The Great Depression put an end to a lot of opulence in America, not the least of them the super-luxury automobile. Today that market is held by such brands as Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Bugatti and Maybach – European brands all, each owned by a German automaker – but in the inter-war period Duesenberg stood among them. The American auto marque made a name for itself with its powerful engines at the Indianapolis 500, and was subsequently acquired by E.L. Cord, the auto industry magnate behind the Auburn, the Cord and the Checker Cab. Cord launched the Duesenberg Model J shortly before the infamous stock market crash. But as close as the economy may look to the one at the Model J's dawn, the rolling symbols of early 20th-century American wealth continue to trade hands at high prices.
At RM Auctions' recent event at Amelia Island, two Duesenberg Model Js from the collection of John O'Quinn fetched several million dollars between them. Both feature coachwork by Murphy and 420-cubic-inch straight-eight engines. The 1930 hard-top exceeded expectations with a $1.7 million winning bid, while the second 1932 convertible came in significantly lower at $800,000. Considering that either must have cost in the neighborhood of $20,000 when they were new – at a time when an average family sedan went for around $500 – the six- and seven-figure prices the two Duesenbergs fetched at auction look just about right.