Time to wake our classic cars from winter slumber.
Driving a Duesenberg is one thing, but driving a Duesenberg chassis is just crazy
Duesenberg is a name synonymous with pre-war luxury and power. It was a coachbuilt car that had a total purchase price approaching $20,000 in an era where Ford’s Model T barely touched $650. Only 481 were produced, making them prized pieces of automotive art and history today. Luckily, Jay Leno doesn’t think limited production or collectibility is any reason not to drive them, and in the latest Jay Leno’s Garage episode, he takes his 1931 Duesenberg chassis out for a spin.
You read that right. He takes a Duesenberg chassis for a spin—no bodywork needed for this one. This chassis is similar to how a Duesenberg would have been delivered to coachbuilders before the custom bodywork was handcrafted and installed.
The bright chrome and intense green hue of the massive engine wide open. There is something inherently beautiful about seeing the intricate bits of something mechanical, and the fact that Duesenberg powerplants were so advanced for their time only sweetens the deal. This example doesn’t carry a supercharger, making it a J model rather than the more powerful SJ variant. But even without pressurized intake, the J engine produced a stout 265 horsepower.
The chassis Jay is driving is the long wheelbase version, with 153.5 inches between the wheel centers. That size combined with the overbuilt nature of Duesenbergs make even this bare chassis quite heavy compared to a modern car. However, Jay does point out that compared to a Duesey with a body, this chassis is plenty quick.
Be sure to watch the full 20-minute video for more fun facts about Duesenbergs, or just to see how absurd a bare chassis looks scooting down the road. We’re also in love with the sound of the straight-eight engine and would do just about anything for a chance to be in the passenger seat.