Cliff Bergere (1896-1980) a native of Toledo, Ohio, had quite a long career as both a stunt and racing driver. In 1923 he did the stunt driving for the movie, The Eagles Talons, which was about an unscrupulous gang attempts to corner the wheat market. It was a low-budget, but popular serial from Universal Pictures, starring future cowboy ace Fred Thomson and veteran Ann Little. A later picture of Begere here in 1926 shows him in his Model A Duesenberg.
He went on to sixteen starts in the Indianapolis 500 from 1927 on, including starting on the pole in 1946 and finished as high as third in both 1932 and 1939. The last photo (below) appears to be from his first start at the 500, where he finished ninth in a 91 c.i. rear-drive Miller, which was entered by the Muller Bros. The photos of his Model J Duesenberg (above and below) are now part of the Fred Roe collection, these photos and the photo of him in the Miller (below) recently came out of an estate in Florida, where he lived for some time in Dade City, before he died.
We discovered the short film below, America’s Safest Tire by the Fisk Tire Company, just before the Bergere photos and this car can be seen featured and driven in it a few times. Be sure to watch the whole film as it is quite interesting and it shows a jump scene over four cars near the end. In the film, Bergere possibly did the stunt driving for Rush B. Hughes, a stage actor, occasional silent film actor, radio performer and cousin to industrialist Howard Hughes.
The Fisk Safti-Fight tires seem to have been marketed between 1937-1941, judging by the period advertisements that we were able to find.
The photo above in the thumbnails has the hand written notation; Duesenberg roadster. Cliff Bergere. HO 3541 – day or night, written on the back, which shares the same phone number as on the photo at the top.
New information*** Thanks to information from Robbie Marenzi, our suspicions are confirmed. With the car number 2221, we were able to find it in Fred Roe’s book and here is what Roe had to say about it. “Originally this was a Murphy torpedo convertible coupe, body number 898. About 1936 a southern California body shop revamped it, destroying the boat tail and relocating the radiator much farther forward “.
The Duesenberg itself is a bit of a mystery, we have seen photos of it in other Hollywood scenes in the past, but have not been able to find out exactly which car it is, or if it has survived.
The body does not appear to match up with any other Duesenberg roadster bodies we have seen in Roe’s book or others. The fenders have been skirted and modernized and oddly the radiator appears to have been moved forward between eight to ten inches. It is wearing supercharger style side-pipes, but even under magnification of the top photo, we cannot tell if it in fact is supercharged. Photos courtesy of Racemaker Press.