Motor City


  • Historic Duesenberg Model J “Disappearing Top” leads entries for RM’s 22nd Motor City sale, July 30 at the Inn at St. John’s in Plymouth, Michigan
  • One of the most driven Duesenbergs in modern times, proceeds from car’s sale will benefit Hillsdale College
  • RM’s single day Motor City sale—the official auction of the Concours d’Elegance of America at St. John’s—to feature 80 blue-chip motor cars
  • Motor City event details and a frequently updated list of all entries available at www.rmsothebys.com


BLENHEIM, Ontario (May 11, 2016) – RM Sotheby’s will kick-start its summer auction season with the offering of one of the most significant American motor cars of the Classic Era, a 1929 Duesenberg Model J “Disappearing Top” Convertible Coupe by Murphy, at its annual Motor City sale, July 30 at the Inn at St. John’s in Plymouth, Michigan. The well-established sale in America’s automotive heartland provides a fitting venue for the bespoke Duesenberg, which will be sold to benefit Hillsdale College, a top-ranked, non-profit, classical liberal arts college in Hillsdale, Michigan.


The rare Duesenberg Model J “Disappearing Top” Convertible Coupe, engine no. J-119, is one of just a handful of similar, yet completely custom cars, individually built for their original owners. Their exclusive status and spectacular lines has made them the most iconic body style on the Model J chassis. The featured Duesenberg is offered complete with its original engine and dealer-installed Murphy “Disappearing Top” Convertible Coupe body, and has enjoyed enthusiast ownership throughout its life. Actively used and enjoyed by each of its caretakers, J-119 passed through the renowned collections of Melvin Clemans and Gifford Oborne, before eventually landing with Eric Bardeen of Florida.


A member of the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Club since its earliest days, Mr. Bardeen has an incredible passion for the Duesenberg marque, and is known for using his Model J as it was intended—on the road! In his ownership, J-119 became one of the most driven Duesenbergs of modern times, a title earned via a roundtrip highway tour from the Sunshine State to Auburn, Indiana for the 2010 ACD Club Reunion. Mr. Bardeen, the Duesenberg’s owner of the last quarter century, is a longtime supporter of Michigan’s Hillsdale College, and generously offered J-119 to assist with the College’s fundraising efforts. It comes to auction in July following a cosmetic freshening and a recent comprehensive servicing by Duesenberg expert, Brian Joseph. Estimated to fetch between $1,250,000 and $1,650,000, all proceeds from its sale will benefit Hillsdale College.


“The chance to present a Duesenberg Model J ‘Disappearing Top’ at auction is a rare event, making J-119 a particularly exciting highlight for our Motor City sale,” says Gord Duff, Car Specialist, RM Sotheby’s. “Not only is J-119 special as one of only 25 examples built in this body style—one of the pinnacle body designs on the famed Model J—but the fact that it has been in enthusiast ownership for decades and frequently driven, also differentiates it from its peers. All in all, it’s an excellent driver’s Duesenberg set to benefit a very worthy cause.”


"Mr. Bardeen has been a longtime friend of Hillsdale College and has admired the college's commitment to remain independent from any federal or state taxpayer subsidies," adds Mr. John Cervini, vice president of institutional advancement at Hillsdale College. "The Duesenberg is a beautiful automobile and an iconic American car, making the Motor City the perfect spot to bring it to market. The funds from this auction will support Hillsdale College's operations and its teaching mission. We are forever grateful for this wonderful gift."


Additional early highlights for RM’s Motor City stage include:


  • a pair of Packard Twelve Coupe Roadsters, the marque’s most prestigious 12-cylinder model, including a well-known 1933 model, chassis no. 901615, possibly the last 1933 Packard Twelve Coupe Roadster produced, finished in green with a complementing light green leather interior (Est. $400,000 - $475,000); and, a 1938 model, vehicle no. 1139-2021, fresh from a beautiful restoration and offered from nearly 25 years of single enthusiast ownership (Est. $250,000 - $300,000); and,


  • a noted and award-winning 1930 Cord L-29 Cabriolet, serial no. 2927648. With known history from new and its original chassis, engine, and body, the ACD Club Category One Certified Cord is offered from the estate of its third owner, beloved Kalamazoo businessman and enthusiast Wendell Gates II, who purchased the car as a junior high school student in 1946. Exhibited since 2013 in the CCCA Barn at the Gilmore Car Museum in Kalamazoo, Michigan, this legendary L-29 is offered for the first time in seven decades (Est. $150,000 - $200,000).


A longstanding summer tradition for collectors, RM Sotheby’s Motor City sale has carved a reputation over the past two decades as one of the leading events honoring America’s rich automotive history. As the official auction of the renowned Concours d’Elegance of America at St. John’s, the sale will offer 80 blue-chip automobiles, led by important American classics, sports and muscle, with a selection of iconic and modern European sports cars complementing the domestic delegates.


A frequently updated list of entries for the sale and further information on limited consignment opportunities is available at www.rmsothebys.com or by calling +1 519 352 4575.