1929 Duesenberg Model SJ Convertible Sedan by Murphy
- Offered from thirty years of enthusiast ownership
- Original short-wheelbase chassis, engine, and coachwork
- Equipped with a supercharger built using original components
- Featured in Beverly Rae Kimes’s The Classic Car
- Classic Car Club of America (CCCA) Full Classic
The Model J with short-wheelbase chassis number 2192 and engine no. J-169 was likely originally supplied on the East Coast, with one of roughly 45 convertible sedan bodies produced for Duesenberg by the Walter M. Murphy Company of Pasadena, California. These cars were unusually beautifully proportioned, with simple, classic lines inspired by earlier Murphy bodies created for Packard and Hudson. By its body number this example appears to have been ordered for Duesenberg stock, yet it was equipped with several interesting features, including a lockable compartment in the rear seat floorboard.
The earliest known owner of J-169 was a William Robinson of Connecticut, who, according to the notes of Duesenberg historian Ray Wolff, was the car’s second owner. After two further intervening owners, the car was purchased by Julius Reale, who stored it from 1949 to 1960, when it was sold to the early collector Tony Pascucci of Meriden, Connecticut. At the time, Pascucci was having Ted Billing of Massachusetts restore his original LeBaron “barrelside” dual-cowl phaeton; J-169 was used as payment for the work on that car.
In February 1967 the car was sold by Billing to Al San Clemente of Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, a longtime collector and trusted personal friend. Mr. San Clemente spent nearly two decades on the Duesenberg’s restoration, electing to convert the car to the ultimate supercharged “SJ” specification. A single-carburetor supercharger was assembled, using the original top “pot” portion of a factory supercharger; this aluminum piece was porous and had remained unusable until the technology arrived, in the 1970s, to impregnate and seal it. The inner gears and other componentry for the “blower” were supplied new by Leo Gephart. It is significant that, in an era when fully reproduction superchargers were coming into their own, this car’s owner went to the lengths of using what original pieces he could find.
Following eighteen years of ownership, in 1985 the San Clementes sold the freshly restored Duesenberg to a new owner in the Pacific Northwest. It soon passed to the flamboyant and colorful Domino’s Pizza founder Tom Monaghan, who kept it along several other Duesenbergs in his vast and diverse collection in Ann Arbor, Michigan. During Monaghan’s ownership the car was exhibited at the 1987 Meadowbrook Concours d’Elegance. It was eventually sold from the Monaghan collection to a longtime enthusiast in New Jersey, and was featured in Beverly Rae Kimes’s 1990 book, The Classic Car, in which the owner, asked to describe why it was special, noted, “Because it’s supercharged!”
In 1990 J-169 was sold by RM Classic Cars to the present owner, a German enthusiast, in the first major “deal” completed by the burgeoning company. It has remained largely tucked away for the last three decades, seldom shown, and is genuinely “fresh to market.” Its Billing restoration is older now, but remains well-preserved, and the two-tone green finish and complementary interior very attractive. Accessories include Pilot Ray driving lights and a luggage rack with trunk. At the time of cataloging the car recorded 808 miles, presumably since completion of the restoration; the most recent mechanical work was the fitment of a new head gasket.
A fine Duesenberg, it awaits a new caretaker who will enjoy caring for it, and savoring its thrilling supercharged performance on the open highway.
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