Launched during the worst economic recession in history, the J represented a gamble in luxury and technical excess - a gamble that counted on the patronage of an illustrious clientèle: crowned heads of state, movie stars, maharadjas, kings of the underworld and other powerful millionaires.
Having designed overhead valve engines and the Mason racing car, Fred and August Duesenberg founded the Duesenberg Motors Company in 1913. The brothers worked mostly on competition engines, fitting them as much to boats as to automobiles, and by 1914 their racing cars were competing at the Indianapolis 500. This race was one of the Duesenberg brothers' overriding obsessions and, after spending the First World War building V16 engines for the army and the navy as well as the 12 cylinder Liberty engine for aviation, they would go on to accumulate numerous speed records.
In 1920, now based in Indianapolis, they founded Duesenberg Automobiles and Motors, followed by the Duesenberg Bothers racing division. That same year they won third place at the Indianapolis 500 and started work on a commercial automobile.
In 1921, the 8 cylinder 2 980cc GP with its overhead cam-shaft and hydraulic front brakes won the ACF organized French Grand Prix at Le Mans, with driver Murphy fending off the likes of De Palma and Goux in the Ballots. This was the first ever victory by an American automobile in a European Grand Prix.
To be continued...