Jay Leno’s Barrelside Duesenberg has a story you’ve just got to hear

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Jay Leno’s Garage has faced some challenges in keeping the content rolling over the last few months, but a fun twist is that Jay has been forced to go without guest appearances and instead feature cars from his own collection. Lately it’s been a one-man show, which allows Jay to choose his favorite cars with the best stories. This week’s episode does not disappoint, as the LeBaron-bodied 1930 Duesenberg he presents is fascinating for a multitude of reasons.

Jay’s Duesenberg has a history of highs and lows, some of it just interesting acts of defiance and other parts quite sad. The first buyer of this blue Duesey was a 17-year-old William Ashton, who inherited $17,000 worth of stocks in 1929. Being a car enthusiast, he cashed in the stock and bought the luxury automobile, much to the dismay of his father, who threw him out. However, William’s purchase was perfectly timed, as Black Tuesday arrived two months later and rendered all stock worthless.

The second owner of the Duesenberg was an American soldier who acquired the funds to buy the car by pilfering German banks during the fall of Berlin. The spoils of safety deposit boxes were hidden in the frame of a motorcycle, which Jay also owns, and years later the ex-soldier brought the bike (and the treasure inside) to the U.S. He purchased the Duesey from Ashton in 1958, but just a few years later he went into a closed garage, started the car, and ended his life after becoming despondent over a romantic breakup. His brother inherited the car and refused to sell it to anyone who knew the story. That’s where Jay comes in. He met the owner at a motorcycle event and bought the Duesenberg without knowing the complete history. It was years before he learned years of the car’s checkered past.

Jay says the car “was exactly what you look for in a barn find” when he bought it, as it had been thoroughly neglected but was complete and original. The purchase was long before barn find became trendy. The restored car went on to win at the Pebble Beach Concours and was then demoted to driving duty. Jay jokes that he likes to take cars in rough shape and restore them to 100-point cars, then drive them back down to five-point cars before restoring them again.

Jay also talks about some of the finer points that make a Duesenberg a Duesenberg, things like the big straight-eight engine, the exquisite dashboard, and over-the-top attention to detail. There will likely never again be a car built like the Duesenberg, so despite this being an uncharacteristically long episode of Jay Leno’s Garage, grab a cup of coffee and a snack. Jay obviously loves this car, and it shines through.

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