HomeCar CultureWhat a Duesie! Model J's sale to benefit independent college

What a Duesie! Model J’s sale to benefit independent college


1929 Duesenberg Model J 'Disappearing Top' convertible coupe being sold at auction to benefit Hillsdale College | RM Sotheby's photos by Darin Schnabel
1929 Duesenberg Model J ‘Disappearing Top’ convertible coupe being sold at auction to benefit Hillsdale College | RM Sotheby’s photos by Darin Schnabel

A 1929 Duesenberg Model J “Disappearing Top” convertible coupe, one of the headliner vehicles being offered this summer at RM Sotheby’s Motor City Sale, will be auctioned to benefit Hillsdale College, a small, independent four-year school in southern Michigan.

“The chance to present a Duesenberg Model J ‘Disappearing Top’ at auction is a rare event, making J-119 a particularly exciting highlight for our Motor City sale,” Gord Duff, RM Sotheby’s car specialist, said in a news release. “Not only is J-119 special as one of only 25 examples built in this body style — one of the pinnacle body designs on the famed Model J — but the fact that it has been in enthusiast ownership for decades and frequently driven also differentiates it from its peers. All in all, it’s an excellent driver’s Duesenberg set to benefit a very worthy cause.”

“Mr. Bardeen has been a longtime friend of Hillsdale College and has admired the college’s commitment to remain independent from any federal or state taxpayer subsidies,” said John Cervini, the college’s vice president of institutional advancement. “The Duesenberg is a beautiful automobile and an iconic American car, making the Motor City the perfect spot to bring it to market. The funds from this auction will support Hillsdale College’s operations and its teaching mission.”

Perhaps the most-driven of all Duesenbergs?

The J-119 Duesenberg is being offered with its original engine and dealer-installed Murphy “Disappearing Top” convertible coupe body. It formerly was part of the collections of Melvin Clemans and Gifford Oborne before being acquired some 25 years ago by Florida resident Eric Bardeen.

Bardeen has been a member of the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Club since soon after its organization. Because of his enthusiasm for driving, J-119 has become one of the most-driven Duesies of modern times, RM Sotheby’s said, noting that Bardeen drove the car from Florida to Auburn, Indiana, for the ACD Club reunion in 2010. Recently, the car underwent a “cosmetic freshening and a recent comprehensive servicing” by Brian Joseph, a Duesenberg expert.

RM Sotheby’s has set a pre-auction estimated value of $1.25 to $1.65 million on J-119. All proceeds from the sale will go to the Michigan college.

1933 Packard Twelve convertible coupe
1933 Packard Twelve convertible coupe

Also on the docket for the sale July 30 at the Inn at St. John’s in Plymouth, Michigan, are:

    • A pair of Packard Twelve coupe roadsters, considered the marque’s most prestigious 12-cylinder model, one a 1933 (chassis 901615), perhaps the last one produced, and in green exterior with light-green interior, and a 1938 (No. 1939-2021) a fresh restoration being offered after 25 years with the same enthusiast.
    • An award-winning 1930 Cord L-29 cabriolet (No. 2927648) being offered from the estate of only its third owner, Wendell Gates II, who bought the car when he was a junior high school student in 1946. The car, which has been on exhibit at the Gilmore Car Museum since 2013, is offered with its original chassis, engine and body and ACD Club Category One certification.


The auction, which will include 80 cars, is held in conjunction with the Concours d’Elegance of America.

Larry Edsall
Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

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