Year of the Duesenberg: 2015 Duesenberg Thunder Run and Vintage Fly-In
When you look at a Duesenberg Model J, you don’t think race car, but this legendary automobile’s heritage is rooted in speed. In 1923, a Duesy racer became the first American entry to win the French Grand Prix (Le Mans), and in 1924, 1925, and 1927, when the original track was still totally paved with bricks, Duesenbergs took the checkered flag at Indy.
The Model J, introduced in 1928, featured the race-winning design straight 8 engine* with a 420 cid that produced 265 HP, and with the rare supercharged version, the power was pushed even further to 320 HP – three times the most powerful engines of the day. With the three speed transmission, the Model J was advertised to run 94 MPH in second gear and 119 MPH at the top end (140 MPH when supercharged). Today these classic car gems are highly prized by collectors and are prominently displayed in the finest museums around the world.
Every year, Auburn, Indiana, the location of the former headquarters of the Duesenberg, Auburn, and Cord Company, hosts a kind of homecoming for these three special marques of the ‘30s. A different brand is chosen each year to be featured during this weeklong celebration, and 2015 was “The Year of the Duesenberg.” Having two or three Duesenbergs, together in one place, is a rare occurrence, but this year 30 owners brought their Duesys to Auburn. The following day, a parade of these elegant cars followed a police escort to the nearby Goshen, Indiana airport to participate in an event called the “Thunder Run and Vintage Fly-In.” What a sight – a fleet of Duesenbergs taxiing down the runway, against the backdrop of bi-planes, a B17 Flying Fortress, a Ford Tri-Motor, and the GM Futurliner. The famous Morman Meteor, a Duesenberg-powered racer that set endurance speed records not be surpassed for 26 years, was one of the superstars of this extraordinary gathering of Duesenbergs. But, the highlight of the day was the incredible Duesenberg match speed runs down the Goshen airport runway. Not quite drag racing, but still a chance for gentleman bragging rights for the fastest Deusy at the show. See the below slideshow and video for some of the sights and sounds of the day.
*The Model J engine was based on the Duesenberg brothers racing power plant, but was built by Lycoming, another company owned by EL Cord, the president of a conglomerate of businesses including the Duesenberg Inc.