Automodello 1/24 Duesenberg SJ Speedster Mormon Meteor

Without wanting to sound to jammy, as Editor of Model Collector I get to see and handle a lot of gorgeous, high spec models, but I have to say this one has really knocked my socks off! I shouldn’t be surprised though, as it’s from the same manufacturer responsible for the seriously slick and much acclaimed 1:24 1938 Phantom Corsair.

Automodello 1/24 Duesenberg SJ Speedster Mormon Meteor
Stunningly replicated in 1:24, the last Duesbenberg racecar to be produced before the company folded in 1937.

This 1935 Duesenberg SJ Speedster Mormon Meteor, built to the same scale, was released in December 2012, just after Model Collector went to press with last month’s issue. Thanks to Automodello’s CEO James Cowen though, we’ve been able to see one of the first production samples. The pictures really speak for themselves, but for those of you interested, I’ve included a bit of background reading on both the actual car and the model itself…

Duesenberg’s meteoric rise to fame

Judges at the 57th Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance bestowed upon this car the Best of Show Award accolade. After winning, its owner Harry Yeaggy was reported to have said: “In my opinion, this is the most significant American car ever built”. That’s quite a claim, but perhaps it can be justified, as the 1935 Duesenberg SJ Speedster Mormon Meteor left all others standing during the classic era of record setting on the Bonneville Salt Flats of Utah.

Automodello 1/24 Duesenberg SJ Speedster Mormon Meteor
The 1:1 Duesenberg SJ Speedster Mormon Meteor at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Image courtesy of Simon Gatos of Los Gatos, USA.

 

The Mormon Meteor was in fact based on a production car and its roots stem back to the dawn of the Duesenberg company. By the 1920s, Fred and August (a.k.a. Augie) Duesenberg were already at the top of their game. Having founded one of America’s great automotive companies in 1913, they quickly began to make a name for themselves in motorsport. One of their first feats was to break America’s land speed record in 1920 with a twin-engine special built for Tommy Milton. The following year, Jimmy Murphy won the French Grand Prix driving a Duesenberg, America’s first ever Grand Prix victory. Many more Stateside wins were to follow, including the 1924 and 1925 Indianapolis 500s.

Despite these successes however, in 1926 the company found itself in dire financial straits and it was at this point Errett Lobban ‘E.L.’ Cord bought it out. Cord and Fred Duesenberg then collaborated on the design for the Model J. With its 320 bhp supercharged engine, this car quickly caught the eye of Utah’s racecar and land speed record driver, David Abbott ‘Ab’ Jenkins, a pioneer of the Bonneville Speedway who had already set numerous records in various different machines.

Automodello 1/24 Duesenberg SJ Speedster Mormon Meteor
Every swoop and curve, along with that long, drag reducing, tapered tail, has been perfectly captured.

For the 1935 season, Ab and Augie Duesenberg dropped the suspension on a standard Model J chassis, enlisted Herbert Newport to create a purpose-built body and dropped in a supercharged SJ engine, engineered by Augie and Ed Winfield.

Tested briefly at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the completed car was then shipped to Bonneville. By 1935 Bonneville was already a hot spot for record attempts and it was here that the Duesenberg proved itself in no uncertain terms, setting a new 24-hour record, at an average speed of 153.823 mph.

After this incredible achievement, Ab bought the car and installed a Curtiss Conqueror 1750 cubic inch V12 with new engine mounts, flywheel and clutch.

By the time the conversion was completed however, British built specials, such as George Eyston’s Speed of the Wind, had already broken all of Ab’s records. So the following year (1936) saw Ab retire the car to concentrate on building the Mormon Meteor III, with a new chassis that could accommodate the Conqueror engine.

 

Automodello 1/24 Duesenberg SJ Speedster Mormon Meteor
The gloss paint finish is flawless, all chrome work is hand polished, and we love that finely cast bonnet mascot.

But hang on, the Mormon Meteor III? What about the Mormon Meteor II? Well, just to clarify (and I have Automodello’s James Cowen and Raffi Minasian to thank for this) the car raced first as the Duesenberg Special and then was reworked and renamed the Mormon Meteor (which was essentially the second reiteration of the Duesenberg chassis racer). When the Duesenberg returned to race in 1937 it was as a totally different car, with a new body, and in this third iteration became the Mormon Meteor III, thus vexing car historians for decades as to where MM2 might in fact be mysteriously located. By 1940, this car had broken almost every record in the book. Some of these records held right up until the 1970s, while, incredibly, others have yet to be beaten.  Returning to the original car though, when its competition career was over, Ab had Augie refit a Duesenberg engine and modified it for use as a passenger car, which surely must have turned heads wherever it went. Ab sold the car in 1943, and after changing ownership several times over the years, in 2004 it eventually realized a staggering $4,455,000, the highest price ever paid for a Duesenberg, or indeed any American car, at auction. Its buyer, Harry Yeaggy, subsequently restored it to its 1935 configuration before going on to win the trophy at the 2007 Pebble Beach Concours.

Automodello 1/24 Duesenberg SJ Speedster Mormon Meteor
The wheel hubs are a masterpiece in their own right, and are shod with realistic looking, free rolling, Firestone rubber tyres.

Automodello’s dazzling new 1:24 scale Duesy

Automodello’s 1:24 rendition, designed and developed by the very talented automobile and scale model designer Raffi Minasian, pays fitting tribute to what many consider to be the ultimate Duesenberg, being not only the marque’s fastest and most powerful creation but also the final racecar to be produced before the company folded in 1937.

Automodello was given complete access to owner Harry Yeaggy’s private museum by curator John Carefoot, and also attended the Glenmoor Gathering of Significant Automobiles last September, re-measuring and photographing the car from every angle to ensure that the resulting model would be 100% accurate.

 

Automodello 1/24 Duesenberg SJ Speedster Mormon Meteor
Clever use of textured materials to the interior really convince, and the intricate dashboard gauges are a delight.

The attention to detail has certainly paid off. Combining state of the art resin casting technology with old world craftsmanship, this handbuilt beauty is a real masterpiece. Being resin, there are no opening features, but the plus side to this is that all shutlines are beautifully crisp. The hand polished chrome bumpers and trim and the raised foil emblems and lettering magnificently complement the flawless gloss yellow paintwork. Careful attention to detail has also been paid to the light lenses, which have been replicated to match those used when raced by Ab Jenkins. The interior is also stunning, with its convincing use of textured materials and its intricate dashboard gauges. The model will be limited to just 599 pieces worldwide, each of which will come complete with a hand-numbered certificate. There is, of course, no denying that at $299.95 (approx £187) this museum quality piece is frighteningly expensive, but if you’ve ever promised yourself something really special for your collection, then believe me it’s really worth lashing out on. MC

Sourcing the model in the UK

McLaren Models
tel: 01324 624102
email: bmclcars@aol.com
www.mclaren-models.com

Midas Models
tel. 01274-816437
email: charles.barnett@virgin.net
Peregrine Models
tel. 01548 810844
email: peter@peregrinemodels.entadsl.com
OR contact Automodello direct
tel. 001 847-274-9645
email: sales@automodello.com

(This article first appeared in our March 2013 issue of Model Collector)