The Gooding & Company Pebble Beach Auction 2011 will feature a bespoke Duesenberg Long Wheelbase Model J designed for Captain George Whittell Jr., known as the Whittell Coupe.

“Historically, Duesenberg Model J owners were among the most powerful and worldly of America’s pre-war elite and, with six model Js in his collection, George Whittell was Duesenberg’s best customer of all time, even surpassing Clark Gable and Gary Cooper,” said David Gooding, President and founder of Gooding & Company. “In my opinion, the Whittell Coupe we are presenting in Pebble Beach is the most elegant custom-bodied American Classic ever created and among the finest automobiles built prior to World War II.”

The Whittell Coupe is the result of a unique collaboration between Captain Whittell and automotive stylist, Franklin Q. Hershey, who began his career at Murphy Coach Builders just before Whittell commissioned the Pasadena firm to create this Duesenberg. The Whittell Coupe was one of Hershey’s earliest projects and its prominence helped launch him on a successful design career. Recognized for his influence in the automotive community, Hershey was elected to be an honorary judge at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in 1988, a role he served for nearly ten years.

“The entire car is a masterpiece and one of the few automotive designs that is perfectly proportioned from every perspective,” adds Gooding & Company Specialist David Brynan. “And the interior, in and of itself, is a work of deco-era art, which is a key feature that makes the Whittell Coupe stand apart.”

Captain George Whittell Jr. – Whittell was heir to a California Gold Rush and real estate fortune, and the ultimate playboy of his day, who famously liquidated his entire stock portfolio (approximately $50 Million at the time) just two weeks before the infamous stock market crash of 1929. A larger-than-life public figure in San Francisco society, Whittell engaged in numerous escapades with women, reckless street racing and outrageous public appearances, like the time he famously showed up to a local tavern with Bill, his pet lion. Whittell’s love for exotic beasts, along with his appreciation of technology, influenced his many private collections and the creative design of his legendary 40,000–acre Lake Tahoe estate, Thunderbird Lodge.

The Whittell Coupe – Under Whittell’s direction, the two-passenger, sporting coupe was constructed atop a long-wheelbase chassis, which added a dramatic 11 inches to the standard Model J frame. The most distinguishing feature of the Duesenberg is its low-slung, brushed-aluminum roof, designed with a complete folding top mechanism and exterior “bows”, to mimic the closed fabric top of a convertible coupe. The car is enhanced with numerous unique characteristics including a chrome-plated gas tank, port and starboard lights inspired by the Captain’s love of boats and a polished chrome “waterfall” adorning the rear deck. The Whittell Coupe also boasts a black patent leather interior, decorated with a polished-aluminum and black Bakelite cockpit, as well as a red undercarriage, just as it did when Whittell took delivery in 1931 for $17,000. Fully restored, the Whittell Coupe is offered with only 12,000 original miles.

1931 Duesenberg J Coupe Murphy Interior

1931 Duesenberg J Coupe Murphy Above

The Gooding & Company Pebble Beach Auction 2011 will take place on Saturday and Sunday, August 20-21 at the Pebble Beach Equestrian Center, located at the corner of Portola Road and Stevenson Drive. Preview days will start on Wednesday, August 17 and will continue through Sunday, August 21. The auctions will begin at 5:00 p.m. on Saturday and 6:00 p.m. on Sunday. Gooding & Company’s Pebble Beach Auctions catalogues are available for $100 and admit two to the viewing and the auctions. General admission tickets to the viewing and auctions may be purchased on site for $40.

For more information, visit or call (310) 899-1960.

[Source: Gooding & Company; photos by Pawel Litwinski © 2011 Courtesy of Gooding & Company]