Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance Picks a Duesy of a Duesenberg

  • A one-of-a-kind 1932 Duesenberg J Figoni Sports Torpedo won Best of Show at the 2022 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.
  • The car had been separated into two, with its Figoni body going to another chassis and its Duesenberg chassis and powertrain accepting a new body. RM Sotheby’s reunited the two for owner Lee R. Anderson.
  • The job took almost three years.

    Even among the six Duesenbergs that have won Pebble, this unique rarity stands out. Lee. R. Anderson Sr.’s 1932 Duesenberg J Figoni Sports Torpedo, which took Best of Show at the 2022 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, was bodied by Giuseppe Figoni, several years before Figoni joined forces with Ovidio Falaschi to produce many truly marvelous cars under the name Figoni et Falaschi. The Frenchman Figoni made this body for another of Fred and Augie Duesenberg’s remarkable American chassis and drivetrain combinations, nearly all of which have been uniquely powerful and all of them beauties to behold.

    “This car has been a dream for us for a number of years because it was separated 70 years ago. Part of it went one way, and the other the other way, and we are able to buy both of those cars, and then put it back together as original,” explained Anderson. “This car was originally ordered by Anthony Chapatia, who was a sugar grower from Peru, one of the largest sugar operations in the world. He had three or four Duesenbergs. He brought this car to Peru, and then later sold it and bought another Duesenberg.”

    The car then came to the US, but the new owner didn’t like the body. “He wanted to change the fenders on it so he took the body off and put a replacement body on it,” Anderson said. “Somebody else bought the first body and put it on another Duesenberg chassis. So now you’ve got two cars running around, saying, ‘We’re the French Speedster.’ And neither one of them were the French Speedster anymore. So that’s all really interesting.”

    Imagine hammering out all those panels and lining them up perfectly straight way back in 1932!

    Mark Vaughn

    Even more interesting is that current owner Anderson wasn’t even the one who thought up the scheme to reunite the original Duesenberg chassis and drivetrain to the original Figoni body.

    “Rob Myers from RM Sotheby’s, he says, ‘I know these two people very well, the owners,'” Anderson said. “He says, ‘I think I can talk them into selling those two cars to you, and you can put them together. And I said, ‘Well, if you can do it, let’s do it.’

    When we asked Myers if the whole reuniting-the-original-Duesenberg thing was his idea, he, being a man who never uses two words when one will do, said, “Yeah.”

    And this wasn’t the first time Myers had taken the lead on a big restoration project like this. “We’ve done that a lot,” he said.

    But there’s more to the story of rebuilding the car. The crankshaft, for instance, was in yet another Duesenberg and, of course, Myers knew that guy, too. So by offering to rebuild that guy’s Duesenberg engine in exchange for that guy’s Duesenberg crankshaft, the parts were all in order. The only thing remaining was to put it all together and get it to Pebble. That restoration process took two and a half years—and was worth all the trouble.

    “I just think that design of them is incredible,” said Anderson. “It’s just a marvelous machine. To think of what they did back in the ’20s and ’30s. To create the beautiful car that they did, was just incredible.”

    Mark Vaughn grew up in a Ford family and spent many hours holding a trouble light over a straight-six miraculously fed by a single-barrel carburetor while his father cursed Ford, all its products and everyone who ever worked there.

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