By on April 6, 2014

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One of these cars is not like the other. A while back I wrote about the replica Duesenberg Murphy Roadster that former GM designer Steve Pasteiner’s Advanced Automotive Technologies fabricated for someone who owned a real Duesenberg. The person who commissioned the replica wanted to be able to drive in that style without risking damage or deterioration to a seriously expensive classic car (though the replica undoubtedly cost into six figures to build). Before I provide a link to that post, though, I want you to agree not to link over there until you’ve finished reading this one because I’m going to give you a test.

It turns out that last summer, one of the judged classes of cars at the Concours of America was “Indianapolis Iron: Duesenberg, Marmon & Stutz”, celebrating cars from the classic era made by Indiana based firms (the Duesenberg brothers’ original shop was in Indianapolis but I believe that after E.L. Cord bought their company, production was moved to the Auburn factory in Auburn).

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After you’ve made your guess, you can see the full gallery here.

Now Duesenbergs are magnificent cars, worthy of the adulation bestowed upon them, in my not always humble opinion, and I never miss the opportunity to photograph the marque. Looking over my files, I’ve taken photos of at least a dozen Duesenbergs in a variety of body styles. Still, while the Murphy company’s roadster body was a popular one back in the day, I actually got to see AAT’s replica of one before I experienced a real one.

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After you’ve made your guess, you can see the full gallery here.

Fortunately, one of the cars representing Jim Nabor’s home state at the concours was indeed a Murphy bodied Duesenberg roadster, pictured here. Also pictured is Pasteiner’s pastiche and the reason why I asked you not to follow the link over to the post on the replica is that I want you to decide which one is real and which one is the fake. If you do make a guess, tell us your reasons for your decision. It shouldn’t be too hard, there are some tells that should give it away fairly quickly, but the AAT replica is very well done, so some readers might not get the correct answer. Either way, it’s a fun little game.

Oh, and here’s the link to that post about AAT’s Duesenberg replica, where you can find out more about the Model J and its history. No fair peeking, though.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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32 Comments on “Duesenberg Model J Murphy Body Roadster – One of These Is Not Like the Other. Can You Spot the Fake?...”


  • avatar
    BigDuke6

    I love Duesenbergs too, but I’m sure you’ve seen a lot more of them than I have. I don’t recall seeing one without wire wheels, so I’m going to say the one with disc wheels and no whitewalls is the replica (a polite word for “fake”).

  • avatar
    Tomifobia

    The silver one is sporting what appears to be coil-over shocks, so I’ll say that’s the fake.

  • avatar
    claytori

    You beat me to it. The two-tone silver-grey is clearly a fake. The front suspension has coil-overs. The disc wheels are clearly used to camouflage the modern brakes that no doubt reside underneath. The original has a leaf spring front axle with friction type rotary dampers and huge finned drum brakes. QED.

  • avatar
    pragmatic

    I’m also going with the one with wire wheels as the real car. It has drum brakes easily seen from the front view photo. The solid wheels hide what brakes are on the other car and none of the views show large old style brakes with good cooling (for the day). Also I think I see a trailing arm from an older Ford twin I beam on the front of the solid wheeled car. Plus the suspension of the wire wheel car seems too thin to be a modern (liability limited) replica.

    Of course now I’m going to be totally wrong.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    The Duesenberg’s door hinges have 8 leaves. Just the door hinges were pieces of art, let alone the rest of the car. I don’t know if I could pick out the replica, but I sure would like to try. Also, your subjects are more my style, than the latest euro car show fare. Thank you ,Sir.

  • avatar
    3Deuce27

    Billet aluminum wheels, modern suspension(Ford truck?), and a license plate and other details give the silver/black one the nod for the replica. Kudos to the builder, though.

    The black one exhibits some of the thirties masterful craftsman touches such as the hand formed curved louvers and raised metal details. Friction shocks and a steering drag link are just some of the real Duesey’s give away pieces.

    When I was a sophomore in high school, a senior drove one of these to school, he later became a notable NW auto upholsterer.

    from the same era, as a child, I watched a 37′ Packard roadster restored in our gsrage. Riding around in a car like the Duesey and the Packard, especially in the rumble seat, are childhood memories you take to the grave.

  • avatar
    oldyak

    The one with disc wheels…
    never seen that on a Duzi.

  • avatar
    Felis Concolor

    Woo, I guessed correctly. The decision points for me were the wheels which could have been used to conceal modern disc brakes and the downpipes which fed into the straight collector.

  • avatar
    Dimwit

    I’m going with the wire wheeled one too. It’s just so much more bespoke with details that the other isn’t. And I thought only the SJ’s had the exterior side pipes. Both are absolutely gorgeous.

    I’m surprised that there isn’t more Duesy’s and Packards being “made” these days.

    • 0 avatar
      baabthesaab

      You are right that the SJ had side pipes, the J did not. That and the wheels were my first tips off. Also, lots of old cars are over-restored with wide whites, but, if any car should have them, this is it. Additionally, anyone restoring a real J to this level would have the metal covers on the spares, rather than leaving them exposed to UV light. And one has no hood louvers.

