|Duesenberg Model X speedster with body by McFarlan (from the collection of the author).|
The Duesenberg brothers introduced their first production road car in 1920. The Straight Eight (later called the Model A) an innovative and well-made machine. Regardless, the Duesenberg (under-funded from the start) struggled to find enough customers to keep the company viable. When E.L. Cord (through Auburn) purchased the bankrupt Duesenberg company in 1926, Fred Duesenberg was already experimenting with a new iteration of the Straight Eight. It is thought that about dozen Model X chassis had been manufactured by the time of Cord's acquisition. Cord would put a stop to the Model X as he had bigger plans - the future Model J. The Model X featured a re-worked Model A suspension and a larger displacement (260 cubic inches) mono-block straight eight-cylinder engine.
Only 4 Model X Duesenberg's are thought to have survived and the most well-known of the group is the car pictured here. Chassis X1954-D96E which was built for Duesenberg's race team sponsor, Arnold Kirkeby (1901-1962). Bodied by the McFarlan Motor Car company of Connersville, Indiana, the speedster body created for this Model X would influence the Auburn speedsters introduced in 1928. McFarlan Motor Car company is best remembered for their unique luxury automobiles favored by some of Hollywood's elite. However, the company also supplemented its income by providing bodies to other manufacturers - Auburn among them. Cord actually purchased the assets of the bankrupt McFarlan company in 1927 and their facility would continue to supply bodies to Auburn.
This looks as though it may very well be Kirkeby pictured in the car. A hotelier (he owned the Drake in Chicago and later the Beverly Wilshire in Los Angeles) and real estate investor, Kirkeby owned a mansion in Beverly Hills (used as the location for Beverly Hillbillies TV show) and a Frank Lloyd Wright designed home in Tampa, FL (Tampania). This photo could have been taken in either location - Kirkeby parted with car after a few years use and passed away in a commercial airplane crash in 1962. Thankfully the car survives to this day.