“Duesenberg – Celebrating an American Classic” is the title of a new 20-car exhibition that has opened at the Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners, Michigan. The museum believes it to be the largest and most prestigious public museum showing in decades of Duesenberg Motor Cars.
The exhibit runs until fall 2019.
“This all-new exhibit is the result of guest curators and Duesenberg experts Matt Short and Mark Iles scouring private collections nationwide in pursuit of the rarest and most intriguing examples from race cars to the Model J,” the museum said as it unveiled the exhibition.
“Duesenbergs became the choice of not those simply rich, but of the ultra-wealthy,” it continued. “The marque became a status symbol for Hollywood elite, monarchs and captains of industry alike. The list of owners included “A List” movie stars of the 1920s and ’30s: Greta Garbo, Clark Gable, Gary Cooper, Mae West and Tom Mix.
“The Duke of Windsor and the kings of Italy and Spain owned Duesenbergs, as well as industrialists Howard Hughes and William Randolph Hearst. The Wrigley family of chewing gum fame and Ethel Mars of the Mars Candy empire were also included among owners.”
“The Model J was the biggest, fastest and most expensive American car during the 1920s and ’30s,” Short is quoted in the museum’s news release. “In many cases the accolades heaped on some cars are often hyperbole. However, in the case of Duesenberg, they are true.”
Among the Duesies on display are a couple with notorious histories, including a 1930 J-143 roadster convertible coupe first owned by Al Capone’s partner in crime, Jake “The Barber” Factor, and a 1931 supercharged J-345.
The J-345 was known, the museum notes, “as a Disappearing Top Convertible Coupe, whose name could have foreshadowed the fate of its disappearing mobster owners.
“The New York underworld boss who purchased the car new was killed the day after he bought it. It then went to a Philadelphia bootlegger who was soon shot down in Atlantic City. It then went to Owney ‘The Killer’ Madden, owner of Harlem’s infamous Cotton Club, who was soon after picked up on a parole violation.
“The vehicle passed through the hands of these notorious figures all within its first year then went on to less notable owners before being offered for sale in a December 1953 Motor Trend magazine classified ad for the now-unbelievable selling price of just $1,750.”
Unbelievable especially when you consider that in August, a 1935 Duesenberg SSJ roadster sold at Gooding & Company for $22 million, the most ever paid for an American car at auction.
The Duesenberg family moved from Germany to a farm in Iowa in the late 1880s. Brothers Fred and Augie built and raced bicycles and after the turn of the century began producing gasoline engines for the Mason Motor Car Company, and for a succession of winning race cars.
During World War I, they built airplane engines and then licensed their design, which was used by nearly a dozen automakers.
The brothers moved to Indianapolis and produced their first car, a Duesenberg Model A.
AACA Museum features ‘Land Yachts’
Opening Saturday, November 17, are two new exhibits at the AACA Museum in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
“Land Yachts: Postwar American Luxury Convertibles” features full-size American convertibles built through 1976, when Cadillac produced what was believed at the time to be the last American convertible.
Meanwhile, through January 6, 2019, the museum also hosts an exhibit of Dodge Brothers vehicles curated by the Mid-Atlantic Region of the Dodge Brothers Club.
Petersen showcases ‘Legends of LA’
“Legends of Los Angeles” is the title of a new exhibit at the Petersen Automotive Museum in LA, where a dozen locally built race cars are on display. The exhibit includes a variety of cars, from short-track oval racers and dragsters to off-road, Indy and land-speed machines.
The exhibit also features LA-area race tracks, including the El Mirage dry lake.
“From the early years of auto racing to today, Los Angeles has played a key role in the development and growth of motorsports in North America,” the museum’s executive director Terry Karges said. “Our new exhibit honors the region’s rich history through some of the finest examples of race car engineering and design, telling a comprehensive story about the legends that helped establish Los Angeles as the diverse racing destination that it is today.”
The exhibit runs through December 1, 2019.
Modern muscle at the ACD
A trio of contemporary supercars have joined the classics on display at the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum in northeast Indiana, where a 2004 Ford GT prototype, a 2005 Ford GT and a 2018 Ford GT are on loan and displayed under the theme of “revolutionary engineering marvels.”
