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J Graber Cabriolet
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  Article Image gallery (16) 2254 J-312 Specifications  
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Country of origin:United States
Produced from:1930 - 1934
Numbers built:1
Designed by:Graber
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:October 15, 2010
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Click here to download printer friendly versionIt's the engine that really made the Model J stand out from its competition. With 32 valves, double overhead camshafts and a detachable head the eight cylinder engine was the most advanced engine ever designed in the United States. Displacing just under 6.9 litres, the engine produced an earthmoving 265 bhp, more than could be tested on any contemporary dynometer. Although the engine was designed by Fred Duesenberg, it was constructed by specialised engine-builder Lycoming, which was also recently acquired by E.L. Cord.

Officially Duesenberg constructed rolling-chassis for coach-builders to body. A rolling chassis usually included all mechanical parts, the dashboard, front fenders, radiator grille, running boards, bumpers and optional swiveling spotlights. The chassis were shipped to coach-builders to be fitted with a body or the other way around. To make sure a wide variety of bodies was available at the launch, a blue-print of the upcoming car was sent to all major coach-builders six months before the New York show. From 1930 Duesenberg ordered bodies in small batches and offered complete cars.

Despite the enthusiastic public response at the New York launch, sales were disappointing. The estimated production figure of 500 cars per year was never matched and eventually only 481 Model Js were constructed. Being extremely expensive, the Model J was popular with the rich and famous. Among the owners were many greats from the showbizz industry like Gary Cooper, Clark Gable, James Cagney and Greta Garbo. Various kings and queens were Model J owners as well. Part of the Duesenberg legend is based on the many famous owners.

A series of minor modifications were carried out during the production life, but most of the design remained the same up until the factory closed in 1937. First to go was the four-speed gearbox, which proved unable to handle the engine's power. It was replaced by a unsynchronised 3-speed gearbox, which was fitted to all Duesenbergs to come. Unlike almost all American manufacturers Duesenberg did not switch to a fully synchronised gearbox in the mid-1930s, which made the Model J difficult to drive and outdated compared to its competitors.

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  Article Image gallery (16) 2254 J-312 Specifications