      Actually, the more you look, the more you see. Black and gray is real, silver and gray is the replica, but awfully well done! Sweetest looking Econoline I’ve ever seen!

  • avatar
    RogerB34

    Aluminum disc wheels are not period.
    The ’28 Chevrolet sported solid steel wheels.
    The 30′ Duesy’s are relics of the roaring 20′s that died in flames October 1929.

    • 0 avatar
      modelt1918

      Obviously, the top picture is the fake. Solid aluminum wheels, the real duesy has chrome strips on the hood and the rear fender, the fake doesn’t. The list goes on….But, those are the two that jumped out to me right away.

  • avatar
    RogerB34

    Try this:
    https://www.youtube.com/embed/qxCpK1W_Gjw?feature=player_embedded

    • 0 avatar

      It’s funny you linked to a video about Margaret Dunning. I was thinking today about contacting her about doing a story on her collection. In addition to her Packard she has a ’66 Cadillac in great original condition and a couple of other collectible cars.

  • avatar
    qest

    I know little about these cars, so it was more a game to me.

    My first thought was that the real one was prettier, which suggested to me that it was actually the fake. Then I noticed the big red things behind the wire wheels and didn’t think they looked right.

    What finally allowed me to suss the truth was the setting. The real one is among others of its ilk, while the fake is parked among different classes of car.

    Switch the parking spots, and I’d have guessed wrong!

  • avatar

    Wow. Just about every tell I could think of. Well done indeed.

  • avatar
    Uncle Mellow

    The black car has a steel bar behind the front bumper, which looks period correct, and steps for the rumble seat.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    I would be plenty happy with the replica…I guess I’m not hard to please.

  • avatar
    jmo

    High end replicas….

    I would assume they use a laser scanner and a CNC machine to building a near perfect replica?

    You could use some combination of a gas chromatograph and a scanning electron microscope to determine the exact nature of each part and how it was manufactured.

    Is that what they do? Or is if just some off the shelf parts and a replica body?

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Ronnie,
    thanks as always. Here are some links from historicindianapolis.com:
    http://historicindianapolis.com/preservation-denied-west-washington-street-duesenberg-plant/
    http://historicindianapolis.com/duesenberg-site-lives-on/
    The Stutz building is still in use: http://historicindianapolis.com/duesenberg-site-lives-on/
    One more from historicindianapolis.com: http://historicindianapolis.com/the-prolific-and-innovative-marmon/
    Thanks

  • avatar
    geozinger

    Ronnie, FWIW: Jim Nabors is from Sylacauga, Alabama. I used to think he was from Indiana, also.

    I think he gets associated with Indiana because of the his (once) excellent voice being used for the Indy 500.

    Of course, he’s in his mid 80′s now, so it will be interesting to hear him sing “Back Home in Indiana” for this year’s version of the Indy 500. He’s said publicly this is the last time he will perform it.

    • 0 avatar

      Thanks for the correction. I knew I should have checked that. I suppose that I heard him sing it since I was at the race in 1974 and Wikipedia says that he started doing it in 1972. I went with my best friend whose family owned a wholesale plumbing supply and we had great seats on the front straight courtesy of Ozzy Olson’s Olsonite toilet seat company. We were cheering for Bobby Unser because he was racing an Olsonite Eagle, but it was pretty clear that he wasn’t going to chase down Johnny Rutherford. I’ve been to a lot of sporting events including other races but nothing, for sheer excitement and electricity, matches the start of the Indy 500.

  • avatar

    Which was fake is an easy question. If you posted the fake one alone and asked us what it was I bet it would take awhile. The owner got what he wanted with a nice period styled ride without the concerns of driving a real Duisenberg!

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    I don’t think one can get wire wheels like that any more, at any price. After that, the rest of the details just kind of feel into place. An interesting replica; although I’m not sure I get the point. Side-by-side, the replica is missing a lot of the details that make the Deusy special, as others have noted.

    • 0 avatar

      Don Sommer’s American Arrow will gladly make you a set of wire wheels for your classic era car. I think they’re now about $3,500 a wheel. Sommer told me that when he started making them, he charged that much for a set of four. I should write a piece about Sommer, an important guy to the collector community. He was one of the founders of the Concours that used to be at Meadow Brook and now is at St. John’s. His shop is very much old-school, with artisans reproducing stuff with lost wax casting and other methods. Their hood ornaments and mascots are, simply put, art.
      http://www.americanarrowcorp.com/html/content_page.php?content_id=19&nav_id=3&

  • avatar
    dtremit

    The biggest giveaway for me was the Michigan “M” plate. Somehow I don’t think the real Duesenberg qualifies for one of those anymore…

  • avatar
    RogerB34

    Here is the inspiration of solid aluminum wheels on a ’32 RR sold 3/11/14 Mecom, Dallas:
    http://www.mecum.com/auctions/lot_detail.cfm?LOT_ID=HA0414-184926&entryRow=424&lottype=&startRow=421
    A nice write up.
    I can’t imagine what it was like to take possession of a Rolls Royce Christmas eve 1932 given the third year of the Depression. Likely nothing like it in Texas.


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