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Gary Cooper's Duesenberg Becomes Most Expensive American Car Ever Sold

Auction / 7 Comments

At $22-million, it’s worth almost twice as much as the previous record-holder

Duesenberg is one of the finest names in the history of the automobile, its exquisitely engineered vehicles hailing from the '20s and '30s were among the very finest machines in their day and have since become highly sought-after collectors' items.

Of them, the short-chassis SSJ's are the most coveted of all and Gooding and Company have just announced that one has been auctioned off for an incredible $22-million. That puts it way ahead of the previous American record holder, the very first Shelby Cobra ever built, which fetched $13.75 million back in 2016. This is still some way off the current global auction record holder, a Ferrari 250 GTO, but it is a mightily impressive achievement for this famous brand.

While a total of 481 Model J's were built there were only two SSJs ever produced, making a reputed 400 hp from a supercharged 6.9-liter straight-eight engine, these were the supercars of their day. Even the 'standard' SJ with its 320 hp was a formidable machine and it wasn't until well after WWII that road cars with this amount of power and performance were seen again.

As was the tradition in those early days of car production, Duesenberg would produce the rolling chassis and customers could then have bespoke bodies built by a number of coach builders. This particular SSJ was fitted with a lightweight bobtail body by LaGrande, the shorter wheelbase and lighter weight of this body style contributed to the SSJ's 140 mph+ performance capabilities.

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Despite their technical sophistication and huge performance potential, the knock-on effects of the Great Depression meant that demand for these extravagantly priced machines was not exactly strong. To help garner interest, EL Cord decided to gift both SSJs to the preeminent actors of the day, namely Clark Gable and Gary Cooper.

The auctioned vehicle, chassis no: J-563, was Cooper's car, it has since been owned by a host of interesting owners finally ending up in the Florida based Miles Collier Collection in the '80s. The Duesenberg's sale was in aid of supporting the Colliers' wish to secure the legacy of the foundation and its goal to educate future generations on the important role the motorcar has played in our lives.