St. John's

28 July 2012

Lot 158

1930 Duesenberg Model SJ Convertible Victoria by the Rollston Company

To be auctioned on Saturday, July 28, 2012

Sold for $957,000

  • Chassis no. 2293
  • Engine no. J272
  • Body no. 516-4435
History is important to us, and all lots offered are fully researched. All corresponding information and accessories, from certificates to tool kits, stays with the lots we sell. All of this is held at our library on site, under the Access the Knowledge banner, so please visit us there or contact us before the auction if you require further information.


320 bhp, 420 cu. in. DOHC inline eight-cylinder engine with four valves per cylinder and centrifugal supercharger, three-speed manual transmission, solid front axle and live rear axles with semi-elliptic leaf springs, and four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 142.5"

• Owned by noted band leader Paul Whiteman of “Rhapsody in Blue” fame
• Recently detailed, mechanically inspected on a limited basis, and serviced

If ever a car was designed and engineered to be larger than life itself, the Duesenberg Model J was it. Its cutting-edge, competition-derived engine specifications alone made it equal, if not superior to, the most exotic European marques of its era and even among American luxury cars. It really had no close rivals in terms of sheer power and performance.

It is difficult today to imagine the excitement with which the Model J was received in 1929. Here was a chassis with a dual overhead cam, four-valve engine that—at 265 horsepower in naturally-aspirated form—beat its nearest competitor by more than 100 horsepower! Coming from a company whose racing successes were already the stuff of legends, it was the perfect marketing move at the time. The timing of the introduction could not have been better: with the economic successes of the 1920s, America’s wealthiest business, entertainment, and social elite were ready to indulge themselves. The all-new Model J soon gave them the perfect opportunity.

The announcement of the Model J shook the Automobile industry and the occasion even momentarily halted trading on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. The first chance most of the public had to see the new car was when the chassis displayed at the 1929 New York Auto Show. Hundreds came to see this new wonder, and they were not disappointed, for on the floor there were several magnificent examples on display.

It’s tall, elegantly-shaped radiator shell and long tapered hood, along with a choice of two lengthy wheelbases, made the mighty Model J the ideal platform for some of the most stunning and luxurious custom coachwork produced during the classic era. With a price of some $8,500 for the bare chassis alone and $9,500 in supercharged form, the Model J occupied the pinnacle of the price range for American luxury cars, including the Springfield-built Rolls-Royce Phantom II. Add the requisite custom coachwork and fittings, and these conveyances easily approached, and in at least one instance surpassed $20,000, at a time when the least-costly Ford Model A was delivered for about $450 and a good single-family home was still available for less than $10,000. Befitting their regal nature, Model Js received custom-coachbuilt bodies and the example offered here is no exception. It carries one of the rarest and most attractive bodies ever produced—the quarter-window Victoria—from the highly regarded Rollston Company.

The Rollston Company was founded in 1921, but it was in 1927 when Rudy Creteur moved to Rollston from Locke as chief designer. Creteur was responsible for most of Rollston’s designs from that point on, including this wonderful example. As one of just 218 Rollston bodies built between 1927 and 1931, this specific design incorporates many of Creteur’s design hallmarks. In all, Rollston bodied 57 Model Js, with 16 of those being convertible Victorias. The low windshield and compact top lines give the car a sleek, low-slung look. This style in particular combines the good visibility of the convertible sedan with the sportier yet still-elegant open two-door body.

The story of chassis 2293 begins when it was purchased new by famous band leader Paul Whiteman, best known for his arrangement of “Rhapsody in Blue” in May 1930, who had a LeBaron Sport Phaeton body installed. Sometime in 1932, the car was bought by G. Tucker Smith, of Virginia, from the Duesenberg factory branch in New York City, with the phaeton body still installed. Mr. Smith did not like the open coachwork on the car, and in 1935, he purchased the striking Rollston Quarter-Window Convertible Victoria and had it installed on the car. The body was likely built from 1930–31 and was likely installed on another vehicle before being shown in Duesenberg’s inventory later on. He also purchased a supercharger, although it is not known by whom the body and supercharger were installed, nor if the body was purchased directly from Duesenberg Inc. At some point later in the car’s life, the supercharger was replaced with a highly accurate reproduction unit. In the period, the Rollston body had skirted fenders and a more flowing trunk, both of which were modified at some point in its life.

Mr. Smith kept the car until 1938, when he traded it to Jones Motorcar Company, a Cadillac agency in Richmond, Virginia. Jones in turn sold the car to Mr. A. D. Price Jr., who was a local undertaker. In 1941, the car went to Mr. Bruce Woodson, of Virginia, who changed the color to green before selling it on to Mr. Mike Hodich in 1945. By 1955, the car was owned by Dr. J. F. Martin in Pennsylvania, who kept the car for 21 years before selling it to Judge John North, of Easton, Maryland, in 1976.

