Gary Cooper’s Duesenberg SSJ to appear at Arizona Concours

Duesenberg SSJ 1935 072
 The 1935 Duesenberg SSJ was originally owned by film legend Gary Cooper | Revs Institute photos
The 1935 Duesenberg SSJ was originally owned by film legend Gary Cooper | Revs Institute photos

Of all the American brands from the Classic Era, none rivals that of Duesenberg, then or now. The third-annual Arizona Concours d’Elegance honors “Duesie” with its own featured class on Sunday, January 24, 2016, and a number of spectacular examples already have been entered.

Among the lineup of Duesenbergs is an extremely rare short-wheelbase 1935 Duesenberg SSJ with impeccable celebrity history, originally owned by Hollywood mega-star Gary Cooper. The sporting convertible from the Revs Institute for Automotive Research, Inc., is one of only two “super-short” wheelbase SSJs produced by Duesenberg, with the second one loaned by a local dealer to another Hollywood leading man, Clark Gable, who was close friends with Cooper and wanted to drive a car like his.

The Duesenberg SSJ is one of two ‘super-short’ wheelbase models
The Duesenberg SSJ is one of two ‘super-short’ wheelbase models

The Gary Cooper SSJ, serial number 2594, was built on a 125-inch wheelbase rather than Duesenberg’s customary 142.4- or 153.5-inch lengths, giving the distinctive car a rakish and sporting appearance behind the bold signature Duesenberg grille. The supercharged straight-8 engine was rated at 400 horsepower, which made the car capable of a top speed of more than 130 mph.

The flamboyant SSJ models continued the evolution of the famous Duesenberg J, the crowning achievement of engineer and designer Fred Duesenberg. The massive luxury cars were created by Duesenberg at the urging of E.L. Cord, who bought the bankrupt company in 1926 and wanted to build the greatest automobile ever produced. The grand and powerful Duesenberg J was introduced in December 1928, and it quickly became the favored mount of the world’s most wealthy and famous people.

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Another prized entry in the Arizona Concours’ Duesenberg Class is the renowned 1935 Duesenberg Model SJ Speedster known as the Mormon Meteor that the legendary Ab Jenkins drove to a number of land-speed records on the Bonneville Salt Flats.

The third annual Arizona Concours d’Elegance, an exclusive celebration of rare and significant vintage automobiles, takes place on the landscaped lawns of the historic Arizona Biltmore Resort in Phoenix. Once again, the Arizona Concours serves as the startup for the famed Classic Car Week in the Scottsdale/Phoenix area.

Besides the Duesenberg class, two other featured classes have been designated for the 2016 Concours: Zagato Coachwork and Exceptional Cars of Great Britain. Those classes will join more than a dozen standing classes that will be judged during the concours.

For more information about the Arizona Concours d’Elegance, see the concours’ website.