Duesenberg SSJ – 1936

Barring a magnificent one-off, there could be nothing more exclusive than an open-top Duesenberg SSJ Speedster. Only two of these amazing machines were ever made, reflecting Hollywood friendships… or perhaps rivalry in the matinee idol stakes. For one was driven by Clark Gable and the other by Gary Cooper.

The short-wheelbase SSJ Speedster is the stuff of Hollywood dreams, but for lesser mortals in search of an evocative drive, there just might be an opportunity to find a Duesenberg Model J (introduced in 1929), or better still a supercharged SJ (introduced in 1932).

Duesenbergs were the finest cars made in America between two World Wars, built to impeccable standards and including much cutting-edge automotive technology. The company went bust, in the 1920s and became part of E L Cord’s empire – a conglomerate that included Auburn Automobile and Cord Automobile. Cord bought the engineering expertise of the founding Duesenberg Brothers with a view to creating the ultimate in luxury automobiles. He succeeded to such an extent that exclusive customers ranged from European royalty to American billionaires, not forgetting that new Hollywood aristocracy.

As was the custom with quality interwar vehicles, the factory supplied a rolling chassis to a coachbuilder of the customer’s choice, who then created unique bodywork that could double the price. This means that these superb vehicles come in an assortment of body styles reflecting the tastes of the day – but one tiling every Duesenberg J, SJ or SSJ shared was awesome power, with a top speed approaching twice that of some rivals. And so good was Fred Duesenberg’s chassis and engine that these unprecedented speeds were achieved in cars that could weigh up to three tons.

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:

USA

FIRST MANUFACTURED:

1936

ENGINE:

6.9I (420 cid) Straight tight

PERFORMANCE:

A top speed of 140 mph (225 km/h) was claimed for the SSJ, with 0-60 mph in around 8 secs.

YOU SHOULD KNOW:

Few of these classy Duesenbergs were made – the Great Depression damped down conspicuous consumption and only 470 Model Js, 11 SJs and the two SSJs were produced… but thanks to their prestige and build quality nearly 400 have survived.

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