Pushing up Dueseys

Duesenberg, as an automotive brand, has been effectively dead since 1937 despite a couple of revival attempts; I never saw one myself until a World Tour ’03 visit to the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum in Auburn, Indiana.

Over the weekend, The Truth About Cars tapped its readers for suggestions of dead brands that ought to be revived, and a Brit (I think) named “The Guvna” makes the case for Duesenberg:

The one nameplate I would love to see resurrected among all others is Duesenberg, but sadly I don’t think that even a clean-sheet, all-American $2 million Bugatti-fighter would be enough to overcome the overwhelming disdain that most Americans seem to have for anything quite so conspicuously extravagant these days. In the 1920s and 30s, they were aspirational icons. Were a similarly outrageous car brought to market today, it would likely get gobbed on the first time the owner left it parked in public. “It’s a Duesey!” has become “Look at that rich douchebag with more money than taste. Douche”. Can’t drive, small wang, probably stole it, etc., etc. The sort of people who would buy a Duesenberg likely wouldn’t give a rat’s arse about what the bitter, grasping lower orders think of them or their car, but I can’t think of a single other reason that the ultra-wealthy American isn’t being catered to at home. It’s a damned shame, really. Arguably the best cars ever built, and they’re American. They’re something to be proud of. And they will probably never be duplicated on your shores again.

Never seen a Bugatti around here, so I have no idea what our homegrown chavs would think of it, but I suspect that resentment of the upper-est crust is more a political than a cultural statement in the States.

That said, we’re certainly not going to get a Cadillac in this class so long as GM remains a ward of the state, so someone will have to buy the rights to the Duesenberg name from the current owner, whoever that might be. (Descendants of E. L. Cord? Did he even have any?)

By the way, if you asked me what dead brand I’d like to see raised up, I’d vote for Checker, maker of taxicabs and the odd civilian vehicle, which withdrew from the market in 1982 and then struggled along as a parts supplier until 2009.


  1. Nicole »

    1 November 2010 · 6:23 pm

    A Bugatti was my second model car, after the General Lee. :) I wanted a Bugatti so badly. They were gorgeous cars.

  2. KingShamus »

    1 November 2010 · 7:37 pm

    Tucker? Any takers?

  3. CGHill »

    1 November 2010 · 7:51 pm

    Apparently one Tucker was completed long after the plant, and the company itself, had been mothballed.

    And considering that original Tuckers are bringing seven figures at auction these days, you have to figure that there’s some demand.

  4. Jeffro »

    1 November 2010 · 9:10 pm

    The Imperial Palace in Lost Wages has a Deusenberg room with a bar brought in from an old Dodge City Front Street watering hole – purchased when Dodge was in the throes of “urban renewal” and ripped most of the old downtown out.

    At any rate, they have some very fine examples of the marque – well worth the visit. I’d be tickled to have a naturally aspirated Murphy body, but anything supercharged would be just too farging cool.

    Some detractors say that they are nothing more than fancy bodies on truck frames, but those SJ motors – around 400hp in the day of the Model T – well, I’d settle for being Leno’s pal for a day, I think.

  5. CGHill »

    1 November 2010 · 9:20 pm

    Ettore Bugatti used to sneer at Bentleys, calling them “the fastest trucks in Europe,” so there’s precedent for that particular pejorative.

    I’m trying to decide how much I’m going to miss Pontiac, which officially died Sunday. I never owned any of their cars, but I used to get hauled to school in a modestly-hotted-up Poncho, and, well, Tam had three of them, and her automotive judgment runs a couple of standard deviations better than mine.

  6. CGHill »

    1 November 2010 · 10:26 pm

    Speaking of Dueseys, and we were at some point, RM Auctions says its Arizona auction in February will have a ’29 Model J Dual-Cowl Phaeton, the one driven by one E. Presley in a motion picture called Spinout. Expected price is $900k to $1.2 million. Even without the blower, we’re talking 265 hp. (The J mill, if I remember correctly, was a DOHC straight-eight.)

    (Picture of said Duesenberg.)

  7. Baby M »

    2 November 2010 · 8:17 am

    There was an attempt to revive Deusenberg in the 1960s. The car was a suicide-doored 5,000-pound large-barge sedan styled by Virgil Exner. One prototype was built; the enterprise went bust before it entered production.


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