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1935 Duesenberg SSJ Becomes Most Expensive American Car Ever Sold At Auction

1935 Duesenberg SSJ (most expensive American car sold at auction as of August 2018) 6 photos
Photo: Gooding & Co.
1935 Duesenberg SSJ (most expensive American car sold at auction as of August 2018)1935 Duesenberg SSJ (most expensive American car sold at auction as of August 2018)1935 Duesenberg SSJ (most expensive American car sold at auction as of August 2018)1935 Duesenberg SSJ (most expensive American car sold at auction as of August 2018)1935 Duesenberg SSJ (most expensive American car sold at auction as of August 2018)
An eye-watering $22,000,000. That’s the sum hammered at the Gooding & Co. auction during the 2018 Monterey Car Week for this 1935 Duesenberg SSJ, making it the most expensive American car ever sold at auction. Not only that, but this fellow here also holds the title of most expensive pre-war car ever sold.
So what made the winning bidder spend so much money on such an old automobile? First of all, it is “the ultimate Model J Duesenberg, one of only two SSJ models built.” SSJ stands for short-wheelbase supercharged J, translating to a wheelbase of 125 inches and just about 400 horsepower from a twin-cam inline-eight engine.

As if that wasn’t enough, the two examples of the breed were owned by Gary Cooper and Clark Gable, which would race each other whenever they felt like it in the latter half of the 1930s.

This example of the breed was delivered to Hollywood legend Gary Cooper, who then sold it to Briggs Cunningham and Miles Collier. The speedster bearing chassis number 2594 and engine number J-563 features coachwork by LaGrande.

Completed in later 1935, the car is almost indistinguishable from its counterpart, excluding the colors and design of the taillights. When it was new, the SSJ retailed at approximately $5,000, reduced from the typical price of a Duesenberg J of $15,000. That’s because the automaker was struggling at that point in time, hence the effort made by Charles Cord to bring the SSJ into the Hollywood elite.

“Gary Cooper went home the other night with a new Duesenberg car in a sort of sand color,” we’re told by Atlanta Constitution in an article published on December 15th, 1935. “The next day he brought it back. His wife, Sandra Shaw, didn’t like the shade. So there’s a new paint job being done in a dark, dark green, with silver trimmings.”

Also at the 2018 Monterey Car Week, RM Sotheby’s broke the record for the most expensive car ever sold at auction with a Ferrari 250 GTO from 1962. Driven by Phil Hill and with numerous motorsport accolades under its belt, the car sold for a barely-believable $48.4 million.

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About the author: Mircea Panait
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After a 1:43 scale model of a Ferrari 250 GTO sparked Mircea's interest for cars when he was a kid, an early internship at Top Gear sealed his career path. He's most interested in muscle cars and American trucks, but he takes a passing interest in quirky kei cars as well.
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