Category Archives: Duesenberg

The luxurious Duesenberg Twenty Grand

Twenty Grand Duesenberg

The luxurious Duesenberg Model SJ Arlington Torpedo Sedan “Twenty Grand” debuted in 1933 in Chicago at the Century of Progress Exposition, in the Travel and Transportation Building. It was the most luxurious and expensive Duesenberg ever built. $20,000 was both its price tag and its namesake for the car soon became known as the “Twenty Grand.”

In 1932, preparations were underway at Duesenberg in Indianapolis, to create a sensational show car for the lakeshore event. Gordon Buehrig, then chief designer, adapted several of his own earlier coach styles into an all-new Torpedo Sedan.

The men in the plant installed a 320-horsepower supercharged engine in a long wheelbase chassis. The Rollston Body Company, noted for elegance, brought Buehrig’s design to life. Duesenberg body lines never had appeared so sleek as on the “Twenty Grand,” its dramatically long hood was completely uninterrupted by superfluous stylization.

A “V” shaped windshield slanted back aerodynamically. The four exposed exhaust pipes from the supercharged engine were covered with polished flexible stainless steel tubing. Mounted on the rear was a folding luggage rack, with a durable fabric resembling some exotic new leather, giving an amazing smoothness, covered the top.

The Torpedo Sedan was painted in a metallic lacquer of chromium color, described in the original publicity as a “platinum” hue, “stripped in dawn beige.” Inside, the upholstery was of imported gray leather, bound with silver patent leather. The plush seats were patterned as four separate armchairs. The sumptuous interior, bestowed instrument panels for both the front and rear passengers, paneled in two-tone burl walnut, inlaid with silver.

As with all Duesenbergs, the creators proclaimed for the “Twenty Grand” a top speed of 130 miles per hour, exceeding 100 miles per hour in second gear alone.

The show car was an enormous hit in Chicago, allowing the Depression-era world’s fair crowd to inhale, for a moment at least, the aura of glamour surrounding the “Twenty Grand,” whose price could just as well have applied to an elaborate home in 1933.

The most expensive Duesenberg that had yet been built never sold to an extravagant customer while it was new, and its unique design was never duplicated.

Today, the “Twenty Grand” is displayed in the Nethercutt collection in San Sylmar, California.

In the day, the “Twenty Grand” was the ultimate motorcar of era produced in Indianapolis. For more information on Indiana cars & companies, follow this link.

Duesenberg wins 1921 French Grand Prix

On July 25, 1921, Duesenberg was the first American car to win a European Grand Prix. Let’s take a look at how an Indianapolis-built car accomplished this feat.

British Pathe film with Jimmy Murphy in his Duesenberg winning the 1921 French Grand Prix.

After realizing some racing success in the United States, brothers Fred and Augie Duesenberg decided to enter four new straight-eight entries in the French Grand Prix in 1921, the first Grand Prix since 1914. They chose George Robertson as team manager. Robertson’s racing experience dated back to prior to winning the 1908 Vanderbilt Cup race on Long Island in the “Old Sixteen” Locomobile.

The team entered American drivers Jimmy Murphy and Joe Boyer and French drivers Albert Guyot and Andre Dubonnet. Then new 183 c.i. engines featured single overhead-camshafts with three valves per cylinder producing 120 horsepower at 4250 r.p.m. The racers also had hydraulic brakes which performed flawlessly.

The racers set off in pairs, with #6 Albert Guyot in fourth place, #12 Jimmy Murphy in fifth place, #16 Joe Boyer in tenth place, and #13 Andre Dubonnet in eleventh place. The first lap showed Boyer first and Murphy in third. In the second lap Murphy and Boyer moved into first and second places. In a short time the track broke up into loose gravel and flying stones. Guyot’s riding mechanic was knocked unconscious and had to be replaced.

By the tenth lap Duesenberg held first, third and fourth places. On the seventeenth lap Murphy regained the lead with Guyot in second. On the twenty fifth lap Dubonnet moved up to fourth. Jimmy Murphy in the #12 Duesenberg finished first with a 15 minute lead over Ralph De Palma’s #1 French-built Ballot.

Thompson Pattern Shop
Duesenberg racers at Thompson Pattern Shop

All of the Duesenberg race cars were built in the second floor of the Thompson Pattern shop across Washington Street from the Duesenberg plant complex in Indianapolis. Today, the #12 Duesenberg is displayed at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum.