Last weekend a ravishing 1928 Duesenberg Model J sold at an Auburn, Indiana auction for $1.4 million. But the saga begins long ago in Chicago, 150 miles away, as a Chicago industry titan made a swap with a lucky radio station manager.
Could either suspect their transaction would be carefully reported 80 years later?
Photos courtesy RM Sotheby’s
If you care anything about baseball, you know the name Wrigley. As in the Wrigley family – titans in the chewing gum business – who owned the Cubs for 60 years, and after whom the baseball field in Chicago is named. So is the equally famous Wrigley Building with its aristocratic architecture.
For most of those decades, the patriarch was P.K. Wrigley, and he had the good fortune to own a Murphy-bodied 1929 Duesenberg J. Just introduced the year before, the Model J was intended to be the finest motor car in the world; and when introduced few doubted it. No coachbuilder for the Model J was more in demand than Walter M. Murphy based in Pasadena. His designs were simple and elegant rather than ornate, with a sporting character. (… more story, keep reading)
P.K. shared a passion for jazz with a tenant in his building, a radio station manager for WBBM, which played only jazz. Having also founded the station, Leslie Atlass enjoyed some wealth, which he invested in a Duesenberg Model J. So the two shared musical tastes, daily proximity, and both were owners of Duesenberg J.
P.K. really wanted a slightly bigger version of his Duesey to squire folks to his ballpark to watch his baseball team play and chew gum. He undoubtedly would have coveted the bigger accommodation offered by his new friend’s LeBaron “Sweep Panel” Phaeton bodywork. So the two struck a deal: they would swap coachwork. Which they did.
Mr. Atlass’ Duesenberg now had the very desirable Murphy coachwork. Soon his station started broadcasting Cubs games. Which lead to the sale of his Duesey to Bill Veeck Jr. whose father was coincidentally president of the Cubs. Stay with me on this… so the car (with a body traded for with the owner of the Cubs) ended up being sold from the guy who broadcast the Cubs to the son of the president of the Cubs.
Click on Veeck to read about his fascinating story as a total maverick… this was some extraordinary guy in baseball.
Veeck sold the car to invest in another ball club, and a succession of serious collectors have owned it… but the Legendary Car Guy is tired of writing the saga. So please admire this car.
You can also take in one of Tom Hale’s most renowned paintings of a Duesenberg below. To see them all, click on Tom Hale Duesenberg.