The Keith Crain Collection
$1,132,500 USD | Sold
| Amelia Island, Florida
- Offered from the Keith Crain Collection
- Originally owned by infamous underworld figure Jake “the Barber” Factor
- Formerly owned by Joe Kaufmann, Ben Caskey, and S. Ray Miller
- Well-maintained older restoration; original chassis, bell housing, and coachwork
- Multiple national AACA, CCCA, and ACD Club award winner
- Pictured in Griffith Borgeson’s Errett Lobban Cord
- ACD Club Certified Category 1 (D-154)
The Murphy convertible coupe was justifiably the most popular single body style constructed on the Duesenberg Model J chassis. It had smooth, simple, classically elegant lines, with the subtle beauty that Pasadena coachbuilders Walter M. Murphy were known for. Today the style remains a true classic, and examples very seldom become available for sale, in particular ones with the superb known history of J-143—the “Jake the Barber” Model J, a car whose history begins in gangland and ends among the great collectors of the last half century.
JAKE THE BARBER
One of about 25 Murphy convertible coupes built with a conventional folding top, J-143 is believed to have served as a factory branch demonstrator in California before being sold new on 17 May 1932 to Jake “the Barber” Factor of California. Half brother of cosmetics magnate Max Factor, “the Barber” took his nickname from his early training in hair care. He found his millions not in blush, but in bamboozling, running a stock scam in England that ensnared even British royals and netted him $8 million; afterward he fled to France, rigged the tables at the Monte Carlo casino, and literally broke the bank, then took his newfound riches home to the United States. Tried in absentia by the UK courts, he arranged a “kidnapping” to avoid extradition. The ploy worked, and Factor remained in the US, eventually relocating to Las Vegas, where he wound up his, shall we say, “storied” career running the Stardust for the mob.
Jake “the Barber” kept the Murphy convertible coupe for only a few months prior to trading up to the “disappearing top” torpedo convertible coupe J-249—but they were undoubtedly an exciting few months.
The Duesenberg factory branch in Los Angeles resold the car in July 1932 to Mrs. Reginald Parsons III, wife of a Seattle architect, himself a Model J owner. Afterward the car was apparently acquired by a G.I. and driven into the Midwest, where after World War II it was sold by famed Duesenberg dealer John Troka.
After two short-term intervening owners, the Model J returned to Troka, who sold it in 1951 to Dan Lang of Racine, Wisconsin. Lang was an early Duesenberg enthusiast who acquired several of the cars and many parts in the immediate post-war era. He maintained the car in partially restored condition until his passing in 1972, after which J-143 was purchased from his estate by longtime collector Charles Johnson, who had several Model Js during this period.
“DOC” DUESENBERG’S COVER GIRL
Johnson shortly traded J-143 to Joe Kaufmann, the famed and much-loved “Duesenberg Doctor” of Manitowoc, Wisconsin, known as the highly skilled mechanical restorer of dozens of Model Js in a career that lasted six decades. Kaufmann meticulously restored J-143, installing the engine from J-174 but retaining the original engine’s bell housing. The completed Murphy convertible coupe, dubbed “Baby” by its proud owner and restorer, appeared as the cover feature, “‘Doc’ Duesenberg’s Cover Girl,” of the ACD Club Newsletter, No. 9 1977, and as a color plate in Griffith Borgeson’s book Errett Lobban Cord.
“Baby” was sold in 1978, moving to Florida in the hands of Ben Caskey, himself a highly regarded collector with a small, select collection of Full Classics. Caskey, in turn, passed the car in 1983 to prolific Duesenberg owner Rick Carroll, from whom it was acquired in 1984 by S. Ray Miller of Elkhart, Indiana, inventor of the crushproof cigarette pack.
J-143 became the crown jewel of the S. Ray Miller Museum, what was, for two decades, one of the Midwest’s most superb collections of Full Classics, with a focus on significant Indiana-built automobiles. Each automobile in the collection was fully restored, many by Mr. Miller’s trusted advisors at LaVine Restorations of nearby Nappanee, with an eye towards making it as correct and exquisitely finished as possible. Accordingly, J-143 was placed in the LaVines’ hands in 1993 and emerged in 1995 in its present dark green livery with tan interior. It then embarked upon a highly successful show career, receiving several ACD Club awards, an AACA National First Prize, CCCA Senior First Prize (reaching Emeritus status), and Best Duesenberg at the Meadowbrook Concours d’Elegance.
The car remained in the Miller Museum until 2004, when the collection was sold following its owner’s passing. It was then acquired by the present owner, in whose own carefully chosen stable it has remained for the last 16 years. During that time it has been only occasionally shown, including winning Second in Class at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in 2006 and appearing at the Concours d’Elegance of America in 2014 and 2017, receiving a Lion Award in the latter. The restoration is now older and mellowed, but still highly attractive and presentable, with the odometer noting 255 miles since the work was completed. The owner notes that the engine was repainted by Classic & Exotic Service shortly following his acquisition.
A respected and well-known example, with the outstanding provenance of Kaufmann, Caskey, and Miller, the “Jake the Barber” Model J is a Duesenberg to be treasured. One imagines it could still outrun just about anything...