A $22 Million Duesenberg Becomes Most Expensive American Car Ever Sold At Auction. Classic cars from European areas selling in the tens of millions will barely get noticed these days, and soon that may be the same of American cars, too, judging by the auction activity in Monterey, California a couple of weeks go.
A 1935 Duesenberg SSJ sold at a Gooding & Company auction on August 25th for $22 million. This makes it the most expensive American car ever sold at auction, killing the previous record of $13.75 million bid in 2016 for the Shelby CSX 2000, the first Shelby Cobra built by Carroll Shelby.
However, unlike the Cobra, which originated in British, the Duesenberg is all-American. It was built during the harsh days at Duesenberg, as the company was going through difficult times from the combination of the Great Depression as well as the death of Duesenberg co-founder Fred Duesenberg just a few years earlier.
Errett Cord was in charge of the company at the time. He envisioned that building two special Duesenbergs for Gary Cooper and Clark Gable, the most famous celebrities of the day, would generate enough publicity to turn around the brand’s fortunes. The two Duesenbergs were “special speedsters” to be built on the shortened platform of a Duesenberg J, and with the donor car’s most powerful engine available: a 7.0-liter supercharged inline-8 delivering 400 horsepower. These are the results of the world’s only two SSJs in existence.
Chassis number 2594 was originally owned by Cooper, who paid the factory cost of $5,000, a steal considering regular Duesenberg Js were selling for three times that amount. It isn’t known how long he kept the car but there are photos of it taken in Los Angeles during the late 1930s.
It sold a number of times before it ended up in the hands of collector D. Cameron Peck, who already owned the SSJ that was sold to Gable. Peck bought the car so he could pass it on to none other than American sportsman Briggs Cunningham, which he did in 1949. It stayed in the Cunningham collection and later sold to Miles C. Collier in 1986. Collier has now sold the car onto a new owner who is very wealthy.
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