1933 Duesenberg Model J

 

1933 Duesenberg Model J Touring Sedan

1933 Duesenberg Model J Touring Sedan

The 1933 Duesenberg Model J Touring Sedan shown in this article is one of the most popular of all vintage automobiles. Some of the 1933 Duesenbergs, manufactured during the Great Depression, have received collector's bids of over $1.5 million. That selling price reflects both the rarity and the popularity of this classic luxury car.

A Engine With Lots of Power

Duesenberg built the Model J and a super charged version, Model SJ, from 1928 to 1937. Talk about a rare automobile. During this time only 481 of these two models were ever produced. The Model J was introduced first and was powered by an in line, dual overhead cam V8 that produced 265 horsepower. The later Model SJ  was supercharged and produced an ultra powerful 320 horsepower.

Prior to World War Two there was no other American car that supplied as much power as the Duesenberg Model J.

1933 Duesenberg dashboard

1933 Duesenberg dashboard

Superb and Expensive Craftsmanship

Some say that each of the Duesenbergs were built differently. This is because while Duesenberg produced the chassis and the engine, the body and styling was completed by some of Europe's and America's most noteworthy coach builders. This kind of hand crafted construction gave the 1933 Duesenberg a high price tag. In 1933, prices ranged from about $13,000 to $25,000 depending on the extent of the hand crafted coach building. In fact, the degree and type of coach building done on the two Duesenberg models are the measure of what the car's sell for today in the collector's market.

The prices charged for a new Duesenberg in 1933 were an enormous amount of money during the throes of the Great Depression. You would wonder why anyone would pay that price for an automobile during that era but they did. Some of the Duesenberg owners during the 1930's included top Hollywood celebrities and European royalty.

Duesenberg elaborate grille

Duesenberg elaborate grille

The 1933 Duesenberg instrument panel included extra gauges such as a tachometer, a stopwatch, an altimeter, and a brake-pressure gauge. Certainly not something you'd find in the mass produced cars of the 1930's.

The Duesenberg Automobiles

Duesenberg automobiles were a creation of brothers Fred and August Duesenberg. The Duesenberg family came to the U.S. from Germany in the late 1800's and made Iowa their home. The younger Duesenberg got into the business of building racing bicycles. The brothers then began building engines for automobiles and from that formed their own company in 1913.

The Duesenberg Motor Company first built motors for both tractors and aircraft and then moved into engines for auto racing. From that the company turned it's attention to actually building an automobile with their well known engines and turned out their first car in 1921. The first Duesenberg car sold for north of $6,000 and their engine delivered 85 horsepower. It was a pretty high priced automobile for the era.

1933 Duesenberg Model J wide whitewalls

1933 Duesenberg Model J wide whitewalls

About 500 of their automobiles sold through the middle of the 1920's. At that point the brothers sold the company to E.L. Cord. Cord was a successful car salesman from Chicago who also gained control of the Auburn car company and with that the Duesenberg models merged in with Auburn. At the time the brothers joined up with the newly merged company. There's lot of history about the Auburn car company, Cord automobiles and E.L. Cord himself and how he ended up in the 1930's with stock fraud charges brought about by the SEC. It's quite an interesting story.

Links to two additional photo articles you'll enjoy on AutoMuseumOnline are the 1931 Cadillac V-16 Sport Phaeton and the 1935 Auburn BoatTail Speedster.

1933 Duesenberg Specs

Prior to 1927 the Duesenberg brothers had produced a Model A and a Model X. The 1933 Duesenberg Model J, which was first introduced in 1927, came with a Lycoming straight eight engine with 419.6 cid.

1933 Duesenberg Model J rear end styling

1933 Duesenberg Model J rear end styling

Both the front and rear brakes on this rear wheel drive automobile were drums with hydraulic assists. Something a bit ahead of it's time.

Front suspension was a rigid axle w/semi-elliptic springs. Rear suspension was live axle w/semi-elliptic springs.

The car's weight was heavy being over 5,200 lbs. The wheelbase was 142.5 inches and the transmission was a three speed manual. The car's top speed was listed at 116 MPH. The 0 to 60 MPH time was listed at 13.0 seconds. Pretty good for 1933.

Some excellent books about the Duesenberg automobiles include Duesenberg by author Dennis Adler and Duesenberg: The Mightiest American Motor Car by author J.L. Elbert.

