‘The most-important automobile ever offered by Auctions America at Auburn Fall” is what the auction house is calling the 1933 Duesenberg Model SJ “Sweep Panel” Phaeton that will cross the block Labor Day weekend at the annual sale at Auburn Auction Park in northeast Indiana.
The car, bodied by LaGrande, carries Duesenberg engine J-510 and was formerly part of the Lyon Family Collection.
“The sporting and unique LaGrande Phaeton is one of the most significant Duesenbergs to come to market in recent years,” the auction house said in its news release.
Only 11 LaGrande sweep panel phaetons were produced on the long-wheelbase Model J chassis, and only three of them had supercharged engines. LaGrande was Duesenberg’s in-house coachbuilding unit. Design was done by Gordon Buehrig and Herb Newport.
The car was delivered new to Bernard E. Smith, a floor trader for W.E. Hutton & Company in New York City. After a decade, Ben Jr. and his bride drove the car to Mexico City, where Bernard Sr. and Junior became partners in a new horse racing facility, the Hipodromo de las Americas. The Smiths eventually sold their interest in the facility — and the Duesenberg — to their partner, Bruno Paglie. In the 1940s and ’50s, the car, missing its original supercharger, became known as the “Mexico City SJ,” Auctions America notes.
Paglie sold the car to a Mexico City used car dealer. Several Duesenberg enthusiasts tried unsuccessfully to purchase the car and bring it back to the United States. Finally, in 1968 William Wetta, a physician in Alabama, bought the car, returned it to the U.S. and had it repaired.
Wetta sold the car in 1974. That owner had it restored, including a complete engine rebuild and new Damask Maroon and Texas Sand paint. The car scored 98.75 points in a meet in Chicago in 1977 and a national first prize at the Indiana Grand Classic. The car was then sold to Gene Storms, a Californian who had a correct reproduction supercharger mounted on the engine.
Gen. William Lyon bought the car in 1983.
“The demand for exceptional American Classics at auction has shown incredible momentum over the last few years, and it is stand out cars like this SJ that underpin the strength of the market and the collector car hobby overall,” Donnie Gould, Auctions America president, was quoted in the news release.
“For serious collectors, this is your opportunity to acquire a highly important Duesenberg; one that is unlikely to repeat itself in the foreseeable future.”
The car has Category One Certification from the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Club. Auctions America expects it to sell for at least $2.5 million at the sale.