$750,000 - $950,000 USD | Not Sold
| Hershey, Pennsylvania
- Exceptional restoration by marque specialist Brian Joseph’s Classic & Exotic Service
- Seldom shown since completion; magnificent condition
- Mechanically fit and suitable for either concours or touring
- Classic Car Club of America (CCCA) Full Classic
- Auburn Cord Duesenberg (ACD) Club Certified Category 1 (D-153)
The Willoughby Company of Utica, New York, was one of the Classic Era’s finest coachbuilders, especially regarded by the East Coast’s finest families for the robust construction and superb appointments of their limousine and sedan bodies. Willoughby worked on many of the most elite chassis of the Classic Era but was particularly known for their superb work on the Duesenberg, especially during the first few years of Model J production. They built about 50 bodies for the Model J, all of them closed, including about 20 examples of their classic seven-passenger limousine on the long 153 1/2-inch-wheelbase chassis. Unfortunately, they have not enjoyed a high survival rate and are today among the rarest Model J variants, with only four examples remaining extant.
Duesenberg historian Ray Wolff recorded the original owners of this limousine, originally equipped with engine no. J-383, as being a Judge and Mrs. Sara Rowe of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Mrs. Rowe sold the Duesenberg in 1942 through the local Packard agency to Joseph R. Davis, also of Pittsburgh, who acquired engine no. J-306 from a yard in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, and installed it under the hood, where it remains today.
Mr. Davis maintained his Model J for nearly 20 years, until 1961, when he sold it to the Reverend Don DiMichele of Hudson, Ohio. DiMichele was a preacher, active on the tent revival circuit up and down the East Coast, and a noted early connoisseur of Full Classics, quietly building a small and select collection including several of the finest and most desirable Individual Custom Packards. He completed a cosmetic restoration of the Duesenberg, and in the early 1970s took it to the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg Club’s National Reunion in Auburn, Indiana, where it was an award-winner. Afterward the car and the rest of his collection relocated with him to Florida, where the Model J would be tucked away, not to emerge for the rest of the century. It was, however, visited and Certified Category 1 by the ACD Club in the early 1990s, recognizing that it retained all correct Model J components throughout.
In 2012 the car was finally sold from the DiMichele stable, and soon thereafter found its way into the care of the present owner. It was deemed deserving of the highest-quality restoration and sent to the noted marque specialist Brian Joseph, of Classic & Exotic Service in Troy, Michigan, one of the country’s foremost Duesenberg authorities.
Mr. Joseph and his shop completed a meticulous return of the car to its original condition. Work included a full restoration of the coachwork and interior as well as a complete mechanical and electrical sorting. The motor was deemed to be in fine working order and was not rebuilt; however, ancillary components such as the distributor and carburetor were each restored to ensure everything was in proper working order.
While numerous repairs were required to the body’s structural woodwork, as much of the original wood as possible was retained, including numerous pieces stamped with the original Willoughby body number, and the outer panels finished in a deep, rich Lance Green. The interior was especially magnificently appointed in a rich brocade fabric, true to the fashion of Willoughby’s superb fitments and a striking counterpoint to the formal elegance of the coachwork, and accented by properly refinished wood trim. All bright metal trim was properly replated and the wheels restored. Such was the attention to authenticity and detail that even new door handles were produced to match the irreparable originals, and the long-absent original, correct sun visor was properly replaced, ensuring that the Duesenberg would appear exactly as when Willoughby completed it.
As a finishing touch, the car was fitted with side exhausts, in the style of supercharged Model Js, which adds a muscular, sporting note—literally, as a second exhaust cutout was also fitted! Receipts detailing the $550,000 of work completed, along with work-in-process photos, are on file.
Since its completion, this special Duesenberg has been well-kept but seldom shown, appearing most recently at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance in 2018; it has yet to be shown at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance or at many other prestigious events. It is still in striking cosmetic and excellent mechanical condition, and would be robustly well-suited to either further concours appearances or to sharing with several happy friends on driving events, such as the famed Duesenberg Tour. The choice is that of a fortunate new caretaker who will now enjoy one of the best-restored surviving closed Duesenbergs.