1929 Model J Duesenberg, 4-door Custom Kirchhoff Convertible Berline

Car 2208 History

Arthur K. Bourne (1899-1974), the grandson of Frederick Bourne, president of Singer
Sewing Machine Co., was one of the first people to order a Model J.  He saw the Model J being driven by Harold Ames (1894-1983), who had been the last president of Duesenberg, Inc. in Pebble Beach in 1929.   Bourne was so impressed by the Model J that he ordered one on the spot, before it was shown publicly. 

The chassis that was delivered to the Walter M. Murphy Company in Pasadena for the installation of the body was number 2280 (J-259).  Bourne was to keep this car for thirty years, but he was kept waiting for the delivery of the car.  In the meantime, the steering mechanism in his Stutz locked up, so he ordered a bare Model J chassis; this was car 2208, J-186.  He handed the new chassis over to Joseph Kirchhoff (1885-1964), who had worked for Walter Murphy (1881-1961) but left to start his own shop in 1926.   Kirchhoff was able accommodate the Stutz Weymann leatherette body on the 2208 chassis and the finished car was delivered in only three weeks.

Before the end of 1929, Bourne happened to see one of Kirchhoff's Packard convertible sedans, and decided to have one built for the second Duesenberg, 2208.  The work was completed in 1930, again in record time.  The special features of the car, the unusually angled V-windshield and the broad polished chrome belt, were typical features of Kirchhoff's coachwork.

Bourne kept car 2208 for about a decade, but it is unknown when he sold it.  The car soon ended up at Frank Miller's Ford dealership in Pasadena.  Then, in approximate chronological order, car 2208 was owned by:

·         Lee Blind of Los Angeles acquired the car in November 1946. About this time the car was painted black.

·         Kenneth H. Deringer of Venice acquired it from Blind October 15th, 1948. The car was still being used on a daily basis.

·         Charles B. McKesson (c1925-2007), attorney & judge in San Diego, bought the car for $350. 

·         Stewart M. Fraser (d. c1947), of Ryan Aircraft, San Diego, who ran it on Butane

·         John Morris was perhaps the last person to drive the car, but nothing is known about him or when he acquired it

·         C. R. Zoll, of M. Z. Transmissions, located near the north end of Avalon Blvd in Los Angeles, California

In the early 1950s, Gil Curtright worked in the wind tunnel at North American Aviation, where his co-worker Tom Magee told him of two derelict Duesenberg’s in a Los Angeles junk yard.  On December 6th, 1952, Curtright saw both at M. Z. Transmissions on Avalon Blvd.  One was a Derham phaeton, car 2136, J-116, and the other a convertible Berline by Kirchhoff, car 2208, J-186.  They were purchased for $500 each, and four days later, Curtright, Magee and fellow car enthusiast Lassiter (Red) Hoyle, helped tow the cars away, using Hoyle's 1929 Graham-Paige.  

2208 held a special place in Curtright’s esteem.  In his own words, “All structural wooden parts are supported by heat-treated aluminum castings, and large sections such as the cowl are entirely cast aluminum, yet in spite of its stiffness and structural strength, I can easily lift the stripped body."  And "His (Kirchhoff) cars were unique in design and execution.   He used heat-treated cast aluminum all over them:  body support brackets, belt moldings, door internal hardware, etc.  He was a glutton for pattern work.  All the structural wood in my J body is fully finished.  I haven't seen this on any other coachbuilder's bodies."   When it was re-installed on the frame in 2007, very little adjustment was required to align it with the frame.  The doors also required very little adjustment. 

In 1961 Curtright met Joseph Kirchhoff at his home in Pasadena and received Kirchhoff's various patterns for the cowl and other parts of the car, several examples of coachwork plates, and the bumpers from car 2514, J-497; these bumpers are now on car 2208.

Over the next 3 decades, Curtright obtained and rebuilt parts for the restoration of car 2208.  The major components for the restoration are: frame and firewall, 2208, which originally accommodated engine J-186; the engine block, crankshaft, and cylinder head from engine J-260, and the bell housing and clutch from 2208. 

After Gil Curtright’s death in 1994, his wife Marcella and 4 children devoted themselves to finishing the restoration.  The final restoration was completed in 2011 by the late Eric Rosenau of Ramona, California.  It has been shown or exhibited at various car shows in Southern California since then.

  • VIN:  2208

  • Odometer:  450

  • Description:  Professional Restoration

  • Engine:  8cyl  420ci  32V

  • Transmission:  3-Speed

  •  Interior Color:  Ivory Leather Seats With Green Piping, Tan Carpets

  • Exterior Color:  Ivory with Green Fenders, Tan “Haartz-like” Convertible Top With Matching Cover

  • Additional Features: 

    •    Dual Side Mounted Spare Wheels and Tires

    •    Dual Horns

    •    Running Boards

    •    Center Divider Window

    •    Tool Kit

    •    Mahogany Woodwork

  • Extensive written and photographic documentation of the cars’ history and restoration

  • Owned by one family for 66 years


Photo by Lassiter Hoyle, 1951.

Photo taken in 1945.

Photo from the Kirchhoff estate, provided by Joe Auch, taken in 1934.  The car is parked in front of the home of the original owner, Arthur Bourne, in San Marino.  Photo appears in "Duesenberg The Pursuit of Perfection", p. 195.