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Not 1, but 2 Duesenbergs coming up for sale

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1936 Duesenberg Model J Rollston Convertible Berline - Image via Mecum

When it comes to automotive royalty, Duesenbergs are right up there with pre-war Bugattis and Rolls-Royces. The cars were owned by Hollywood types and industry bigwigs, though only about a thousand were made by the time the company folded in 1937, brought about by the lingering effects of the Great Depression and the death of co-founder Fred Duesenberg in an accident in 1932.

It means seeing a Duesenberg come up for sale is a rare occasion, which makes the two examples headed to Mecum’s auction running in Indianapolis, Indiana, from May 14-22 all the more spectacular.

1936 Duesenberg Model J Rollston Convertible Berline – Image via Mecum

The cars include a 1930 Duesenberg Model SJ Rollston Convertible Victoria and a 1936 Duesenberg Model J Rollston Convertible Berlin.

The 1936 example, a Model J finished in black with a tan interior, was the final car sold by Duesenberg before the company went under, though two more examples were completed after that date by coachbuilders. The black Model J with a Rollston body was presented at the 1936 New York International Auto Show and eventually sold for $17,000 (an average car cost about $500 at the time) to Conkey Whitehead, who was the president of Coca-Cola at the time. It was later purchased by jazz musician Charles Kyner who held on to it for almost five decades.

1936 Duesenberg Model J Rollston Convertible Berline - Image via Mecum

1936 Duesenberg Model J Rollston Convertible Berline – Image via Mecum

It was given a full restoration in 1990, though it remains in a very original condition. It even includes a monogrammed trunk bearing Whitehead’s initials, an accompanying luggage set, and the owner’s manual. There’s also a glass partition that disappears behind the front seats. The engine is a naturally aspirated version of Duesenberg’s 420-cubic-inch straight-8, good for about 265 hp.

The 1930 example, another Model J, also features a Rollston body and is finished in a burgundy hue with a matching interior. It was purchased new by musician Paul Whiteman, famous for his arrangement of “Rhapsody in Blue,” and originally featured a LeBaron Barrelside Phaeton body. Its second owner, G. Tucker Smith, was the person who had the original body replaced with its current Rollston Convertible Victoria body in 1935. The car then changed hands a number of times throughout its life.

1930 Duesenberg Model SJ Rollston Convertible Victoria - Image via Mecum

1930 Duesenberg Model SJ Rollston Convertible Victoria – Image via Mecum

It features a supercharged version of the 420 straight-8, good for about 320 hp. Paired to a 3-speed manual transmission, the engine is able to power the car to 104 mph in second gear.

Other rare cars going under the hammer at Mecum’s Indy sale include a 1971 Plymouth Hemi ‘Cuda Convertible, McLaren P1, Ford GT Mk II, and a 1969 Dick Harrell COPO Camaro.

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Autos

Aston Martin to phase out manual transmission by 2022

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Tobias Moers

Aston Martin will no longer offer a manual transmission in any of its cars when the Vantage sports car is given an update in 2022.

CEO Tobias Moers confirmed the plans in an interview last month with Australian media, including Car Advice.

He pointed to low demand and the need to have separate compliance to the automatic cars as the reasons for the manual’s demise.

His predecessor, Andy Palmer, saw the manual as a point of differentiation among the exotic car brands since none of Aston Martin’s rivals still offer one.

Tobias Moers

Palmer as recently as 2019 promised to offer a manual in a mid-engine Vanquish supercar, vowing at the time that Aston Martin would remain the last manufacturer in the world to offer manual performance cars.

In his efforts to return Aston Martin to profitability after a disastrous 2020, a year which saw Aston Martin shed 500 jobs and its share price bottom out 94% lower than its IPO price just two years earlier, Moers has also decided to abandon a new V-6 engine developed under Palmer.

The V-6 was due to make its debut in a new Valhalla hypercar. Instead, Aston Martin will rely on powertrains sourced from Mercedes-Benz AMG, including new plug-in hybrid setups, as well as the company’s own V-12.

Moers has also said that Aston Martin will begin transitioning to electric vehicles mid-decade, and the company plans for half of its cars to be fully electric by 2030 and the rest electrified.

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Autos

Harley-Davidson to make LiveWire a standalone brand

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Harley-Davidson LiveWire charging at Electrify America charging station

The Harley-Davidson LiveWire electric motorcycle will spawn a standalone all-electric brand, the company announced Monday in a press release. The first LiveWire-branded motorcycle will be unveiled July 8, ahead of the International Motorcycle Show, the company said.

That marks a departure from the initial Harley-Davidson LiveWire, which was launched in 2019 as a single model within the Harley brand. It’s similar to the progression of Hyundai’s Genesis and Ioniq nameplates, which started out as individual models within the Hyundai brand, before expanding to standalone brands.

LiveWire will be “headquartered virtually,” with staff located in Silicon Valley and Milwaukee, according to Harley. The new brand will get its own engineering team dedicated to electric powertrains, but will also lean on Harley’s existing resources for engineering and manufacturing (the current Harley-Davidson LiveWire is built at the same York, Pennsylvania, factory as other bikes).

Harley-Davidson LiveWire charging at Electrify America charging station

Harley is also planning dedicated LiveWire showrooms, starting in California. However, the company also said LiveWire “will work with participating dealers from the Harley-Davidson network as an independent brand” and will “blend digital and physical retail formats,” indicating online sales may be a possibility.

Unveiled at the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show, the initial Harley-Davidson LiveWire sports a 110-mile range and 0-60 mph acceleration of 3.5 seconds. It hit the market in late 2019 with a $29,799 base price (before destination), which typically buys a higher-tier gasoline bike.

Several dedicated companies have launched electric motorcycles, but Harley is the only legacy manufacturer to wade in so far in the U.S. Polaris bought electric-motorcycle firm Brammo in 2015, and has a partnership with Zero Motorcycles, but so far it’s only discussed electric ATVs. Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha are working to develop a standardized swappable battery system for the Japanese market.

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Porsche Sonderwunsch program to rival Ferrari Special Projects

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Porsche Sonderwunsch program

Ferrari for years has been offering its most loyal—and deep pocketed—customers the opportunity to dream up their ultimate car and have it built on the chassis of a contemporary model.

It’s a program called Ferrari Special Projects, and over the years it’s resulted in some real stunners, as well as some real head scratchers.

Porsche had a similar program back in the 1970s called Sonderwunsch, German for “special request,” though it was much more exclusive than Ferrari Special Projects. One of the cars developed via the original program is the 993-generation 911 speedster, of which just two were built. One of those was built for Jerry Seinfeld.

Now Porsche wants to invite more customers to its Sonderwunsch program. Like Ferrari’s program, Sonderwunsch will enable a customer to work closely with Porsche’s designers to dream up a car that can be built as a true one-off or as a limited series.

Porsche Sonderwunsch program

For the less brave, Sonderwunsch will also enable a customer to customize colors and materials—on both existing cars as well as new cars yet to be built. This will be particularly useful for owners of classic Porsches that may want to update some elements to modern standards.

Examples of some of the options that will be available include custom wraps, custom paint finishes, racing numbers, prints on the floor mats, puddle lamps, accessories, and even performance parts.

Porsche said some of the options available will start showing up on its online configurator.

“It is our goal to provide customers around the globe with even more accurately tailored and demand-based products within the context of classic, existing and new cars,” Alexander Fabig, head of the individualization and classic departments at Porsche. “Starting with new possibilities for individualization and personalization of individual components, through the additional range of performance parts, up to the realization of uniquely individualized sports cars, we have the right option for every customer.”

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