(Photos are from author's private collection)

1958 Ford Fairlane Skyliner Retractable Hardtop

The Ford "Fairlane" model was named after Henry Ford's Detroit area mansion which was also named "Fairlane".

1958 Ford Skyliner

1958 Ford Skyliner

The 1958 Ford Fairlane was quite a unique automobile, especially like the retractable hardtop version seen here. This Ford Skyliner model had a mechanism that folded the front and rear roof that turned a hardtop into a convertible. When the car was introduced in 1957 it represented the only hardtop convertible in the entire world. Over 20,000 Skyliners were sold in the 1957 model year which represented about four times the number of Ford Sunliners. The Sunliners used the conventional canvas roof. It appears that the novelty of the retractable hardtop was dying down in as much as only between 14,000 and 15,000 were sold during the 1958 model year, a large drop from the previous year. Another factor to consider was that the Ford Skyliner with it's retractable hardtop cost about $400 more than the conventional convertible the Sunliner. There was also the issue of much less trunk space when the Skyliner's roof was retracted.

Ford Skyliner retractable hardtop

Ford Skyliner retractable hardtop

Actually, the idea of having a hardtop automobile with a folding down roof was introduced a few decades earlier in 1934. The 1934 Peugeot 601 had a power-operated retractable metal top designed by Georges Paulin. Peugeot offered the same hardtop convertible in 1935 with the Peugeot 402.

The retractable hardtop mechanism at the Ford Motor Company was designed by a man named Ben Smith who previously worked for General Motors. The question was whether the mechanism would be hydraulic or electric. The electric version was decided on. The designing of this system actually began in the early 1950's with a working scale model built in 1953. After various issues arose with the first scale model another was built in 1954.

An interesting side note is that the retractable hardtop was originally targeted for Ford's Continental brand but was switched to the Ford line. The clay models first built were Continentals and then they were reformed into the Ford Fairlane style. One reason cited for the change from Continental to Ford Fairlane was that the production costs could be spread over more total units with Fairlane than with Continental.

1958 Ford Fairlane Skyliner

1958 Ford Fairlane Skyliner

Designing and Building the Ford Fairlane Retractable Hardtop

The retractable hardtop also posed another issue. It was obvious that a mechanism could not retract the entire car roof and fold it in one piece. Somewhere along the roof there would need to be a folding hinge. Some of Smith's engineers suggested that the roof fold in the middle. Smith decided on a front flap which was ten inches in length. This front flap would fold itself under the main roof section.

If you stand back and watch the Ford Fairlane Skyliner roof fold back in may seem like a simple process. To the contrary it was a very complicated process that utilized seven electric motors. The motors would obviously have to work in a sequence with relays and individual switches. There was also over 600 feet of wire required.

Ford Fairlane Skyliner Convertible

Ford Fairlane Skyliner Convertible

As mentioned above, sales enthusiasm for the Ford Skyliner peaked at about the same time the car was introduced. Ford designers had the Skyliner roof fold down into the trunk area and the roof itself was smaller than most other hardtops. To be sure, the retractable mechanism, as described above, was a complicated piece of equipment with a lot of moving parts. Things could easily go wrong with the apparatus and that coupled with the fact that a conventional Ford convertible cost about $400 less meant that hardtop convertible sales lessened greatly.

Links to two additional AutoMuseumOnline photo articles you'll enjoy with this one are the 1958 Chevrolet Impala Convertible and the 1957 Pontiac Star Chief Convertible.

58 Ford Fairlane Skyliner Specs

Engine options in 1958 included a 352 cid 300-horsepower V-8 engine. Also Ford offered a 332 cid 265 horsepower version. Also offered was the Cruise-O-Matic transmission in place of the standard manual transmission.

Another interesting option for the 1958 Skyliner buyer was "air suspension". This suspension system included a compressor, pressure tank, airbags, and automatic leveling valves for both the front and rear.

The Ford Skyliner's gas tank was behind the rear passenger seats as opposed to under the trunk. The car's back deck was higher and longer.

The Ford Fairlane Skyliner's overall length was 210.8 inches, it's wheelbase 118.0 inches and it's weight 4,069 lbs.The new 1958 Ford Skyliner sold new for about $3,100 depending on options.

The Ford Skyliner's of the late 1950's were indeed unique cars with some unique ideas built in them. These cars were built during the era when Detroit automakers thought that they could do just about anything, and they did.

