|The Duesenberg Model Y test car bodied by McFarlan (from the collection of the author).|
Upon E.L. Cord's acquisition of the Duesenberg company in 1926, Cord waisted no time in sitting down with Fred Duesenberg and sharing his plan for building the greatest car in the world. The Straight Eight Duesenberg (both the Model A and Model X) was discontinued and Fred went to work fulfilling Cord's directive.
Fred Duesenberg was once of America's most successful race car designers and he had ideas on how a "great" and fast car should be built. He started with a 134 inch Straight Eight Duesenberg chassis. He then increased the bore of the eight-cylinder engine, increasing displacement considerably - to 385 cubic inches. Fred experimented with different cylinder head configurations until settling on a single overhead cam with "link belt" set up to appease Cord who wanted to reduce camshaft noise.
They turned to McFarlan, who Cord had recently purchased, to provide a touring style body. Mcfarland had ceased production of their own vehicles, but continued to produce bodies for Auburn. This test vehicle became known as the Model Y - only one car was ever built - Chassis 912 / Engine No. 1594. The experimental car ended up having a significant influence on the creation and look of the now famous Model J.
As the Model J emerged, Cord asked that the Model Y be destroyed and August Duesenberg was given the job. He is said to have destroyed the engine and chassis - saving the body and mounting it on a different Model A chassis. It is this car that survives to this day. Owned by the Kershaw family of Alabama since the 1950s, the car was on display at the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum for many years. This photo may show August Duesenberg driving the car (not sure if this is before or after chassis swap). Humorously, the writing on the photos says "Old million bucks himself", referring to the amount the Duesenberg brothers were paid by Cord for their business.