1926 Duesenberg Model A Custom

1926 Duesenberg Model A Custom (from the author's collection)
I purchased this photo at Hershey last year. On the back is hand-written "Auburn". Of course, it is not an Auburn, but a Model A Duesenberg that was customized in the day for Theodore Koslov (often spelled Kosloff). The car is currently offered for sale by Mark Hyman - the asking price is $695,000.

Hyman describes the car as being commissioned in 1933 with the work done by Bud Lyons, a Hollywood based custom shop of the period. The photo appears to show the car wearing a 1934 California license plate and may show Theodore Koslov in the background - the man standing farthest to the right? I've been able to find little on Bud Lyons, however Hyman notes that the car utilizes a 1934 Oldsmobile hood and taillights. 

Theodore Koslov (1882-1956) was born in Moscow and started as a professional ballet dancer. Arriving in the United States in 1909, Kosloff was introduced to Cecil B. De Mille and began working as an actor. Soon Kosloff was also in demand as a choreographer on Broadway as well as in films. Kosloff's acting career was in decline about the time this car was built as he was not able to make the jump to "talkies" due to his Russian accent. However, the LA Times noted, "Kosloff, for his part, was clever, or lucky, enough to take Paramount stock in lieu of salary early on. And having invested wisely in L.A. real estate, the onetime starving artist became an arts entrepreneur."

Koslov sold the car not long after this photo and the car traveled through many hands, even having it's engine swapped for a Marmon V-16 (around the time of WWII).  The car stayed in LA until being rediscovered by Ray Radford in 1979 who commissioned the current restoration with help of Strother MacMinn.

Today the car is a bit different than the original in detail. If you look closely you see a number of small deferences, including the color.

The Duesenberg Model A Custom today (photo credit: velocityjournal.com)


  1. When this auto was resurrected, I was still an Auto Design student at the Art Center College in Pasadena when Strother MacMinn (Mac) was a treasured professor of ours. Mac would occasionally have groups of us over to his small home in Pasadena to talk cars. I recall this Duesy project as a full size body loft drawing on the back wall of Mac's small detatched garage. As a prewar designer himself, he was one of the few qualified designers to recreate the cars of this era. He hand lofted with the traditional sweeps and curves that were used in the 20's through the 1980's in our profession. I recall how we were all taken with the precision line work of his drawings. He executed his lofts on a smooth surface he had created on top of the exposed back wall supports of his little garage. A craftsman and one of the most knowledgeable men on the early coach builders, Mac might have taken a few liberties to make the subtle "improvements" to the Dusenberg's details. He was after all a designer himself. Mac lived nearly his entire life in Southern California (1919-1998). He would have been very aware of the work by Bud Lyons and the other custom coach builders that supplied the Hollywood elite with the customs so many of them craved. However he would have likely made small improvments with the intent of maintaining the original design. Let's remember this was the early 1980's and our obsession with recreating the flaws based on the manufacturing limits of the time had not yet reached it's zenith. Mac influenced many generations of us in the Design field even today. His intimate knowledge of the history of our profession continues to influence the designers of today. It's great to see this vehicle preserved and even in it's slightly improved state, still strikes me as a bargain.

  2. Brian - Thanks for following the blog and for your wonderful recollections of MacMinn.

  3. I would question the 1934 Oldmobile hood attribution for the first photo. The strakes on the hood are not what Oldsmobile was using in 1934 and the hood handles are different. The 1933 hood strakes match better, but their placement is different and Olds only used a single hood handle this year. I suspect the hood is custom built possibly using the 1933 Oldsmobile strakes.