Gilmore’s Duesenberg display ends with September

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The Gilmore Car Museum threw a 90th birthday party for its Duesenberg Model J and invited some of its friends along for the show | Larry Edsall photos

To commemorate the 90th birthday of one of its most famous cars, the Gilmore Car Museum has staged a special display not only of its 1929 Duesenberg J-111 but of several other Duesies. 

If you haven’t seen them, you need to hurry to Hickory Corners, Michigan, because the exhibition ends September 30.

The museum’s J-111 is a LeBaron dual-cowl Phaeton. When new, it’s coachwork alone cost $8,500, or the same as 40 brand new Ford Model A vehicles.

A grandfather and grandson take a look at this 1936 Duesenberg J-576 special town car. The car was ordered as a present for Paul T. Mayo’s second wife, but she filed for divorce as the car was being bodied by Rollston and Mayo changed the order from the two-tone gray with gray leather interior she wanted to the black car with black leather. As a result, the car has been driven only 14,000 miles since new and is considered perhaps the best original/unrestored Dusie in existence.

The car was only the 10th of 480 Model J chassis produced and was displayed at the 1929 New York and Los Angeles auto shows before being used as a demonstrator to showcase the brand to Hollywood stars and producers. 

In 1939, the car was purchased by James Talmadge, son of actors Buster Keaton and Natalie Talmadge. He later traded it for a Model J convertible roadster.

After returning home from his service in World War II, Talmadge found the car abandoned at a service station, where it had been left when its previous owner was heading to jail after being convicted of embezzlement. 

Talmadge and a friend, “Pappy” Pedigo, bought the car in 1947 for $123. The car, powered by a 265-horsepower straight-8 engine, was acquired in 1966 by museum founder Donald Gilmore.

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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 books. In addition to being Editorial Director at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times, writes a weekly automotive feature for The Detroit News and is an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

2 COMMENTS

  1. I would (almost) kill to own a Duesie…. I just need to win the lottery, and I will. The only thing holding me up is that I don’t play the lottery, given the ridiculous odds.

  2. James Talmadge became quite the expert on Duesenbergs, apparently owning 8 of them in all. He must have been very enthusiastic as he was born in 1922, making him all of 17 years old when he bought J-111 in 1939! Talmadge’s birth name was Joseph Talmadge Keaton, but after his parents divorced in 1932 his mother had his name legally changed and denied Keaton access to his two sons.

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