Clark Gable's Duesenbergs

Click for a larger image Two Duesenbergs are associated with Clark Gable. The one that has received the most 'press' is the Short Chassis SSJ. Die cast models are available (see My Collection).  However, according to, that car was only loaned to Gable!  The recent book by Bill says that Gable "drove" it, but Cooper owned his!

The Duesenberg Gable Really Owned

Click for larger imageThe car pictured here actually belonged to Gable. I saw it in 2004 at the Blackhawk Museum in Danville, CA. According to Elbert (1) and Bill (3), it is J560, Chassis 2585 and is a 1935 Model JN. (More about the JN here.) The museum card indicated that the original coachwork was from Rollston (All JN's were sold with Rollston coachwork. )  Gable had it restyled by Bohman & Schwartz. The rear fender treatment, the scoops on the hood, and the low windscreen give it a unique look. Click these images for a closer view.

Bohman & Schwartz styled Duesenbergs all share a few common design elements.  One of them is that the hood does not stop at the firewall, but continues all the way back to the windscreen. This is evident in Gable's restyled Rollston and in J544, which was also on display at the Blackhawk.

Gable owned this car until his wife, Carole Lombard, died in 1942. According to The Duesenberg Registry, he left it in Canada when his wife died, with instructions that it never be seen in California while he was still alive.

According to posts in the ACD Forum, although the bell-housing may say J560, the motor is J521.  It was installed in the '50s in New Mexico. Gable's JN appeared at the 2007 Pebble Beach and is now owned by the Mann's (of New Jersey!)  The forum also says that it was re-restored in cream.

The car appeared at the 2008 Amelia Island where it won "Best in Show." Pictures of it in its new paint can be seen here.  A You Tube video shows pin-striping being done in NJ, Aug 1, 2007.




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A Chance Sighting

I was surfing the TV channels late one evening when I thought I spied a Duesenberg in an old movie. The movie was "Merrily We Live".  In the scene I saw, the hero, a writer, posing as a 'tramp' and hired as the chauffeur, backs the Duesenberg into another car at about 2 miles an hour and then says he'll take it to the shop to be repaired.  Anyone who has seen a Duesenberg bumper knows that no repairs would be needed!

But I digress.  The distinctive scoops in the hood similar to those on Gable's restyled JN were clearly evident in the short scene I viewed, and the Duesenberg in the 1938 movie may be the car featured here.  J572/2596 is another possibility. Alas, the movie does not appear to be available in VHS or DVD, so watch for it on late night TV! If you catch it, check to see if the doors open normally.  The doors on J572/2596 did (see Elbert(3) photo#70). Gable's J560/2585 has 'suicide doors.'

Note: An excerpt of this movie has been posted on You Tube. View it here! The doors are of the 'suicide' type, but the headlight fairings seem to be much longer than those presently on Gable's.

There is a thread on the ACD Club Forum discussing this question. JN533 is suggested by some, but I've seen it up-close and it's not the one in this movie.  JN560 (Gable's) is suggested by a poster, and I tend to agree.

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(1) J.L. Elbert, "Duesenberg, the Mightiest American Motor Car", Post-Era Books, Arcadia CA, 1975.
(2) "The Duesenberg J & SJ", Profile Publications, Surrey, England. 1966?
(3) J.M. Bill, "Duesenberg Racecars and Passenger Cars Photo Archive". Iconographix, 2005.




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