This $1.3M 1935 Duesenberg Convertible Is the Most Expensive Car Ever Sold on Bring A Trailer
The previous record-holder was a 1956 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing that sold for $1,234,567.
Bring A Trailer got its start in 2007 as but a humble blog, as a collection of car listings for which readers were heeded to advise the site's name. Fourteen years on, its name is still good advice, but for a very different reason. Today, cars (and trucks) on Bring A Trailer are often not in such poor shape they can't be driven, but rather in such exemplary condition that merely cranking them feels like a financial misstep. This transformation is perhaps best symbolized by a car sold on the site today, a 1935 Duesenberg Model JN convertible sedan that collected a hefty $1,341,000, which is an all-time record for Bring A Trailer.
Update: 6/28/21 4:00 pm: This story and its headline have been corrected. Unlike we previously reported, the Duesenberg is in fact the most expensive car ever sold on Bring A Trailer. The 1957 BMW 507 Series II we originally referenced as the most expensive vehicle sold on BAT was bid up to a potential record of $1,957,507, but did not meet its reserve and therefore did not sell. Prior to the Duesenberg’s sale, the record holder was a 1956 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing that sold for $1,234,567 in 2019. The Drive regrets the error.
Dating from decadent Duesenberg's dying days in the mid-1930s, this vehicle was built at a time when luxury cars were customarily sold as just an engine and frame, on which customers were expected to commission coachbuilt bodies. JN appears to have been the unofficial name for a variety of the Model J, which Duesenberg launched in 1928 as its anticipated volume seller, with plans to move 500 a year. As 1929's Great Depression would have it, though, Model J production failed to reach that figure in a decade, reaching only around 480 units before Duesy went bust in 1937.
Model Js—and thus JNs—were powered by what was then a cutting-edge engine, a 420 cubic-inch (or 6.9-liter) straight-eight built by Lycoming with dual overhead cams and four valves per cylinder. Its 265 horsepower were remarkable in its day, but its three-speed manual transmission wasn't, being an unsophisticated, unsynchronized box that complicated getting that power to the rear wheels.
In 1935, a series of 10 Model Js were finished in a variety of body styles by American coachbuilder Rollston, which slightly updated their styling. Just two were completed as convertible sedans, chassis numbers J566 and J570, the first of which is the example shown here. According to its auction listing, it was purchased by one Herbert N. Lape Senior, seemingly a Cincinnati-based shoe magnate, after whose ownership it has spent its years living across the United States.
Since 2000, it has been in the custody of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, which has alternately displayed it on-site and at car culture events, such as shows and motorsport ceremonies like the parades before the United States Grand Prix.
And now, for the bewildering price of over $1 million it will be going to a new home, complete with Bring A Trailer bragging rights. That being said, we truly look forward to seeing which car eventually dethrones the new king.
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