‘Babs’ joins ‘Chitty Chitty’ display at Beaulieu
County Louis Zborowski’s “Babs,” the land speed record-breaking car that inspired Ian Fleming to write Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, has joined the exhibit, “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang 50 Years” at the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu, England.
Built as a 1923 Highham Special, the car officially was known as Chitty Bang Bang IV, the fourth of Zborowski’s speed-record cars. The Count died in 1924 and the car was sold to John Godfrey Parry-Thomas, who renamed it “Babs,” boosted its output to 500 horsepower by installing new pistons in its American Liberty V12 aircraft engine, and also upped the land speed record by 20 mph, to 171.
When Malcolm Campbell raised the record, Parry-Thomas made another speed-record attempt but died in the process. His wrecked car was buried at Pendine Sands and remained there for more than 40 years until being excavated and restored in 1969.
Corvette museum gets its C7 back
On June 21, Don and Candy Duncan got a phone call from the National Corvette Museum.
“Do you know why I might be calling you?” the voice from the museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky, inquired.
“Probably the same reason you called me about four years ago,” Don responded.
The call in June was made to inform Don Duncan that the ticket he’d purchased in the museum’s raffle of a 2019 Corvette Grand Sport convertible had won the car. What the museum staff had forgotten was that he’d also won one of two special 2014 Corvette coupes that were given away during the museum’s 20th anniversary celebration.
Back in 2014, the Duncans were in Bowling Green on their way back home to Texas after his Vietnam helicopter pilot association reunion. They visited the Corvette museum and bought their ticket.
The couple was back at the museum this week to take delivery of their 2019 car, and while they were there they donated their 2014 back to the museum for its collection, making it the museum’s first seventh-generation model.
Special events this weekend
The Newport Car Museum in Rhode Island will show Bullitt at 7 p.m. on November 14 and plans a “Hoods Up” weekend November 17-18.
On November 16, the AACA Museum in Hershey, Pennsylvania, hosts an “exhibits Preview Party” from 5:30 p.m. until 8 p.m. offering the first look at its new fall/winter exhibits: “Land Yachts: post WWII Luxury Convertibles” and “Dodge Brothers Display: Mid-Atlanta Dodge Brothers Club.” The museum also will be decked out with its “Cars & Christmas” displays.
The NASCAR Hall of Fame museum in Charlotte, North Carolina, opens its outdoor ice-skating rink on November 16. The rink remains open through January 6, 2019.
The AACA Library in Hershey, Pennsylvania, has converted its 16mm film collection to digital format and will share six of them during a series starting November 17 with the showing of The Films of Jam Handy at 1 p.m. Handy was an Olympic swimmer who became a film producer and did instruction and training movies for General Motors from the 1930s through the ’50s.
Other titles to be shown are Ab Jenkins, Salt King on December 15; several car-based comedies on January 12; early AACA meets on February 16; the Gildden Tour history on March 23; and Shell Oil’s History of Motor Racing Part I & II on April 13.
The REVS Institute in Naples, Florida, hosts “A Special Evening with David Hobbs and Andrew Marriott” on November 16 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. featuring their book, Hobbo — Motor Racer, Motor Mouth: The Autobiography of David Hobbs.
The National Corvette Museum’s NCM Motorsports Park in Bowling Green, Kentucky, offers an introduction to high-performance driving on November 17.
Mark your calendar
The annual library sale at the Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners, Michigan, is scheduled from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. on November 23 and from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. on November 24.
The AACA Museum in Hershey, Pennsylvania, stages its Polar Express pajama party from 6 to 9 p.m. on November 30.
America On Wheels’ 11th annual Moonlight Memories gala in Allentown, Pennsylvania, is scheduled for December 1 from 6 until 10 p.m.
Engines roar when the Antique Caterpillar Club visits the California Ag Museum in Woodland, California, from noon until 3 p.m. on December 1.
The National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky, has opened registration of its Museum In Motion trip to the 24 hours of Le Mans race in 2019. The dates are June 6-17, 2019, and the trip includes four nights in London and three nights in Paris.
Does your local car museum have special events or exhibitions planned? Let us know. Email [email protected].