Documentary tells the story of the first Duesenberg automobile ever sold

The video was released by the Historic Vehicle Association, which inducted the 1921 coupe into the National Historic Vehicle Register

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As promised, the Historic Vehicle Association has released a documentary video about the first Duesenberg passenger car, a 1921 Straight Eight that recently was inducted into the National Historic Vehicle Register, the 27th significant vehicle so honored.

The video traces the story of Duesenberg, considered to be the greatest of pre-war US automakers, and how brothers August and Fred Duesenberg went from building formidable race cars to creating the finest of luxury automobiles. 

The October induction to the Historic Vehicle Register of their first car sold to the public, later known as the Duesenberg Model A, coincided with the 100th anniversary of the brothers’ founding of the auto company.

August and Frederick Duesenberg with one of their race cars in 1919 | Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum

The video focuses on the original Model A, built for Hawaiian industrialist Samuel Northrup Castle, who took possession of the closed car – specially configured to accommodate his 7-foot stature – in 1921, making him the first owner of a Duesenberg passenger car.  The body was designed by Bender Body Company of Cleveland, Ohio, and built in Duesenberg’s Indianapolis, Indiana, factory.

The handsome coupe included a number of important advances for the era, including four-wheel hydraulic brakes and the industry’s first overhead-cam straight-8 engine in an automobile.

Samuel Castle kept the car throughout his lifetime, and when he died in 1959, passed it on to his family.  Remarkably, the Model A stayed in the Castle family for 99 years.

Duesenberg
The Model A was designed specially for an extra-tall owner | Historic Vehicle Association

In 2010, his grand-nephew Chris Castle and wife, CyrAnn, “commissioned an intensive 10,000-hour frame-off restoration of the car to its 1920s splendor,” according to HVA’s website.  The Model A was presented at a number of classic car shows, including the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

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In 2019, the Castle family donated the one-of-a-kind seminal Duesenberg to the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum in Auburn, Indiana, where it is currently displayed among other important examples of Auburn, Cord and Duesenberg vehicles. The museum is housed in the original Auburn Automobile Company showroom and company offices, which has been restored to its Art Deco splendor.

The video shows how the restoration of the Model A progressed, from the car’s derelict condition after being stored for decades in a barn to the award-winning condition it remains in today. The gleaming black car is shown being driven on the roads around the museum.

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The first Duesenberg is shown in driving sequences in the video | Historic Vehicle Association

At the same time that the Duesenberg Model was inducted into the register, another historic car was named as the 28th vehicle honored, a 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T SE with a 426/425-horsepower Hemi V8 and an intriguing back story.  A full-length documentary about that classic muscle car will be released soon, the HVA says.

The Historic Vehicle Register was established in 2013 in collaboration with the U.S. Department of the Interior to permanently archive significant historic vehicles within the Library of Congress. So far, 28 vehicles have been selected and documented, with the full list available on the HVA website.

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Bob Golfen is a longtime automotive writer and editor, focusing on new vehicles, collector cars, car culture and the automotive lifestyle. He is the former automotive writer and editor for The Arizona Republic and SPEED.com, the website for the SPEED motorsports channel. He has written free-lance articles for a number of publications, including Autoweek, The New York Times and Barrett-Jackson auction catalogs. A collector car enthusiast with a wide range of knowledge about the old cars that we all love and desire, Bob enjoys tinkering with archaic machinery. His current obsession is a 1962 Porsche 356 Super coupe.

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