The aristocracy of automobile marques in the days before the Great Depression was comprised almost exclusively of products from European manufacturers: Hispano-Suiza, Isotta Fraschini, Minerva, Mercedes-Benz and Rolls-Royce. American buyers who wanted the finest luxury car that money could buy inevitably chose vehicles that were imported from the Old World; that is, until the debut of the Model J Duesenberg at the New York Salon in 1928. For anyone familiar with American-built cars, the introduction of the Model J was an absolute revelation.
Until that time, the Chrysler Imperial 80 (with 125 horsepower) had laid claim to the title of “America’s Most Powerful Motor Car.” The new Duesenberg, however, put it to shame with more than twice the horsepower and a top speed of 116 mph with an open phaeton body. Although the new car was imposing in both size and appearance it managed to combine the technical achievement and power of a winning racing car with the smoothness and sophistication of a luxury automobile and, as a result, attracted the gentleman owner who was also an enthusiastic driver. With that rare blend of advanced engineering, race-bred performance and opulent luxury, the slogan used by Duesenberg for the Model J was arguably more than just advertising copy: “The World’s Finest Motor Car.”
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