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Of Course Jay Leno Drives the World’s Most Expensive Duesenberg

All Duesenberg J rolling chassis were built in 1929, yet with independent coachbuilders coming up with their own luxurious and often equally extravagant bodies, each got titled the year it was sold. That’s why pharmaceutical billionaire Josiah Lilly’s one-off is a 1934, also known to be the most expensive car anybody could get in America during the Great Depression. Unfortunately, Mr. Lilly’s Walker-bodied aerodynamic special soon turned out to be utterly impractical as well, so it’s no wonder that the very conservative president of Indianapolis’ Eli Lilly and Company decided to get rid of his locally made 6,000-pound custom after owning it for just a year.

While the car cost over $25,000 in 1934 with a grille that alone was priced at the equivalent of an average house in its day, Josiah Lilly’s two-seater was also very short on cabin space, especially for an executive who would only be driven around by his chauffeur sitting right next to him. Built on a chassis that weighed 4,400 pounds already, this aluminum-bodied experimental car was truly aerodynamic with its bi-plane bumpers and raised headlights, yet Duesenberg could never show the car publicly, leading to very few photos being taken of it in those early years. However, by 1934, the company made a few upgrades to its 420-cubic-inch straight-eight engine, including the introduction of a downdraft carburetor fed through an air filter.


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