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Year: 1930

Manufacturer: Duesenberg

Model: Disappearing Top Murphy Bodied Roadster

Chassis Number: J-235

Country: USA

Paul Petrovich

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1930 Duesenberg Disappearing Top Murphy Bodied Roadster

2019 Ironstone Concours d’Elegance Best in Show

History has proven the original owners of magnificent cars built in the Roaring Twenties and throughout the depression era of the 1930s, were driven by notable and interesting people of the time. Established as the most iconic American automobile ever created, the Duesenberg is remembered as the finest demonstration of a blended art-deco inspired design with American mechanical innovation.

The J-235’s original owner is no exception to this story line, for few could afford a $20,000 automobile at a time when the Ford Motor Company was selling cars for several hundred dollars. The first owner of J-235 was a divorced women, very rare itself for the 1910s. The fact she bought a two-door Duesenberg roadster at the age of 62 and drove it herself, without a chauffeur, is even more interesting and telling of her spirit. 

Esther Fiske Hammond was the granddaughter of James Madison Beebe, the head of the famed Jordan Marsh Department store chain. Jordan Marsh was founded in 1841 in Boston. In addition to establishing the first department store, it introduced the concept of “department shopping”. Once at the store, consumers could do more than just shop. Jordan Marsh offered fashion shows, a bakery famous for its blueberry muffins, art exhibitions, and even afternoon concerts. Jordan Marsh also pioneered new services for shoppers not available in more traditional specialty shops. Most importantly, it offered credit, usually in the form of charge accounts. The Jordan Marsh brand was not retired until 1996 when the stores were converted into Cincinnati-based Macy’s, in 1996. 

Esther moved to Santa Barbara in 1910 after her divorce from Gardiner Greene Hammond, the grandson of the wealthiest merchant in Boston in the 19th Century. She did this to escape the harsh east coast winters over health concerns for her six children, one of whom had contracted pneumonia and nearly died. In Santa Barbara she accumulated vast land holdings of the most prime land that was and is still known as Montecito. Her brother had to buy the land and then transfer it to her. Esther subdivided the property, sold off parcels and built a magnificent home along the shore. She held lavish beach parities akin in opulence and scale to those she’d experienced as an attractive young woman in her early 30s in Newport, Rhode Island during the gilded age.

Esther also maintained a second landmark home next door to the Wrigley Mansion located on Orange Grove Boulevard in Pasadena, CA. That home was donated by the Wrigley Family for the permanent home of the Tournament of Roses Headquarters. While she was living in Pasadena in late 1929, she purchased J-235 from the Duesenberg factory and sent the chassis to have its body and interior created by the Murphy Coachwork Company, also located in Pasadena.

Being a free spirit and not wanting to conform to the boy’s club, she specified that the bodywork be constructed with dual rear mount spares for elegance instead of the heavy looking dual side mount spares that interrupted the long, beautiful lines of the coachwork. Only two such rear mounted spare tire cars were ever produced by the factory and bodied by Murphy (and subsequently Boham & Schwartz). Only seven were built in total by Duesenberg and coachbuilt by any American Duesenberg coachbuilder. Two of the other rear mounted spare Duesenbergs were Clark Gable’s and Gary Cooper’s famed 1935 SSJ two door Roadsters, completed five years after J-235 was completed. Esther would regularly drive the Duesenberg between her two homes in Pasadena and Santa Barbara. 

Paul Petrovich, the current owner, purchased J-235 from the Central Texas Automobile Museum in August of 2017. J-235 had not been touched since previous owners Gephart had restored it in 1974 and Walther added the supercharger in 1977. Petrovich shipped the car immediately to Randy Ema in Orange, CA who removed the non-factory supercharger and undertook a complete nut and bolt body off restoration completely tearing down the engine, transmission and rear differential as well.

Nothing has been left untouched and its restoration has been accomplished using many NOS parts and parts perfectly re- created from the original factory blueprint plans at a cost in excess of $1 million. Randy was given instructions to spare no expense and to restore J-235 to the “as new from the factory” condition that Esther Fiske Hammond purchased this elegant and magnificent piece of rolling art in 1930.

It was during the disassembly of the body that Randy discovered that J-235 had crudely made wheel wells where the side mount wheels were situated. After much research as the ACD Club Historian, Randy concluded that J-235 was the missing dual rear spare Duesenberg he had not been able to document, having personally laid eyes on and documented all but two Duesenberg in existence.

True to Mr Ema’s reputation and seven decades of collecting Duesenberg parts and restoring these specialized cars, he had in his possession the actual dual mount spare hub for J- 235 in the attic of his shop. Being the owner of the original factory plans and a student of history, he was the only one who recognized this part at a car swap meet over 30 years before. The result is stunning and historically significant as one of only two dual rear-mounted spare Duesenberg Roadsters bodied by Murphy, both created with disappearing tops.

With the lines of the car not being interrupted by bulky side mounted spares or a canvas top laying across the back of the car, this amazing Duesenberg is sleek and elegant for such a muscular automobile. It is now back to its “as new” condition and in the original configuration it was created nearly 90 years ago. All work on J-235 was completed on August 14, 2019. 

August 2019 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance: Duesenberg First in Class and Classic Car Club of America Overall Best Classic. Scored 100 pts. This was the first time J-235 was shown in over 50 years.

September 2019 Ironstone Concours d’Elegance, Prewar European and American Open, First in Class and Best of Show. Scored 100 pts. These are the only two events the car has participated.


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