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.
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.