergs became something of a house specialty, and he worked on numerous examples for Eastern owners. In a 1944 newspaper article, Mr. Roberts described a Duesenberg as “one of the finest cars ever built. When I finish fixing it up, it will do 150 miles an hour and look like a million dollars.” Hyperbole, perhaps...but only slightly!

In the fashion of the shoemaker whose children go without shoes, both of his own Model Js remained essentially untouched in Roberts’ ownership, stored on his rural property on Grand Island in the Niagara River, for over two decades. Their presence on the island was well-known to the Duesenberg community but they were never made available by their owner, despite many attempts to acquire both.

In the mid-1960s, the pair of cars were finally sold to the pioneering enthusiast Judge John North, who then passed them to Homer Fitterling of South Bend, Indiana, then the world’s best-known and most prolific Duesenberg collector. With J-338/2350 being mechanically intact but its original coachwork in disarray, Fitterling moved J-127’s LeBaron body as well as its firewall, 2152, to this chassis and engine, with both the original numbered bell housing and crankshaft. In the course of restoration, the car was fitted with side exhaust of the style used on supercharged Duesenbergs for an especially sporting touch. Reportedly, the completed LeBaron convertible sedan was one of the highlights of the Fitterling stable, at one point displayed in the foyer of the collection.

Thus restored, J-338 remained in the famed Fitterling stable until 1989, when the collection was sold en masse to Georgia carpet manufacturer Ed Weaver, who was himself attempting to build the world’s largest assembly of Duesenbergs—an effort in which he nearly succeeded. Weaver’s untimely passing several years later resulted in a landmark, well-remembered auction in 1995, at which time J-338 became part of the Johnson Family’s large collection of Classics in British Columbia, Canada.

In 2003, the LeBaron convertible sedan was acquired from the Johnson fleet by the renowned Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, where it was occasionally exhibited for a decade. It was also featured during their ownership in Dennis Adler’s well-known book on the marque, Duesenberg. Finally, in 2013, it was sold to the noted collector Aaron Weiss of San Marino, California. Mr. Weiss sent the car to Greg Morrell of Mosier Restorations in California, who oversaw extensive restoration work, including paint by Harry Nicks, a new interior and top by Kenny Sisk, and thorough detailing and improvements throughout. With the work completed, Mr. Weiss enjoyed the car for several years, including exhibiting it in 2018 at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

An exceptionally attractive short-wheelbase Model J convertible sedan, this special automobile would be ideal for showing at concours, Auburn Cord Duesenberg Club events, or simply driving to experience the potent magic of the legendary Duesenberg.