Most of the Duesenberg we’ve seen have been pampered up as display cars and only goes out for events such as concours d’elegance and other classic car shows. These pampered classics rarely get driven because of their value and rarity but some prefer their Duesenberg to be wild and free on the road. Eric Bardeen’s Duesenberg is one of those free spirited coupes. In 2010, Eric drove this 1929 Duesenberg Model J Convertible coupe made by Murphy from his house in Deland, Florida all the way to the ACD Club’s “Year of the Duesenberg” event in Auburn, Indiana. This Duesenberg was auctioned during the Detroit auction last July 30-31 with a price of $1.54 million, other fees already included, and $1.4 million of that will be going to the Hillsdale College in Michigan.
Originally this coupe did not have a smooth Murphy body and the 2551 chassis but was actually a Derham sedan with a 2144 chassis and a J-119 engine under the hood. But one of its previous owners wanted more for his ride, something more stylish and more powerful. According to RM Sotheby’s, the original body was reworked and mounted on a new chassis, the J-119 engine was then replaced with a supercharged SJ engine. The original 2144 chassis and J-119 engine which was slightly used came with the Duesenberg when it was sold.
The “Disappearing Top” body made for the Duesenberg had a unique design that features a full trunk that is outlined with polished wood, which replaced the standard rumble seat. But the next restoration work returned the rumble seats back and it is still on the coupe today. Murphy is believed to have made around 60 Duesenberg convertible bodies but only 25 of those have a stowed top that can be concealed by a steel body panel that gave them their name the “Disappearing Top” design.
Around the late 40s, the Duesenberg Company was bought by Melvin Clemens who have been buying other brands. During Clemens’ management, this coupe was restored and the 2144 chassis was replaced with the 2551 chassis. It then had different owners and most of them were collectors before it became under the ownership of Gifford Osborne before finally passed on to Eric Bardeen.
Bardeen who is a long-time member of the Auburn Cord Duesenberg(ACD) Club is popular for driving all of his cars without any worry. Bardeen was able to add 20,000 miles to his first Duesenberg that he bought in the early 50s. Around the early 90s, Bardeen bought this Duesenberg and drove it often to ACD Club meetings in Florida. His travel from his house in Deland, Florida all the way to Auburn, Indiana is what earned him the Mayor’s Trophy during the Year of the Duesenberg show.
The 1,100-mile journey was just the beginning, Bardeen used this Duesenberg at the “Duesenberg Exhibition of Speed” race which earned the fastest quarter mile record at 14.2 seconds with a speed of 88 MPH. When he returned to Florida, the Duesenberg earned a new paint and got a fresh leather interior.
Classic & Exotic Service from Troy, Michigan prepared the coupe for the Detroit auction. The 420 cubic inch straight-8’s original aluminum connecting rods were replaced with Carillo steel rods. After some checking and minor maintenance work, the coupe was in perfect condition both in mechanical and physical. The next owner will be confident enough to drive it as much as Bardeen had.