We have some special news for you all. The first-ever Duesenberg Model A passenger car, which was owned by the same family for a century, has recently been donated to ACD Museum and will be showcased at the 14th Annual Boca Concours d’Elegance this year!
It is a Duesenberg Model A, known by the classic car collector community as the “Castle Coupe”.
Read on to learn about the ACD Museum, Duesenberg Automotive, and the story of this 1921 Model A “Castle Coupe”, which can be seen IN PERSON, alongside other Model A/X Duesenbergs, at Boca Concours’ main event on Sunday, February 9th.
The Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum is located in Auburn, Indiana. The ACD Museum was established on July 6th, 1974.
It is solely dedicated to preserving cars built by Auburn Automobile, Cord Automobile and Duesenberg Automotive.
ACD Museum’s vision is “To preserve for centuries the Auburn Automobile Company headquarters building, Auburns, Cords, Duesenbergs and other fine automobiles and artifacts relevant to documenting and sharing their historical significance.”
The museum is arranged into 7 galleries, displaying over 120 cars and exhibits. Some of the exhibits even have interactive kiosks that enable guests to listen to the sounds the cars make and watch videos that show the finer details of what’s under the car’s bonnet.
The ACD Museum is a must-see for classic car enthusiasts.
This historical automotive company needs no introduction, but we will give them one anyway.
Duesenberg Automotive, sometimes referred to as “Duesy”, was an American manufacturer of race cars and high-end luxury automobiles.
The company was founded in 1913 by two brothers, August and Frederick Duesenberg. When the brothers first started, they built innovative engines and race cars...
Duesenberg’s Racing Success
Eddie Rickenbacker drove a Duesenberg to a 10th place finish at the Indianapolis 500 in 1914.
In 1916, a couple years after the start of WWI, the brothers began manufacturing (aviation and marine) engines for the war. After the war ended, their government contracts were dropped and they moved the company to Indianapolis, Indiana. It was home to the Indianapolis 500. And, the place where they would continue perfecting their craft.
Years later, Duesenberg returned to the race scene, taking first place in 1924, 1925, and 1927. They also went up against the world’s best race cars, winning the French Grand Prix in 1921 with American driver Jimmy Murphy behind the wheel.
Duesenbergs Shift to Luxury Vehicles
Using the success of their government contracts and world-renowned race car ventures, the company shifted to luxury passenger cars in the early 20s, as the brothers saw a strong market for it.
They joined up with E.L. Cord’s Auburn Automobile Company in 1926, and through the 1920s and 1930s, Duesenberg built some of the best engineered and most opulent cars across the globe.
There was the Model A (1921 – 1926), the Model X (1926-1927), and the Model J (1928 to 1937).
During the 20s and 30s, Duesenberg was the top choice for wealthy Americans. Howard Hughes, Al Capone, Mae West, and many other families, even Royalty across the Atlantic, had chose Duesenberg over cars like Rolls-Royce.
Duesenberg passenger cars were the first in the world to have four-wheel hydraulic brakes (16”) and an overhead-camshaft straight-eight engine (measuring 260 cubic inches and rated between 90-100 hp).
As popular as these cars were at the time, the production numbers were still very low. Model A had 650 examples, Model X only 13, and Model J 481. So, Duesenberg cars are very rare nowadays.
The Great Depression
Due to the Great Depression, the market for expensive luxury cars was extremely disrupted, and as much and for as long as Duesenberg held out, they eventually became defunct in 1937. As did many other automakers in the US and Europe.
Nowadays, the Duesenberg cars that still exist are each individually known to enthusiasts and classic car collectors. And every so often, a Duesenberg “barn find” is revealed, sending a wave of excitement through the classic car realm – like in 1990s, when James Jr. and CyrAnn Castle took their family estate’s 1921 Model A out of storage (an actual barn), restored it, then eventually displayed it to the world at various Concours d’Elegance events.
The Castle Family’s 1921 Model A was coined the “Castle Coupe”. It was the first Duesenberg sold to the public!
The Castle Coupe will be alongside a few other Model A/Xs at this years Boca Concours d’Elegance’s main event on Sunday, February 9th.
“Castle Coupe” – The First Model A to be delivered to a customer
in 1921, Samuel Northrup Castle, grandson of the entrepreneur with the same name who co-founded Castle and Cooke – a company that later became Dole Food Company, was the first person to order a Model A (after the prototypes were completed and tested). It was an expensive purchase, but Samuel Northrup Castle had the means to spend the Duesenberg brothers’ asking price.
What’s more, Castle was a man of imposing stature, standing seven feet tall and weighing 300 pounds. This meant his 1921 Duesenberg Model A coupe needed to be customized to accommodate his height. So, Cleveland-based coachbuilder, Bender Body Company, crafted a special cutout through the cowl.
Castle’s Model A received chassis #601 and engine #1001. It was shipped to him in Hawaii, and it became his personal vehicle. Then later, he employed it as a way to survey his company’s plantations.
Years later, in the late 1920s, Castle sent it back to the Duesenbergs in Auburn, Indiana, to give it a slight update. His Model A acquired a luggage rack, brake repair, new lighting, smaller diameter Buffalo wire wheels and tires were fitted, a revised spare tire carrier was added, and the latest Model J steering wheel and column was installed.
Apart from that expedition, Castle’s Model A Duesenberg resided in Hawaii until his death in 1959.
Samuel Northrup Castle’s nephew, James C. Castle, gained proprietorship of the Model A after his passing. He immediately put it into storage in California, where he resided…
It is thought that Samuel Northrup Castle had considered selling his Duesenberg in the past. And Bill Harrah’s museum, among others, had attempted to buy the car sometime after it was passed down to the family.
