America’s most expensive car: Why the Duesenberg SSJ is worth $22 million | Taza Khabre

When a car is sold at auction for $22 million, it is no longer just a vehicle, it enters a new realm of existence. It is now importantly in the sense that irreplaceable historical objects or works of art are important. When a car sells for $22 million, it becomes both those things This is about what is definitely one of the best American cars Ever Made: Duesenberg SSJ.

Valuable classic cars occupy a rarefied world where they can be valued for their driving experience, their history and appearance, and are simply investments in a diversified portfolio. But what makes the Duesenberg SSJ particularly worthy of its $22 million price tag? For many people, the answer will be, “No. No there is a car.” For enthusiasts and the ultra-rich, that amount is simply the cost of preserving a rare, unique and incredibly special vehicle that is as interesting as it is priceless. Read on to find out why the Duesenberg SSJ is all that and more. .


That’s why the Duesenberg Model SJ Convertible Coupe is worth a fortune

With its incredible 7-liter supercharged engine and limited edition Duesenberg SJ Convertible Coupe is a super rare classic car.

It offered power worthy of a Depression-era Muscle Car

To give you an idea of ​​how rare this car was when it left the factory in 1936, consider that an incredibly powerful car of the time would have produced 150 horsepower. Take, for example, the Cadillac V16 – an incredibly expensive and complex beast with an advanced 165 hp 7.4 liter overhead valve engine. Record land vehicles less than 20 years ago were around 200hp, and in 1926, ten years before the SSJ, the fastest land vehicle had just over 300hp.

With this context in mind, imagine a 2024 model year luxury car hitting the streets with a 2014 high-fuel engine rated at roughly 10,000 horsepower. This is the car that Duesenberg unleashed with their SSJ. And it’s not like other Duesenberg models weren’t fantastically muscular for the time.

Here’s what everyone forgot about the Duesenberg Model J: It used Lycoming’s 6.9-liter double overhead cam (DOHC) inline-8 that produced 265 hp. Duesenberg then built the SJ, adding a centrifugal supercharger to reach 320 hp. SSJ required much more than that.

The Duesenberg SSJ offered a staggering 400 horsepower in 1936

This type of power was usually reserved for general-purpose racing cars and airplanes. The next American car engine to reach that number will be 1958 Mercury Super Marauder 430 cubic inch V8. The power of the Chevrolet Corvette did not exceed 400 hp. until 1965. What’s more impressive is the car’s manners, as Duesenberg cars were not hard, rough machines, but rather smooth, luxurious cruisers. Thanks to Lycoming’s engineering, they were able to make the engine produce massive power thanks to its large displacement, 4 valves per cylinder and forced induction, while still maintaining good manners.

The advanced Lycoming engine could rev to a redline of 5,200 rpm. For comparison, the Ford V8 of the time reached its peak of 85 hp. at 3800 rpm and most likely could not spin much faster than about 4,000 rpm. The performance provided by this 400 horsepower beast was no less than 140 mph. This tied the 1924 land speed record set by Rene Thomas in a V12 Delage (143 mph). Yes, just 12 years ago the SSJ would have been not only the fastest car on the road, but the fastest thing to cover the earth someday.



420 CI DOHC 32-valve Supercharged Inline-8


Front engine, rear drive


Weight: 4,387 lbs., Wheelbase: 125 inches


4-wheel hydraulic drums

Method of transmission

3-speed mechanical


400 hp

A turning point

425 lb-ft


7.8 seconds

The highest speed

140 mph

Duesenbergs have always been extremely rare and expensive

1936 Duesenberg JN Rollston Convertible Coupe
Via Craig Howell – Wikimedia Commons

SSJ’s $22 million sale isn’t an exception because of its celebrity connection (more on that later), but rather a natural progression of values ​​for a brand whose every model is a museum-worthy exhibit. Link sale prices at Classic.comaverage prices paint a clear portrait of Duesenberg purchase prices and model desirability.