The next owner was Leo Gephardt in 1977. Gephardt sold the car to Dr. Don Vesley in 1978; the next owner was John Farrell of Seattle, Washington, in the early-1980s. Farrell kept the car for 15 years, conducting a thorough concours-quality restoration before selling it to noted Packard collector David Kane, of Bernardsville, New Jersey, and in 2001, it came into the current ownership.

Under the current owner, J272 was recently detailed and returned to running and driving order. Among the items addressed, the wheels were removed from the car and the brakes and wheel cylinders were inspected, the fuel tank was removed and cleaned out, the carburetor was rebuilt, and a new battery was installed. In addition, the car was serviced, with fluids flushed and the oil changed.

Now offered for the first time in over a decade, J272 marks a significant opportunity for collectors. Simply put, supercharged Duesenbergs are the Holy Grail for collectors of American classics, and J272 represents an outstanding opportunity to acquire an example with strong provenance and beautiful and distinctive Victoria coachwork by the Rollston Company.

Please contact our exclusive automotive transportation partner, Reliable Carriers, for a shipping quote or any other information on the transport of this vehicle.

Alain Squindo


Detroit, Michigan

Alain Squindo joined RM Auctions in 2007, after graduating from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., with a degree in History. R... read more

Alex Classick

aclassick@rmauctions.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Alex Classick joined RM Europe in 2011 as a car specialist, after graduating from Nottingham University with a degree in Business Mana... read more

Alexander Weaver

aweaver@rmauctions.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, USA

Alexander Weaver joined RM Auctions in 2011 as a car specialist, after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born into ... read more

Annette Abaci

aabaci@rmauctions.com

+49 (0) 40 441 95 737
Germany

With post-secondary degrees in Economic Science and Mechanical Engineering, Annette Abaci initially worked part-time at Mercedes-Benz ... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

asabatie-garat@rmauctions.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a senior car specialist, after more than a decade in the collector car hobby... read more

Dan Warrener

dwarrener@rmauctions.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Possessing a degree in Economics from Brandon University, Dan Warrener spent the initial stages of his career working around the globe... read more

Don Rose

drose@rmauctions.com

+1 617 513 0388
United States

Don Rose joined RM Auctions in 2006, after many years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputatio... read more

Donnie Gould

dgould@rmauctions.com

+1 954 566 2209
Florida, USA

Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff

gduff@rmauctions.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Gord joined RM Auctions in 1998, initially responsible for the transportation and logistics of the company’s auction and restora... read more

Ian Kelleher

ikelleher@rmauctions.com

+1 310 559 4575
New York, United States

Ian Kelleher began his automotive career immediately following his graduation from Oberlin College, with a B.A. in Politica... read more

Jack Boxstrom

jboxstrom@rmauctions.com

+1 818 703 2816
Ontario, Canada

Jack Boxstrom joined RM Auctions in late-1996 to assist with the recently acquired, and subsequently record-breaking, auction in Monte... read more

Max Girardo

mgirardo@rmauctions.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Max Girardo started his career in the vintage automobile industry in 1998, joining Brooks Auctioneers (now Bonhams) as a car specialis... read more

Mike Fairbairn

mfairbairn@rmauctions.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Auctions, Mike Fairbairn has a longstanding interest in the classic car industry. Graduati... read more

Peter Wallman

pwallman@rmauctions.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Peter Wallman joined RM Europe in 2007, following nearly two decades in the international advertising industry, read more

Peter Giddings

pgiddings@rmauctions.com

+1 925 831 2048
California, United States

A life-long car enthusiast, Peter joined RM’s California office with over half a century of experience in the automotive and rac... read more

Peter Blond

pblond@rmauctions.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Peter Blond joined the RM Europe team in 2013 after being immersed in the collector car industry for more than 60 years. An... read more

Rob Myers

rmyers@rmauctions.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

As chairman and founder of the RM Group of Companies, Rob Myers’s entire career has been devoted to the classic car industry. Ro... read more

Shelby Myers

smyers@rmauctions.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, USA

Shelby Myers literally grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to w... read more

Vinnie Mandzak

vmandzak@rmauctions.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, USA

Vinnie Mandzak joined RM Auctions’ California office in 2012 as a car specialist, following more than 30 years’ experience... read more

Jeff Whiteside

jwhiteside@rmauctions.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Jeff Whiteside joined RM Auctions as Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer following almost three decades in a diverse r... read more