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The first Duesenberg

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The name Duesenberg is associated with the finest of things. The phrase “It’s a Duesy” is derived from the Duesenberg automobile, and implies something that is the best of its kind. Images associated with Duesenbergs are commonly of the Model J, produced from 1929 through 1937, often overshadowing the earlier Model A cars first introduced in 1921. Although not as glamorous as the later cars, the Model A is an incredible machine, extremely powerful and full of advanced mechanical features such as four-wheel hydraulic brakes and an exotic overhead-cam straight-eight engine. After a series of prototypes, the first Deusenberg to be sold new to a retail customer went to a customer in Hawaii, Samuel Northrup Castle, a major player in the sugar business. As was the custom for high-end auto manufacture’s of the era, the completed, running chassis was sent to coach builders to be fitted with a body of the customer’s choice. This car has coachwork by the Bender Body Company of Cleveland, Ohio. Most new cars in 1921 sold new for under $1,000, and a new Ford Model T could be purchased for less than half that. By comparison, a 1921 Duesenberg with body commanded a premium, often in excess of $6,000 or $7,000.

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This particular car is significant not only because it was the first one sold new to the public, but also because it is the only Duesenberg that is still owned by the original family. The owner sent the car back to the factory for some Model J styling updates a few years later, but at some point was no longer the owner’s darling, and was put to use as a work vehicle. After a while, the once proud car was put out to pasture, and proceeded to be ravaged by the elements.

Recently, Jimmy Castle decided to return the car back to it’s original configuration and condition from 1921. The car was sent to Scotts Valley, CA, and received a concours quality restoration at the shop of Bruce Canepa. Over 10,000 man hours were spent carefully returning the rare car to it’s former glory. Many parts had to be fabricated, but every effort was made to retain the original parts when possible. The skilled craftsman reworked the aluminum and steel body and all the other components of the car over a three year period. Unveiled for the first time at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in 2013, it was a crowd favorite. Not only did it look fabulous, it also completed the Tour d’Elegance with flying colors. Truly a number one car in many ways.


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