However, the family didn’t contemplate selling the car once it came into their possession. The car simply meant too much to the family. It had a deep sentimental value that was far greater than any intrinsic value. But, they did say “Perhaps, some day, she will wind up in a museum” in a newspaper from 1968.
The car remained in storage until James Castle’s son, James Jr., and his wife, CyrAnn, became resolute in restoring it…
James Jr’s wife CyrAnn saw it one day in the barn and she immediately fell in love with it. Shortly after, CyrAnn and James decided to restore it to its original, 1921 appearance. This was in 1994.
Extensive Restoration of the 1921 Duesenberg Model A
James and CyrAnn shipped the Duesenberg to retired race car driver, Bruce Canepa, who had previously built race cars for James Jr. He then commenced a three-year restoration project, which took 10,000 hours and cost $1 million. The goal was to get their Duesenberg back to its original disposition. This meant many parts needed to be created from scratch. The end result was perfection.
Showcasing the Castle Coupe at Concours d’Elegance
The first Concours show that the Castle family’s Duesenberg appeared at was the 1999 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. However, this was before the extensive restoration.
The next time the car appeared at a Concours event was after the million-dollar restoration, and it garnered a lot of attention, as you’d expect.
It won the Automotive Heritage Award at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance. Best of Show at the Niello Concours at Serrano. And, the Classic Cars of America Trophy at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. All of this took place in 2013.
Judges, marquee enthusiasts and the general public were simply enthralled by the car’s breathtakingly impressive allure.
All in all, the Castle Coupe is now legendary among the classic car collectors and enthusiasts. Between its original configuration and the immaculate restoration, the car abounds with technological innovations. It features weight-saving cast aluminum, an overhead cam straight engine producing 100hp, industry-first four-wheel hydraulic brakes, a Chrome Nickel steel 6.40-inch frame, 3-speed manual transmission, and more.
What’s even more special is the Castle Coupe is the first of only 650 Model A Duesenbergs ever built.
AND, great news, the Castle Coupe is back to the Concours this year. It will be on display at the Boca Raton Concours d’Elegance. The fastest growing Concours in the nation and the world’s largest for charity.
Donation to the ACD Museum
It wasn’t until they resounding success at the Concours events in 2013 that the Castles started to consider the future of the Duesenberg and the idea of donating it to a museum, which is something they hadn’t thought about since the 60s.
But why didn’t they want to sell it?
“Succession plans for important family vehicles can be a monumental challenge. An outright sale may not yield the desired results and an uncertain ownership future. Maintenance and insurance costs weigh heavily, and oftentimes newer family generations are not in a position to devote the time and finances required.
That the Castle Family chose the ACD Museum to preserve and display their Duesenberg is a message to all owners of significant classic cars. Museums can provide an enduring succession plan that respects the donating party’s passion and devotion to their cherished family vehicle.” – ACD Museum member Eric Killorin
In 2018, Newly appointed executive director of Auburn Cord Duesenberg, Brandon Anderson, began working with the castles. He wanted to share their intentions with the Castles.
“It would be kept in perpetuity – it would be celebrated for its and the family’s history; it would be kept in the public eye in its original home, and we would take it out of the museum to share it with the classic car community.”
“The ‘in perpetuity’ part was key. Because the museum is a public trust, the museum may never sell its assets – including the Castle Model A – and, should anything ever happen to the museum, its assets must be distributed to other institutions that will continue to display those assets to the public. The museum puts zero monetary value on its collections for that very reason. So, despite some ‘pure speculation’ as to what the Castle Model A would bring on the open market, it will never be owned by a private individual again.”
“This gift to the museum is one of the most significant donations to the collection in the 45-year history of the museum. The Castle’s generosity will allow for future generations to appreciate the history of Duesenberg, automotive design and engineering, the evolution of the automobile, and the legacy of the Castle family in perpetuity.” – Brandon J. Anderson
The ACD Museum is truly the perfect place for the 1921 Duesenberg Model A “Castle Coupe”, the first ever Model A sold to the public. It has returned to its hometown and is now among many of its siblings.
The ACD museum is building a permanent exhibit for the Castle Coupe Duesenberg Model A. It will also include the history of the Castle family.
2020 Boca Concours d’Elegance
Although it was not necessarily the intention of the Castle’s, the donation of the Castle Coupe couldn’t have came at a better time. 2020 is the centennial of Duesenberg Automotive and the anniversary celebration of the Boca Concours d’Elegance’s Duesenberg centennial class.
Everyone is immensely excited about seeing the “Castle Coupe” at this year’s Boca Concours on February 9th. What’s more, the ACD museum will be showcasing their Model X and a Model A demonstration chassis in that class too.
There will be other Duesenbergs there as well!
Among ACD’s two Model A’s, there will be…
- 1922 Duesenberg Model A Phaeton, Milspaugh & Irish
- 1923 Duesenberg Model A Sport Pheton
- 1926 Duesenberg Model A Roadster, Schutte
Stephen & Amy Plaster’s Duesenbergs:
Among the many classic cars Stephen and Amy are displaying, they are bringing two Duesenbergs…
- 1925 Duesenberg Model A Phaeton
- 1929 Duesenberg J Roadster, Fleetwood
J Class – Auburn Cord Duesenberg Club:
Alongside ACD Museum’s 1927 Duesenberg Model X Speedster, there will be…
- 1929 Duesenberg J Sedan, Bohman & Schwartz
- 1929 Duesenberg Model J Convertible Coupe, Murphy
- 1927 Duesenberg Model X Dual Cowl Phaeton, Locke
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us.