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A Duesenberg for the 60s and the design proposals of Virgil Exner

One of the many ambitious projects that designer Virgil Exner had in mind once he retired from Chrysler included revitalizing legendary prewar brands, with plans to develop a luxurious Duesenberg in the XNUMXs.

Nostalgia and the past are a very powerful force, especially in the automotive sector, where legendary models from the past reappear in modernized form. Perhaps the first time the industry looked to the past was in the sixties, when cars with pre-war aesthetics began to be manufactured. like the Excalibur, and other manufacturers made replicas of vehicles like the Corduroy or Jaguar SS100.

But one of the brands that disappeared before World War II and also one of the most missed for being one of the most luxurious and technologically advanced of the moment was Duesenberg. His most iconic car Model J, was presented in 1928, on the brink of the Great Depression, so the brand, which only sold the chassis for $8.500, was doomed to disappear.

Duesenberg Model J from 1929.
Duesenberg Model J from 1929.

The Duesy They were the ultimate dream on wheels to which only the wealthiest could access, and that thanks to the work of the coachbuilders they could adjust the luxurious car to their lifestyle.

However Economic tensions caused the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg group to dissolve in 1937, turning the cars of these brands into legends of automotive history ever since.


It was Fritz Duesenberg, son of August and nephew of Fred Duesenberg who decided to relaunch the brand which these brothers of German origin had founded. The idea materialized in the early XNUMXs and the plans were to build luxurious, modern cars with the same touches of grandeur that distinguished pre-war Duesys from other automobiles.

In this part of the story appears Virgil Exner, who had been Chrysler's chief designer since the fifties and helped modernize the group's range, ending his collaboration in 1961, with cars like the Imperial from that same year being a clear nod to the luxury cars of the XNUMXs.


Shortly after leaving Chrysler, Virgil Exner dedicated himself to imagining what the models of some of the most legendary brands that have now disappeared would be like. if he designed them with the design influences of the sixties.

Initial design proposal by Virgil Exner in 1963.
Initial design proposal for Virgil Exner's Duesenberg in 1963.

Some of his sketches were published in the magazine Esquire in December 1963, initially presenting proposals only for American brands such as Packard, Mercer, Stutz and a first sketch for the Duesenbergs. Also around this time he founded a design firm with his son Virgil Exner Jr.

He would later come to develop ideas about a new Pierce Arrow or Jordan. One of the works that did materialize as a real car was a Bugatti presented in 1965 in collaboration with Ghia and which was baptized as the Type 101C Roadster.


Fritz Duesenberg contacted Exner after seeing his work published in Esquire. The proposal for a Duesenberg published in the magazine was too extreme and inspired by the past for the taste of the company's heir. Instead The new car was to be a modern sedan with aesthetic touches reminiscent of the XNUMXs.

A mix of contemporary and classic: a new car, but with enough elements borrowed from the past to satisfy the nostalgic.

To build a prototype Virgil Exner re-established contact with Ghia's Italians. The work was convert an Imperial chassis into a car that resembled the designer's sketches. In the Turin house they were already used to working with Imperial since they were in charge of bodywork the brand's limousines between 1957 and 1965.

The car increased its dimensions with respect to the already gigantic Imperial, with proportions more similar to those of a Cadillac limousine of the time, and with a hood more than two meters long. When the prototype was finished, it cost more than $40.000 at the time.

Regarding the mechanics, the Duesenberg It had a 8-liter Hemi V7,2 engine of Chrysler origin that developed 425 HP of power., although at the time of its presentation, in 1966, an 8-liter V8,2 made of aluminum was promised in the future.

Car It was baptized the Duesenberg Model D, and was advertised with a retail price of $19.500., similar to that of the exclusive Mercedes 600. There was also talk of an extra finish of $1.800 that included a television and a minibar.

In its presentation it was promised that 150 units would be built the first year and that production would increase to 500 cars for the following year, but The lack of investment capital caused the company to close in October 1966.

The Exner family did not receive any type of financial compensation for their work and the prototype was handed over by a court to one of the company's creditors. Fortunately, This unique unit survives to this day.


This time It was Fritz Duesenberg's cousins ​​who tried to relaunch the brand under the name Duesenberg Brothers Company in 1976.. For this new industrial adventure, the brothers contacted a limousine builder in Chicago to manufacture the cars.

This time the project was less ambitious, and The Duesy would take the platform of a 1976 Cadillac to which they made all kinds of modifications and that it would be ready in 1980.

The result was not at all spectacular, and The only Duesenberg thing this car had would be an astronomical $100.000 price tag., but as with the previous attempt, the money ran out before mass production could take place.

What do you think?

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Written by Javillac

This thing about cars comes to one since childhood. When other kids preferred the bicycle or the ball, I kept the toy cars.
I still remember as if it were yesterday a day when a black 1500 overtook us on the A2, or the first time I saw a Citroën DS parked on the street, I have always liked chrome bumpers.

In general, I like things from before the time I was born (some say I'm reincarnated), and at the top of that list are cars, which, together with music, make the ideal combination for a perfect time: driving and a soundtrack according to the corresponding car.

As for cars, I like classics of any nationality and era, but my weakness is American cars from the 50s, with their exaggerated shapes and dimensions, which is why many people know me as "Javillac".

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