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Duesenberg Number One – A 1921 Model “A” Coupe with Coachwork by Bender

  • The 1921 Duesenberg Model A Bender Coupe on the Pebble Beach Tour. All color photos by Richard Michael Owen of Supercars.net.

It is quite rare for a ninety plus year old pre war car to still be owned by the original family, but this unique 1921 Duesenberg Model A Coupe with custom coachwork by Bender is an exception. It was the first production Model A to be built after the prototypes were completed and tested and the first one to be sold to the public in 1921. It was used as a demonstrator at the start of production by the Duesenberg brothers to show off the very advanced features that included a sohc race-bred engine and four wheel hydraulic brakes.

The car was purchased by Samuel Northrup Castle, a founder of the Castle and Cook Co., a Hawaiian sugar cooperative 1921. The car was first used as a passenger car, but later in its life it was used as a business service vehicle in Hawaii. After its working life was over it then remained in the family. A few years back, Jimmy Castle of Monterey, California decided that the family heirloom should be preserved and treated to a first class restoration. Castle turned the car over to Bruce Canepa to have his shop preform the work.

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  • The car at the 2013 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance where it won the Classic Car Club of America Trophy.

The Canepa restoration shop approached the work seriously and preserved and restored as many of the original components as possible. The majority of the work was accomplished by Dave Stoltz, a skilled fabricator and machinist. The aluminum body panels were removed from the ash body frame, which in turn was restored by a master woodworker Charles Pyle. The SOHC straight-eight Duesenberg engine was turned over to the legendary Ed Pink Racing Engine shop in Van Nuys, California for a complete rebuild and restoration.

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  • L to R: The well appointed interior and dash – On its way to successfully completing the tour at Pebble Beach – The 260 c.i. sohc straight-eight.

In his quest for correctness, Dave Stoltz contacted us late in 2011 for pictures from the Fred Roe Collection of Model A Duesenberg photos, as he was rounding up every surviving original photo to help in the correctness of the effort. The complete restoration went on to take three years and some 10,000 hours of work to perform, the majority of which was done in house at the Canepa shop, including the upholstery work by Stuart Tifft.

You can view a very informative article by Robert C. Yeager of The New York Times and also see an excellent video, “Duesenberg Number One” at It’s a Duesie. The First, in Fact  at the newspapers Automobiles website. You can also read another article at the Times by Yeager about The No. 2 Duesenberg a Model A that also was entered in the 2013 Concours d’Elegance at Pebble Beach.

The photo (above) shows the Bender Coupe in front of what appears to have been the first Duesenberg showroom. Note that Tommy Milton’s land speed record car can be seen inside behind the coupe.  Photos from the Fred Roe Collection courtesy of Racemaker Press. Just (below) can be found the full details of the new Model A in 1921.

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  • The Automotive Industries, November 3, 1921.

4 responses to “Duesenberg Number One – A 1921 Model “A” Coupe with Coachwork by Bender

  1. I saw this car at Bruce Canepa’s shop during the week prior to Pebble. The quality of the work done was outstanding. I really enjoyed talking with Stuart about the foibles of old car upholstery including this car in particular. The finished product is a credit to all involved. As a bonus, I was lucky enough to talk with the owner while the cars were on display in Carmel on the Thursday, learning more about the history of the car.

    • Tony, You are right about that, they did a suburb job of restoring this car. The coachwork of the car in my eyes while unusual also has a very exclusive look to it and the belly pans, the cycle fenders and the step plates all add to it.

  2. Whilst not as old as the Duesenberg I have my great grandfathers 1929 Dodge truck. It was imported into Australia as a cab chassis. The wooden bodywork was built locally here in Melbourne, and first registered in Feb 1932. It was on the road continuously registered under three different registration numbers until 1960. I have the original registration papers. I restored it and reregistered it in the late 1970’s but have since deregistered it and it’s in the shed again until I retire and can get the time to get it working and back on the road again.

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