When J-586 took the stage at the 1937 New York Auto Show, nearly everybody involved in getting it there knew the end for Duesenberg grew near. However, few people could tell at the time whether this particular Duesenberg Model J would sound the death knell for the company or whether, more than 80 years later, collectors would even agree whether this or some other ultra-luxe J would become the last production car to carry that fabled name.
Apart from the grille and the sheer size, J-586 didn’t look much like its Model J predecessors. Gone were the curved louvers in the hood sides, the massive headlamps, and enough chrome to blind sunny-day onlookers. Instead, it sported a modern look with skirted fenders, bullet headlamps, smaller wheels, and a wider and lower body, all changes that coachbuilding firm Rollston implemented on the last 10 complete Duesenberg production vehicles as part of a plan to modernize the nearly decade-old Model J.Known among marque enthusiasts as the Model JN, these final 10 cars were “E.L. Cord’s 11th-hour effort” to update the Model J, according to Dennis Adler’s Duesenberg book.
They were also meant to appeal to the richest of the rich, and as the standard-bearer of the Model JN line, J-586 had to look like only something millionaires could afford, the Depression be damned. It sat on the longest production Duesenberg wheelbase of 153.5 inches. Its hood stretched all the way to the base of the windshield, the height of fashion at the time. Its front fenders curled over the wheels and tires, pontoon style, and both sets of fenders tapered to points in a nod to the streamlining futurists.
Described by coachbuilder Rollston as a Convertible Berline, it featured both a fully convertible roof and a disappearing glass partition, making it suitable as an owner-driven or chauffeur-driven car. And, naturally, it boasted a price tag of $17,000, or 20 times the selling price of a new Ford, making it the highest-priced motor car at that year’s New York Auto Show.