Category Archives: Auto photos 1921 – 1942
This refined Model “J” Duesenberg was fitted with an attractive style of convertible victoria coachwork that was offered by the Rollston Company of New York City. The coachbuilder is known for having built some of the most outstanding custom designs during the classic era. Only the finest of materials were used in the construction of one of their creations, by company craftsmen who were among the best in the business.
The designs produced by them were not the flashiest to be found, but were the popular choice when refined good taste and the only best of quality to be found would do. According to Coachbuilt.com, Rollston was called on to build 57 bodies for the Duesenberg Model “J” and “JN” chassis in total, and over sixteen of them were of this popular style. Included in this number was the coachwork Rollston crafted for the Twenty Grand, one of the most famous of all.
Two versions were offered, the top photo shows the long wheelbase example and the left photo above shows the other, a closer-coupled style on the short wheelbase. The shorter body perhaps had the most successful lines of the two. The center photo shows the plush interior offered, and the right photo shows another long wheelbase example.
Other versions were also offered that included a window or side curtain fitted in place of the blind quarter of the top. Three other versions of a different Rollston Convertible Victoria, designed by Gordon Buehrig were also built. Many more Duesenberg photos from the Fred Roe Collection courtesy of Racemaker Press can also be seen here on The Old Motor.
The Spohn coachwork on this Maybach Zeppelin was at the forefront of the streamlined design movement that was gaining momentum in the early thirties. It was only natural for Wilhelm Maybach and his son Karl to be involved with such a state-of-the-art design. For years the pair worked with important objectives after first starting to build Zeppelin engines in 1909: the year 1921 brought their Maybach W3 luxury car with a 70 HP six cylinder engine, the late twenties ended with five of their VL-2 12-cylinder 550 horsepower engines powering the famous Graf Zeppelin.
Maybach only produced the chassis and driveline for the cars they built in Friedrichshafen, Germany. Located only twenty miles away in Ravensburg was ”Carosseriebau Hermann Spohn”, which was founded in 1920 at the very same time as the automaker decided to begin building its first cars to order. The two companies worked well together, and Spohn built the majority of Maybach’s finest coachwork.
In 1931, the DS8 8-liter, 200 HP V-12 chassis was introduced with a semi-automatic 5-speed transmission and vacuum-assisted brakes. Soon afterward, as seen below in 1932 at the Berlin Auto Show the Zeppelin with its luxurious and aerodynamic Spohn Stromlinie coachwork was on display. Apparently only one or two were built, and it appears that none were ever sold to the public.
Exactly what role other than as show and test unit this model played is unknown, as the information available about the car is quite sketchy. Dr. Helmut Hofmann, the President of the Maybach Club in Germany, has speculated that none were ever sold to customers and believes that it is unlikely that any of the streamliners have survived.
The car gained attention around the world at the time and even received press coverage here in the US. Above is an article that appeared in the Automotive Industries, August 20, 1932 issue, by Edwin P.A. Heinze. In it he covers many of its features: the spare tires being stored in the rear of front fenders, a partially retractable roof, fitted luggage and a central-locking system. This type of car is always a favorite and you can see many more Streamliners here. You can visit with the Maybach Museum here and learn more about Daimler’s long History here.
1925 Wills Sainte Claire advertisement courtesy of Old Car Advertising
In 1919, Childe Harold Wills, metallurgist and chief engineer for Henry Ford’s first car, walked away with a reported $1.5 million settlement from Ford and $4 million he made in other investments, and set out to build a car of his own. It would be a luxurious and mechanically advanced machine, the opposite of the trusty but simple Model “T”. Wills used the relatively new alloy of molybdenum steel on almost every component of the car that would be stressed with the goal of producing an automobile of unequaled durability. To help the public understand the virtues of this new metal and also pronounce it, it was spelled out phonetically in advertisements the way it appears in our title.
The Model A-68 went on sale in the spring of 1921. Its revolutionary SOHC engine was one of just two in a U.S. production car at the time that we know of and the only V-8, the other being the six cylinder Leach. The Sainte Claire powerplant was a 60 degree, 265 cubic inch affair with integral heads that developed 67 horsepower. Cam drive was by spiral bevel gear and shaft, as seen in the center photo above. Good as the car was, Wills’ relentless perfectionism was problematic. The original target price of $2,000 was exceeded by fifty percent. The first year break even production goal of fifteen hundred units was never achieved, and the company entered receivership in 1922.
An early twenties Wills Sainte Claire Roadster photo courtesy of Shorpy
New financing allowed the development of a new 273 cubic inch inline six cylinder engine with a forged seven main bearing crankshaft and a removable head. Louis B. Miller and J.E. Wieber would set a coast-to-coast record time of 102 hours and 45 minutes in the new car in 1925 only to lose it to Ab Jenkins in a Studebaker in 1926. They would retake the title later that year by a margin of just over 3 hours, but such performances were not enough to make the car a financial success. The company did not survive the recession of 1926 and was forced into liquidation the following year.