Average prices for Duesenberg models

  • Average sales price for a 1921-1927 Model A: $238,123
  • 1926 – 1927 Model X Average Sales Price: $527,500
  • 1928 – 1937 Model J average sales price: $1.8 million
  • Average sales price for a 1932-1936 model SJ: $2.3 million

Obviously, as Duesenberg vehicles become more sophisticated and powerful, the values ​​increase significantly. Despite the relative rarity of the Model X compared to the later J, SJ and SSJ, it doesn’t compare to the J/SJ/SSJ cars in terms of refinement and performance reflected in auction prices.

With advanced technology such as four-wheel hydraulic brakes, Duesenbergs were the best cars available in the pre-World War II era. Along with such incredible performance and technology came a huge price tag, a complete machine can easily top $450,000 in today’s dollars.

Duesenberg J-series engines featured improved Lycoming engines with overhead camshafts and 4 valves per cylinder, and the brand used hydraulic shock absorbers as early as the late 1920s. Price for a the bare chassis costs $8,500 (over $150,000 today), and a custom body can push the price up to $20,000 or more

Duesenberg models and production numbers

Only 378 Duesenbergs of any type still exist. Below is total Duesenberg production figures according to the Volo Auto Museum.


Made numbers

Model A


Model X


Model J


Model SJ


Model SSJ



Jay Leno shows us an extremely rare 1920 ReVere-Duesenberg

For a car that’s 102 years old, it’s in pristine condition and still runs “pretty well,” according to Leno.

The SSJ was Gary Cooper and Clark Gable’s factory hot rod

Gooding & Company

Gary Cooper was a dominant force in Western movies, and while he enjoyed the persona of “American Folk Hero” on the big screen, he had no problem indulging in the lavish celebrity lifestyle, especially when it came to the car he wanted to drive. Next quote from a Forbes article SSJ’s sales breakdown shows his attitude to the dreaded Duesenberg:

“When I first came to Hollywood, my dream was, ‘Boy, if I had the money, I’d have the most hideous car ever assembled!’ I had one, I had two. I flashed around. In many ways. On time Then I started to wonder why I wanted these sensational cars… It gave me a sense of superiority when I pulled up next to another guy’s car at my fancy job.”

Celebrities who rode Duesenberg

Gary Cooper

Model Duesenberg SSJ

Tyrone Power

Duesenberg Model J Torpedo

Clark Gable

Duesenberg SSJ

Ginger Rogers

Duesenberg Model J

Marion Davis

Duesenberg Model J Imperial Cabriolet

Trying to sort out lost profits due to the Great Depression, Duesenberg finished a couple of celebrity SSJs and launched Positive Marketing. The two SSJs ended up in the hands of Gary Cooper and Clark Gable on extended credit. There are stories of them racing their cars through the streets of Hollywood.

At the end of the 6-month lease, Duesenberg allowed the stars to purchase their SSJs for the incredibly inexpensive price of $5,000. Cooper paid as Gable passed. Today, while the SSJ isn’t the most expensive car in the world, it’s not far off either. Yes, the Mercedes Uhlenaut Coupe and Ferrari 250 GTO at auction deserved more, but the return on investment from $5,000 (just over $100,000) to $22 million is not bad.

This is Gary Cooper’s Duesenberg SSJ: one of only two ever made

1935 Duesenberg_SSJ
Gooding & Company

The two SSJ Duesenbergs built for Gable and Cooper would be the last. In 1937, Duesenberg’s owners sold the company to Corda, and production ceased completely by 1940. There were several attempts at revival over the following decades, but none of the modern cars retained the unprecedented Lycoming engines and eventually exploded. SSJs stand as the company’s magnum opus, the last gasp of a company whose candle burned twice as bright.

As a testament to the incredible performance of Lycoming’s incredible Duesenberg inline 8 supercharged engine, a version of this engine found its way into the Mormon Meteor, a speed record car that went 153.97 mph for an entire hour and 135.58 mph for 24 hours on the Bonneville salt flats. The 24-hour record lasted until 1961.

Sources: Gooding & Company auction bid, Gooding & Company YouTube video, Roarington, Heacock Classic, Volo Auto Museum,

Leave a Comment