Million-Dollar 1931 Duesenberg Model J Hidden For Decades Takes First Drive in 60 Years

1931 Duesenberg Model J barn find 10 photos
Photo: Nobody's Show/YouTube
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Remember the long-lost 1931 Duesenberg Model J that Doug Pray of the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Company unearthed in late 2022? The last time I told you about it, it was being prepared for its first public display in decades. Well, two weeks have passed since then, and the Duesy runs and drives!
Dragged out of a garage after more than five decades, this 1931 Model J is arguably one of the most important automotive discoveries of the decade. How so? Well, Duesenbergs are not only rare but also among the most desirable American classics from the 1920s and 1930s. Moreover, this drop-top is quite rarer than the average Model J.

Duesenberg made about 445 Model Js from 1928 to 1937, and all of them were delivered as rolling chassis to various coachbuilders. About half of the cars were bodied by Duesenberg chief designer Gordon Buehring and his Chicago-based firm called La Grande. The remaining ones were split between other companies, including Franay, Gurney Nutting, and Saoutchik.

The Model J you see here, known as the Convertible Coupe, was finished by the Walter M. Murphy Company. It's one of only 25 Duesenbergs built like this and one of the rarest iterations of the luxury car. It's also one of two Duesenbergs that have been missing since the 1950s!

While an impressive survivor overall, this Duesy is no longer 100% original. According to Doug Pray, the car was restored sometime in the early 1950s when the owner changed the color from dark blue to silver. The factory leather upholstery was replaced with vinyl, a rather mundane option for a Model J. The engine was also restored at some point, and the block is now finished red rather than green.

These are quite a few things to complain about as a Duesenberg expert, but Doug says the owner wants to restore the convertible to factory specifications. The refresh will include returning the body to its original dark blue hue, repainting the engine block green, and modifying the fenders to 1931 specs. That's great news for a classic that's worth more than $1 million in Concours-ready condition.

Now that the old 420-cubic-inch (6.9-liter) straight-eight engine is running again, the Duesy is ready for its first public display in decades. It will happen at the Great Auburn Cord Duesenberg Club Reunion in Auburn, Indiana, on Labor Day weekend.

Once the car returns to the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Company shop, Doug and his team of skilled craftsmen will start the restoration process. It will take about three years, so we'll have to wait until 2026 to see this rare gem spring back to life. Until then, hit the play button below to see it driving for the first time in about 60 years.

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About the author: Ciprian Florea
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Ask Ciprian about cars and he'll reveal an obsession with classics and an annoyance with modern design cues. Read his articles and you'll understand why his ideal SUV is the 1969 Chevrolet K5 Blazer.
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