Widely known as ‘Twenty Grand’, reflecting its 1932 selling price, this supercharged Duesenberg with chassis number 2539 and engine J-513, was designed by Gordon Buehrig as a show car for the Chicago Century of Progress Exposition of 1933-1934. This graceful one-off closed-coupled design is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful Duesenbergs built.
Many of the most beautiful bodies for Duesenberg were created not by private coachbuilders, but by Gordon Buehrig, who was hired in 1929 as Duesenberg’s chief body designer. Buehrig would enjoy one of the richest and most successful careers of any American automotive designer. Following his work for Duesenberg, he would create the 1935 Auburn 851 Speedster for corporate sibling Auburn Automobile Company, as well as the mold-breaking Cord 810 and 812. His work was jaunty, revolutionary, and distinguished by beautifully tailored proportions and an eye for fine detail. He was a natural designer who saw cars as art, as evidenced by the title of his autobiography, Rolling Sculpture.
One of Buehrig’s classic designs for the Model J, and among the designer’s most pleasing creations, was a sedan called the Beverly. Originally created for the Chicago Auto Salon of 1930, it was designed as a formal car for city use; it would have sporty, close-coupled proportions and aircraft-inspired design features, but it would also be appropriate for chauffeured use. In addition, should the owner wish to take it outside of the city for lengthened touring purposes, it would have a large trunk. The design’s distinctive features were a considerable, slanted windshield that was framed on the sides by small, triangular panes and a roofline that dropped in a vee between the side windows.
The interior was equally awesome. The rear seat was split into two cozy armchairs, by means of a fixed center armrest. In the cabinet behind the front seat, Buehrig noted, we installed a radio, a glove box, and a rear seat instrument panel. Since the Duesenberg Model J was the only American car capable of 100 miles per hour, I reasoned the rear seat passenger would enjoy a speedometer.
A total of 10 Beverlys were produced, with eight of them by the Walter M. Murphy Company, of Pasadena, California, and an additional pair by the Rollston Company, of New York City. In typical Duesenberg style, no two were alike, with each commission as unique as its fascinating original owner.
A thing of beauty, as they say, is a joy forever, and for decades, this car has brought delight to its owners, through driving pleasure and victorious concours appearances. Beautifully taken back to its original lavishness, it remains the only factory-supercharged Beverly, one of Gordon Buehrig’s most legendary designs, and it is, quite possibly, the most beautiful closed Duesenberg ever built. With an original supercharger as the crowning glory on its outstanding restoration, it is ready to continue to venture out and earn awards or to peg both speedometers.