Duesenberg J-183

Duesenberg J-183 (chassis 2201) with body by Derham (from the author's collection)

The fascinating history of Duesenberg chassis 2201 (engine J-183) starts with the handsome town car body seen in the photo and created by Enos Derham. I've written about Derham previously as one of the longest-lived American coachworks - surviving two world wars. The company was founded by Joseph Derham as the Rosemont Carriage Works only a few miles west of Philadelphia. Enos Derham, the youngest of four brothers that followed their father into the firm, would end up running the company. They were known for their formal coachwork and bodied many great brands including Duesenberg. Interestingly, the company survived the second world war and was finally sold in 1964 with Enos and his partner continuing on doing antique automobile restorations up until the building became the home to Chinetti & Garthwaite - the US distributor for Ferrari.

After Derham was finished with the body, the Duesenberg was delivered to it's first owner, Edwin Corning (1883-1934) - the recently retired Lieutenant Governor of New York. It was Corning's grandfather, Erastus Corning, that built the family's fortune by founding the New York Central Railroad. Edwin suffered from Diabetes and it was probably ill health that lead him to getting rid of the Duesenberg soon after. 

The car then find's it's way to Colonel Henry (Harry) H. Rogers II. Harry's father had become Vice President of Standard Oil after the company where he was a partner was acquired by Rockefeller. It's always nice to inherit an unimaginable sum of money at a young age and that's exactly what happened to Harry when his father passed in 1909. Harry would achieve the title of "Colonel" from his command of the third field artillery in the great war (WWI). Harry went on to live well with an estate on Long Island, a yacht, and eventually working his way through three marriages.

It was in December of 1933 when the Roger's were driving along the Long Island thoroughfare in this Duesenberg that they collided with another car. The car is said to have caught fire and was destroyed. The Colonel escaped without injury, but would pass away two years later at the age of 56.

The remains of the car were then discovered by the early Duesenberg enthusiast, Jim Hoe, in 1950. Jim acquired the chassis and running gear and built his own Duesenberg custom racer. He is said to have cut down the frame, placed engine J-441 (retaining the original bell housing from J-183) and built his own body. Used for many years in that state, the car was later sold and has since been "re-created" with a re-constructed frame, new engine and now wearing a Dual-Cowl Phaeton body (in the style of Murphy Coachworks) - but it's still referred too as J-183.


1 comment:

  1. I would like to note that when Derham received this car from Duesenberg, it consisted of a fully drivable chassis and included the entire completed front end up to the B Pillar. That's why every custom built Duesenberg still looked like a Duesenberg.
    Who knows how the saying "rides like a Duesy" came about?