In 1925, Errett Lobban Cord added the Duesenberg Motors Company to his rapidly growing enterprise, the Auburn Automobile Company. Cord?s vision was to create an automobile that would surpass the great marques of Europe and America. Cadillac, Isotta Fraschini, Bugatti, Rolls-Royce and Hispano-Suiza were his targets, and Duesenberg was his chosen instrument. He presented Fred Duesenberg with the opportunity to create the greatest car in the world, and the result was the incomparable Model J.
Duesenbergs were expensive cars and only the most wealthy could afford them. At a time when a new family sedan could be purchased for about $500, a coachbuilt Duesenberg often cost $20,000 or more. To today's standards this would be like an avarage sedan costing $25,000, while a Duesenberg would cost more than $1 million.
The Duesenberg was tailor-made for the custom body industry. It had the power and stance to carry imposing coachwork, and the style and grace of the front end's factory sheet metal was ideally suited for the execution of elegant custom coachwork.
The Model J Duesenberg has long been regarded as the most outstanding example of design and engineering of the classic era. Introduced in 1929, its announcement halted trading on the New York Stock exchange.
The Murphy body company of Pasadena, California is generally recognized as the most successful coachbuilder on the Duesenberg Model J chassis, both because of its timeless designs and its impeccable craftsmanship. Murphy?s association with the Model J began at the beginning. On the stand at the J?s New York debut in December 1928 was a Murphy convertible coupe with the popular disappearing top. This style would remain popular throughout the Duesenberg history, with more than 50 built.
Although Murphy made a wide array of styles, from formal Town Cars to Clear Vision Sedans, the most popular was the Convertible Coupe that accounted for over one-third of Murphy-bodied Duesenbergs. The Disappearing Top style was designed by George R. Fredericks and Charles Gerry. It featured a hinged rear decklid that extended right up to the back of the front seats concealing a folding canvas top stored beneath it. The "disappearing-top-coupe" featured a more substantial top mechanism than the roadster, as it had to fit tight around the windows in order to keep wind and rain from entering the interior. The style became so popular that, by the early 1930s, Murphy had begun to construct "bodies in white" so that customers clamoring for the popular open body would not have to wait to receive coachwork for their new Duesenberg.
Many customers preferred the disappearing top, in which the lines of the car were unbroken with the roof down. This resulted in a slightly bulkier tail on the body. Others were more partial to the standard, or non-disappearing top. Standard Murphy convertible coupes had a more svelte rear contour, but the top rested atop the body when lowered.
The trademark of Murphy body design was the clear vision pillar. On the convertible coupe, the windshield pillars were designed to be as slim as possible, creating a sportier, more open appearance, while improving visibility for the driver. In fact, Murphy advertised that their windshield pillars were "narrower than the space between a man's eyes," a design they claimed eliminated blind spots.
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