...and not even one Porsche

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...and not even one Porsche

Postby Goofycat » Thu Mar 03, 2011 7:06 am


Interesting post by Basman007 on Supercars.Net:

Barnyard Dreams
Leno lives every collector's dream by finding a Duesenberg in a garage.

I love hearing a rumor about some old car and tracking it down. When I was a kid, there was always that World War II Harley, still packed in Cosmoline, waiting to be gotten for $35. Of course, the holy grail was the Corvette that a guy died in. But its owner couldn't get rid of the smell and it was just sitting in a barn somewhere until he could sell it for $300.

Every now and then, however, a story turns out to be true.

For years, I heard about a Duesenberg in a parking garage in New York City. Supposedly, it was parked there back in the 1930s and hadn't been touched since. So one day while I'm in New York with my wife, I decide to see if I can find this Duesenberg.

At about the ninth or 10th garage, I ask the attendant, \"Do you have any really old cars here?\"

And this guy says, \"Oh yes, up on the fourth floor.\"

So I go up and there's a Duesenberg. It had been parked there in 1933, but the garage was remodeled in the mid-'60s and got a new elevator that's about a foot and a half shorter than the old one. So the Duesenberg can't get out. As far as I know, that Model J Duesenberg is still sitting there--when I offered to buy it, I was told it was not for sale.

You see, real car guys hold onto their cars forever. If you want to buy one, you contact the wife, or the widow, and be polite. It took me 10 years to get my Doble Steamer.

Hey, there are guys calling my wife right now. \"If anything ever happens to Jay, I'd love to have first dibs on the whatever.\"

Around Los Angeles there are lots of guys with lots of interesting old cars and motorcycles tucked away in old barns, sheds and locked garages. In fact, not far from me is a garage that was owned by an old fellow who was an enthusiast. I'd heard he had something in that garage. So I would go visit him in my Stanley Steamer. He'd come out and chat, and I'd ask if I could look in the garage. And he always replied in that old man sort of way, \"Oh, no, not today. Not today.\"

This went on for maybe 20 years. But I'd go see him and keep in touch. Then I heard that at age 93 or so his children sent him off to a home. So I went to see his daughter. She was now in her 60s but she grew up in the house. I asked her when she was last in the garage. She said, \"I guess when I was about 4 years old.\" That would have been around 1950. I asked her what was in there and she said, \"Some old car.\"

I told her I wanted to buy whatever was in the garage. I didn't even care what it was at this point. So after some negotiations, she spoke with her father. He remembered me, and he said okay.

When we opened the door there was a 1927 Model X Duesenberg sedan. It had been parked there in 1947.

And the inside of the garage looked like 1947. There were empty cans of oleomargarine, newspapers with headlines like \"JAPS ATTACK AGAIN!\" There were a couple of porcelain signs and other neat things in there with the car.

I wouldn't say the car was perfect. But it was pretty close. Because it was just sort of parked, and everything was oily when it was parked, everything moved and everything was free. The windows were left rolled up so nothing got in there. The paint was obviously faded and there was tons of dust. But I'm not even going to repaint it. Two of its tires still held air, and the other two were rock solid.

The old fellow bought the car in Chicago, had it shipped out here by train, and towed it with a chain to his garage. And then he never ran it. Model X Duesenbergs are very rare. According to my friend Randy Ema, the country's top Duesenberg authority, only 13 Model X's were built. They fit in between the Duesenberg Model A and the famous Models J and SJ, which were built from 1929 to 1937. He says that only four X's survive.

It has an overhead-cam engine--the original cam gear was made of phenolic plastic. Those gears broke on a lot of the cars, so there was a factory upgrade of a bronze gear. We figured that must be the reason it didn't run. But when we pulled the cam cover off, everything was oily and shiny, and it had the factory replacement gear in it.

To me, the really interesting thing about this car is that after all those years in storage, all the little bits and pieces move freely. Like all the Bakelite advance and retard switches--they move perfectly. The big question remains: Why was it put away? The old man must have lost interest for some reason. The inside of his house has little pathways through all the stuff he'd saved over the years. There must be 10,000 old car magazines, shop manuals and memorabilia in there.

Every couple of days, I spray the entire undercarriage with WD-40, letting everything soak. I still haven't tried to start it. I'm also putting penetrating oil onto the spark plugs, so that'll seep down into the cylinders and free the piston rings if they're stuck. Then, I'll rebuild the wheel cylinders, replace the brake hoses, change the water hoses, drop the pan and check the bearings. Don't forget, it was a 20-year-old car when it was put away in '47. But it's pretty much a perfect time capsule.

The body on this car was built by Locke & Co. Locke built several custom Model X Duesenberg bodies. Ema says this model was built so Duesenberg dealers would have something to sell in 1927. We're checking on the people who owned this particular car. The Model X was Fred Duesenberg's last design before the company was purchased by E.L. Cord.

Duesenberg Inc. sold off the few X's and then began on the Model J.

I always tell people, \"Talk to the old guys. They like company.\" But it's funny about these old guys. In 1988, I bought a LeBaron-bodied \"barrel side\" Duesenberg J phaeton that had been sitting in a barn since 1951. I told the old guy, \"When I get it done, I'll bring it out and take you for a ride.\" So I brought it over, and when I hit the brakes it stopped perfectly. And he said, \"It should, you know. I did those brakes in '50 or '51, so they're fine.\" I didn't have the heart to tell him that I had taken every nut and bolt off the car when I restored it. I just said, \"You did a helluva job.\"

By the way, if you want to see more about my Model X, it'll be featured on an upcoming episode of \"Rides\" on the TLC channel.
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