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J Murphy 'Whittell' Coupe
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  Duesenberg J Murphy 'Whittell' Coupe

  Article Image gallery (13) 2478 J-460 Specifications  
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Country of origin:United States
Produced in:1931
Designed by:Franklin Q. Hershey for Murphy
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:December 20, 2011
Download: All images
Chassis: 2478 J-460
Captain George Whittell Jr. was one America's wealthiest and eccentric people of the first decades of the last century. He was a keen enthusiast of exotic animals but was also very interested the latest technology. So it was not surprising that he became Duesenberg's biggest customer, acquiring no fewer than six new chassis over the years. Five of these were bodied by Murphy of Pasadena following the design of Franklin Q. Hershey. This Coupe is the fifth and last of these.

The unique machine is built on the longer of the two Duesenberg J chassis, even though it is a strictly a two-door, two-passenger Coupe. Demanding nothing but the best, Whittell worked closely with Hershey to get the desired result. The entire body was constructed from aluminium, literally crowned by a brushed aluminium roof. This was shaped by Murphy's highly skilled craftsmen to resemble a fabric convertible roof. This theme was continued on the inside where a complete but obviously non-functional folding mechanism was fitted. Chrome used all around the car for trim with the 12 strakes on the rear deck as the most prominent pieces.

Access to the compact passenger compartment is through doors that unusually hinge on the front. Instead of the conventional wood veneer, the doors are panelled in black Bakelite, which like the rest of the interior is accentuated by chrome trim. Creating a similar sparkle are the seats covered in black patent leather. Equipped with every dial and switch in the Duesenberg catalog, the dashboard was executed in turned aluminium. Whittell had the car equipped with the latest Philco Transistone cathedral radio, the antenna of which was fitted beneath the driver's running board.

Arguably one of the most glorious coach-built cars created, Captain Whittell retained his Murphy Coupe for nearly two decades. Much like his later life, the sale of the car was shrouded in mystery. The story is that a young lady, requiring a booster seat to drive the 'Whittell Coupe' showed up at Bob Roberts' sports car dealership one day in 1948 and simply traded the big Duesenberg for a more practical MG TF. Roberts had no problem finding a new owner, and in his hands the little seen before car caused quite a stir and appeared in several publications.

It was subsequently acquired by Homer Fitterling, who at one point owned the largest collection of Duesenbergs, consisting of several dozen examples. The pride of his collection, the 'Whittell Coupe' was loaned for many years to the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg museum. After his death the car became part of the collection of 'Carpet King' Ed Weaver. In 1995 the current owner acquired the still highly original Duesenberg from his estate. By this time the striking machine was started to show its age and was handed to Chris Charlton for a careful restoration.

The marque expert's thorough work was immediately rewarded with a 'best in class' award at the 1996 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance. One of the spectators that day was Franklin Q. Hershey, who was reunited with one of his masterpieces. Since then the car has meticulously maintained and only very rarely seen. With just 12,000 original miles on the clock and five owners from new, the 'Whittell Coupe' was offered at Gooding & Company's 2011 Pebble Beach auction. The rare opportunity to acquire the unique machine clearly inspired bidders as it eventually changed hands for a hefty $10.3 million, making it the most expensive Duesenberg ever sold at auction.

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2007 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance Duesenberg J Murphy 'Whittell' Coupe Duesenberg J Murphy 'Whittell' Coupe Duesenberg J Murphy 'Whittell' Coupe
Duesenberg J Murphy 'Whittell' Coupe Duesenberg J Murphy 'Whittell' Coupe Duesenberg J Murphy 'Whittell' Coupe Duesenberg J Murphy 'Whittell' Coupe
Duesenberg J Murphy 'Whittell' Coupe Duesenberg J Murphy 'Whittell' Coupe Duesenberg J Murphy 'Whittell' Coupe Duesenberg J Murphy 'Whittell' Coupe
Duesenberg J Murphy 'Whittell' Coupe

  Article Image gallery (13) 2478 J-460 Specifications