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Duesenberg Model J Derham Tourster

Duesenberg J Derham Tourster – Joe E. Brown – Vogue Tires

The Model “J” Duesenberg, when fitted with Tourster coachwork by the Derham Body Co. of Rosemont, PA is considered by many to be one of the most attractive of all the close-coupled phaetons built on this chassis.

It is believed that eight Duesenberg Toursters were built; it was first introduced at the Chicago Auto Show in 1930. That car was then shipped to California where its simple, and clean lines became even more famous when actor Gary Cooper bought the yellow and green example off the floor at the Los Angeles Auto Show in 1930. Cooper’s Tourster has survived and is on display at the Heritage Museum and can be seen (below) in a video.

Duesenberg Model J Derham Tourster Joe E. Brown

The feature images on view here were taken at Warner Bros. and First National Studios in the greater Los Angeles area for the MacDonald-Dodson Tire Co. that handled the sales of the high-quality Vogue tires in the region. Interestingly the company installed black wall tires on the car that in our mind do not detract the eye from the handsome Derham coachwork as whitewalls would.

Actor-comedian Joe E. Brown posed with the car in two of these images and with another actor in the third. It is not known if Brown or the studio owned the Duesenberg or if the Tourster was used in any movies. Seven of this body style are reported to have survived, which leads us to wonder if this is one of them? You can view many Model “J” Duesenberg images and information here on The Old Motor. The images are courtesy of USC Libraries.   


  • Joe E. Brown and another actor with the Derham Tourster at Warner Bros. and First National Studios.


  • The Model J Duesenberg Derham Tourster when it was first introduced at the 1930 Chicago Auto Show. The next stop on the show circuit was the Los Angeles Auto Show where Gary Cooper purchased it.


  • The center divider and disappearing windshield and (below) the rear set details.


The Gary Cooper Duesenberg (one of two) has survived and is on display at the J.K. Lilly III Automobile Museum at the Heritage Museums & Gardens in Sandwich, MA. In the video (below) Jennifer Madden the Director of Collections at the facility will tell the history of Copper’s famous Derham Tourster and describe many of its features.  

12 responses to “Duesenberg J Derham Tourster – Joe E. Brown – Vogue Tires

  1. This Duesey is still alive and kicking. It was sold by auction (RM) in 2013 and is now in the hands of a private collector. It at one time was in the possession of Howard Hughes and Howard chopped the rear off the back and ti was used to tow gliders, It passed through a number of hands before Lewis Landoli consigned it to Harry Andrews to reconstruct the missing rear half. During the reconstruction the car was again sold . This time to Frank McGowan who completed the restoration. This was in the mid seventies. More owners and finally auctioned again in 2013.

  2. Derham did indeed build eight Tourster bodies for Duesenberg chassis. Below are the chassis numbers and engine numbers for the eight Tourster.

    Chassis Number Engine Number
    2425 J-431 L
    2440 J-423 L
    2456 J-444 L
    2464 J-448L
    2468 J-451 L
    2472 J-412 L
    2499 J-489 L
    2524 J-504 L
    John S.

  3. My Dad went to Villanova in 1946. Villanova is very close to Rosemont. A man dad knew had a Buick convertible (Dad didn’t tell the year telling the story). The man had $800 (1946 dollars) and said he was going to Derham and have them “customize it”. The story is that one of the Derhams told him; “For $800 you wouldn’t be able to see what we did.”

    • That was probably my great grandfather or great uncle., but you have to keep in mind, they customized cars for popes, Hollywood actors, Stalin, the British royal family, and the Shah of Kuwait. If it sounds like I’m bragging it is because we are proud of this part of our family history. If anyone wants to give ME $800, I’ll do my best (satisfaction NOT guaranteed).

  4. I note the wire wheels are plated. Duesenbergs of the period are often seen with plated wire wheels, but does anyone know when these first became available? And would they have been nickel at first, if so when did chrome become the norm?

  5. The Phaetons, be they OPEN (between the seats) “Close Coupled” or (full) “Dual – Cowl”, — seem to be (as the Roadsters do) “the last ditch effort ” to HONOR their horse – drawn ancestory, lasting and finally bowing to so-called “progress” in the late ’30’s, the Covertible (Coupe) being the last survivor in the USA. Phaetons & politicians “Go Together”, so many survive, — for just that reason, — To BE seen, —top DOWN!!! When asked to do a Mechanical & Electrical Survey on a ’31 Cadillac V-16 Dual Cowl Phaeton, I had to (very carefully) remove the panel behind the rear windshild to inspect the Speedometer & Clock, on this “100 point” Restoration — I found that the Odometer in front and the Cowl passenger’s Odometer didn’t match #’s and that the clock “wouldn’t”, plus plastic wire “handshake wrapped” to original wire stubs and plastic electrical tape to “seal the deal”. This was all corrected. The “invisible judge” is the responsible Restoration Mechanical & Electrical Technical
    Person(s). THESE ARE OUR National Automotive Treasures and should be treated with total respect. It is WAY more important to me that a Treasure’s INNARDS are CORRECT, because THAT’S “my personal trophy ride” in front of my OWN Imaginary Grandstand, as it’s just like building Space Satellites: it MUST be right, FORD OR DUESENBERG, — I’ll leave it to YOU guys to pickety-pick about the trim & paint! Just sayin’.
    Edwin – 30 –

  6. I used to go to Auburn on Labor Day in the seventies. Doc Elsner had a green one. It was my favorite. Ray Wolfe gave me a ride in his. Nice guy. We would write letter to Ray and all get together and try to decipher his replies, written on airplanes. He used to approach old people in airports and ask if they know of anyone in that town who had owned a Dusie and what became of it. Always looking for that one in a bar. The rumor was that one was in a barn over by Sebastopol, CA. We never could run it down. Then there was the convertible / limo behind the ice cream parlor on Geary in San Francisco.

  7. Didn’t H. Bogart actor have,Duesenberg.

    How many Duesenbergs built ? Original cost was $30,000. in

    30’s. thank you,

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