Jay Leno talks about his 1931 Duesenburg Model J – Click above to watch video after the jump

It would be great to have a garage so large that entire sections were devoted to specific makes or models. Jay Leno has such a place, and, as befitting one of the best-known car junkies in the world, one section of his Big Dog Garage is home to nothing but Duesenbergs.

In case you're not familiar with the marque, the Duesenberg was (and still is by some) regarded as the absolute pinnacle of automotive engineering. One vehicle in particular has an interesting story, as it was discovered unrestored in a Manhattan garage. Suffice it to say – and you knew this was coming, right? – it's a Duesy.

This 1931 Duesenberg Model J was parked in New York City with just a few thousand miles on the odometer. The original owner's son attempted to restore the car sometime in the 1950s, but the car was returned to its parking spot, and left to rot. After that, Leno became the second owner when he acquired the car in 2005.

It may have come to him as the last original owner, unrestored Duesy, but per Jay, the car was too trashed to be left in that condition. So, the Model J underwent a complete restoration, and is now in better shape than when it was originally parked in that Manhattan garage. Click past the jump to learn more about the car, and how Leno's team brought it back to life.


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  • 27 Comments
      David
      • 3 Years Ago
      This Duesenberg being the last could quite possibly be an urban myth. The bigger news is this is the Duesenberg that Leno was sued for. The original owner of the Duesenberg did not pay rent for the garage it was stored in. The actual owner of the garage claimed it as his own (either because he kept it as collateral or the car past the 60 day eviction notice). and sold it to Leno for 180 grand. The original owner of the Duesenberg then sued Leno for about $1.7 million. I read that the case was settled behind closed doors. But when you sue someone for unlawfull sale of a vehicle or product you usually go after the seller and not the buyer.
        David S.
        • 3 Years Ago
        @David
        Precisely, David. Leno has money to buy these neglected treasures, and some hate him for it. However, whether one dislikes Leno's comedy or "Tonight Show" it is tough to disagree with his passion for automobiles, old or new.....
      Svartorn
      • 3 Years Ago
      I love Jay Leno's car stuff. His comedy, not so much. I love his garage online shows, especially restoration episodes like this.
      Susan
      • 3 Years Ago
      Magnificent, and truly a standard for the world (world class before that doofy term was popularized). And it is amazing that a few cars like this were still being sold as the great depression became deeper and deeper.
      Nancy Miguelez
      • 3 Years Ago
      today i found your page im selling a MERCEDES BENZ 1975 2 DOOR ,WHITE,BLUE INT, MODEL 280 COUPE. TODAY IS MY LAST DAY TO SELL. THE MOTOR WAS REBUILD BLOCK DOUBLE CRANKSHAFT,6 V 4 MOUTH CARBURATORS,90 % all original parts replace with studgard parts. please call send email to nancymmiguelez10@yahoo.com. i had cicero for 14 years .im in debt must sell .thanks.its thursday,6:30 pm june 23,2011.
      chi-town-andy
      • 3 Years Ago
      Team Coco! That being said, JL isn't my favorite, but I will never give him static on his knowledge and passion for beautiful automobiles. He really knows his stuff, and hats off to him for that.
        kevsflanagan
        • 3 Years Ago
        @chi-town-andy
        Agreed! I don't like his comedy but love his car collection and respect him as a car guy. I still to this day believe he should of walked off and done his own car show and or just said screw it and joined Top Gear (US).
      caddy-v
      • 3 Years Ago
      The wife and I for the past fifteen or so years have attended the ACD (Auburn, Cord and Duesenburg) Festival in Auburn Indiana on Labor day weekends. An incredible experience, parade, black tie ball in the Museum and topped off by the auction. The museum in itself is well worth a trip highlighting some of the most beautiful Duesenburgs ever built. My favorite car of all time.
      Edward
      • 3 Years Ago
      Lots of these Labor Day Saturday afternoon at the Auburn IN annual old card parade every year. If you're a car crazy, you have to get there at least one year. Lots of Auburns and Cords, a few trailer queens and kit cars.
      PD
      • 3 Years Ago
      These old styley car do nothing for me especially as they cost so much I just think about other cool cars I could get for the same price.
      qfiske
      • 3 Years Ago
      I know of another unrestored car. It was entered at the Milwaukee Masterpiece last year. It was unsupercharged with a 2 passenger Murphy body. The owner said the black paint, black leather interior and black carpet were all original. The engine had never been out of the chassis, but the head had been off to do the valves. He has owned the car for a long time (decades), but is not the original owner. I wish I would have thought to note the chassis number.
      jnbcressy
      • 3 Years Ago
      I'm 60 years old and remember as a child, when Mr. Merrill of South Hampton, NH would bring one of his Duesys to the Amesbury, MA Memorial Day Parade. It was always a thrill along with the Fire Trucks from the same time period (open exhaust). When I was a teenager I tried to buy an MG from Mr. Merrill. He humored me and told me he was saving it to trade for Duesy parts. The MG probably went to a good home to be restored.
      • 3 Years Ago
      [blocked]
        LBJAY02
        • 3 Years Ago
        This is not the last unrestored , it was the last original owner unrestored car. Randy Ema has all the Dusenberg production records so he would know to whom each was originally sold.
      Kent
      • 3 Years Ago
      What amazes me is the technology that the Duesenberg brothers put into their automobiles that major automakers (the Detroit Big Three, VW, Toyota, etc.) didn't put into cars until much later, like 4 valves per cylinder, overhead cams instead of push rods, and hydraulic brakes. The fact that the brakes could be adjusted for pavement conditions (dry, rain, snow, ice) is incredible, considering that ABS wasn't optional on most luxury cars until the late 1980s. As other people have said, Jay's comedy may not be to everyone's liking, but there is no denying his love of cars, his understanding of auto history, his understanding that many people have emotional attachments for cars they have owned, as well as his willingness to document much of his collection through video.
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Kent
        [blocked]
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