Once the fastest and most powerful American car of its time, Leno likes to show off his Duesenberg Model J without its bodywork

The Duesenberg Model J was the Chevrolet Corvette (C7) ZR1 of its day, in that it was the fastest and most powerful American car of the time. Its prestige had quite the allure with Hollywood stars and the American money makers of the 1920s all being captivated by its headline grabbing performance. Jay Leno has a Duesenberg or two, and he recently took his naked Model J for a spin.

This long wheelbase chassis is exactly that — a chassis — as its town car coachwork was missing when Jay bought the car. We think the car looks great with all of its pristine mechanicals on show, especially that engine! Back in the late 1920s and early '30s, this car’s straight-eight engine gave it 265bhp, which was simply a colossal amount of power for the period.

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Jay mentions how innovative the Duesenberg brothers were by pointing out the Model J’s hydraulic brakes and how the oil is changed at the flip of a switch. That said, an oil change was required every 700 miles. This example was actually manufactured in the late 1920s, but back in period a car’s model year was defined by when it was titled, hence why this Model J is labelled as a 1931 car.


Hitting the road, it is incredible to see the internals of the car working away without the bodywork to hide them. Without a body you also get a real sense of scale when you look at the driver vs the vast size of the car — it’s huge!

Sadly Duesenberg was a victim of the great depression in America, and then further hampered by the outbreak of World War II. The business officially shut its doors in 1937 and failed to be revived post-war. Today these cars are extremely valuable with a Duesenberg SSJ currently holding the title of most expensive American car sold at auction with a hammer price of $22,000,000.