(Photos from author's private collection)

1953 Buick Roadmaster Skylark Convertible

 

1953 Buick Roadmaster Skylark Convertible

1953 Buick Roadmaster Skylark Convertible

The 1953 Buick Skylarks were a limited production car built by General Motors. All of the Skylarks during the 1953 model year were built as convertibles. The 1953 Buick Skylark convertible is considered to be a specialty car and helped to mark the 50th anniversary of General Motors. The automobile was one of three specialty cars built by GM during 1953 with the others being Oldsmobiles and Cadillacs. The best selling of the three was the Buick model. The fact that the 1953 Buick Skylark convertible was a limited run edition makes it a very popular collector's car. The Buick Skylark went into production in January of 1953 and was in the showrooms by spring.

The 1953 Buick Skylark Design

The overall design of the 1953 Buick Skylark was essentially taken from the Roadmaster model. The Skylark had the same dimensions as the Roadmaster with the exception that the car's height. The Skylark was based on the big 1953 Buick Roadmaster convertible, which because of it's bulk and size couldn't really be considered a sports car. Regardless of it's large size, Buick did refer to the auto as a sports car. Cited were it's low lines and wire wheels. The front seat was lowered to the point where the seatback sat level with the tops of the doors. What the Buick Skylark didn't have were the front fender "portholes" to keep its styling clean. The car did have special body side emblems ahead of the rear wheels.

1953 Buick Skylark Convertible interior

1953 Buick Skylark Convertible interior

1953 Buick Skylark buyers were able to enjoy just about any luxury available on a car that year. These included soft-tanned two-tone cowhide seats and the buyer could have his or her name engraved on a gold-colored emblem plate on the steering wheel hub. All of these accessories came as standard equipment which even included tinted glass, whitewall tires, power seats, power windows, power steering and power brakes.

Of special note is that the Buick Roadmaster Skylark sported genuine Kelsey-Hayes wire wheels. The Kelsey-Hayes wire wheels made to Buick specifications and sported red, white and blue "50th anniversary" emblems in their hubs. Another standard feature mentioned above were a leather interior and reshaped wheel openings.

1953 Skylark front end with a 4 inch lower windshield

1953 Skylark front end with a 4 inch lower windshield

As if this wasn't enough, Buick put in their "Selectronic" signal-seeking radio with a power antenna and a floor-button control that changed stations. This truly was an auto accessory ahead of it's time. The radio had a  "more/less" knob that when adjusted would stop the radio at more or fewer stations.

Buick's Skylark was sold for two years with sales for 1953 being 1,690 units. The car sold new in 1953 for about $5,000. Interestingly enough, and because of it's relatively steep price, only a little over 800 cars sold in 1954 and at a reduced price of around $4,500. To give you an idea of the high price of the Skylark convertible, a 1953 Cadillac convertible cost even less than the Buick Skylark convertible.  In a way, this limited production over two years made the Buick Roadmaster Skylarks even more of a popular rare collector automobile.

Whitewalls with Kelsey-Hayes wure wheels

Whitewalls with Kelsey-Hayes wure wheels

Total Buick Skylark sales in 1953 represented a small portion compared to other 1953 Buicks however this special edition auto created a publicity bonanza for Buick. The car in essence was an auto show concept car in every regard that was available to the average buyer who could afford the price.

Links to two additional AutoMuseumOnlne photo articles you'll enjoy are the 1953 Pontiac Chieftain and the 1953 Chrysler Windsor.

1953 Buick Roadmaster Skylark Convertible Specs

The engine was a four-barrel-fed 322-cid V-8 that produced 188 horsepower. This was considered a fairly powerful engine in 1953. The engine was called the "Fireball V-8". The new engine replaced the inline eight cylinder engine that had all cylinders set in a row. Official top speed for the vehicle was 105 MPH. The automobile's official weight came in at 4,315 lbs.

1953 Buick Skylark Convertible. Notice emblem in front of rear wheel well

1953 Buick Skylark Convertible. Notice emblem in front of rear wheel well

The car's wheelbase was 121.5 inches, the total length of 201 5/8 inches, a width of 79 7/8 inches and a height of 63 inches. Front suspension were independent coil springs and a rear suspension of coil springs. The transmission was a "Dynaflow" automatic and the 1953 Skylark could seat six people.

Collectors Car Information

Auto auctions show that the 1953 Buick Roadmaster Skylark Convertible sold for prices of $100,000 and up even to near $200,000. The condition and restoration performed dictated the selling prices.

(Photos from author's private collection)