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1960s and 1970s Duesenberg Concept Cars


1980 Duesenberg
The second stab at a modern Duesenberg was this 1970s Duesenberg concept car. It was based on a Cadillac sedan and dated from 1976.
The second stab at a modern Duesenberg was this 1970s Duesenberg concept car. It was based on a Cadillac sedan and dated from 1976.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

The second, and less ambitious, Duesenberg revival attempt started in 1976 and was led by Harlan and Kenneth Duesenberg, grand nephews of original company founders Fred and Augie Duesenberg. It culminated in the 1980 Duesenberg.

After forming a new Duesenberg Brothers Company, the pair hired Robert Peterson of Chicago's famed Lehmann-Peterson limousine works to engineer another "modern Duesenberg." The result appeared three years later as little more than a customized Cadillac.

Power came from a stock 425-cubic-inch fuel-injected V-8 with 195 horsepower. The chassis was Cadillac's too, though with a unique 133-inch wheelbase halfway between that of the then-current DeVille sedan and Fleetwood limousine.

Production targeted for 1979 was derailed by the second energy crisis. Was the Duesenburg concept's interior lush enough for a $100,000 car?
Production targeted for 1979 was derailed by the second energy crisis. Was the Duesenburg concept's interior lush enough for a $100,000 car?
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Though its intent was laudable, this car was a very pale reminder of the renowned 1930s Model J. At least price kept with Duesenberg tradition: an astronomical $100,000.

But styling was boxy, slab-sided, heavy-handed yet bland. In front, for example, were stacked quad headlamps outboard of hidden driving lights astride a squat square grille that could have come off a late-1970s Lincoln. The capper was a garish "bow-tie" front bumper that looked like a bushy moustache.

The bow-tie bumper and overall blocky styling contrived to hide the Cadillac origins.
The bow-tie bumper and overall blocky styling contrived to hide the Cadillac origins.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Harlan and Kenneth planned to build their Duesenberg one order at a time, selling direct from a small plant in the Chicago suburb of Mundelein (the intended location was later changed to Evanston, Illinois). But, as happened with the first revival attempt in the 1960s, funds ran out after a single prototype was built. That car survives today, as does the Model D of the 1960s.

Ironically, the 1980 Duesenberg was partly motivated by the brothers' desire to make up for the stillborn 1966 revival that produced the Model D, thus restoring luster to the family name. Perhaps some future member of the clan will finally succeed in producing a modern Duesenberg with the spirit and excellence of the great Model J.

For more on concept cars and the production models they forecast, check out:


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