When it comes to being a real doozy, Greg Ornazian’s 1929 Duesenberg convertible coupe is about as real as it gets.
“It has its original body, chassis, engine, transmission and interior,” the Troy, Michigan, businessman says. “It was repainted in the mid-1950s, but it’s always been black.”
The Model J will be one of many groundbreaking performance cars featured at the 2017 Milwaukee Concours d’Elegance on Sunday, Aug. 6. The theme for the 13th-annual show, “Speed—Then and Now,” is showcasing the extreme of the ultimate performance cars from the early days of motoring and today.
The Model J, Duesenberg’s most iconic car, debuted in 1929. Ornazian’s convertible—serial number J184—represented the Indiana-based automaker at the London Auto Salon Show that year. It has won awards at several shows, is Auburn Cord Duesenberg Club certified and received The Fédération Internationale des Véhicules Anciens for Most Original Car at the Ault Park Concours d’Elegance in Cincinnati.
After spending two years in the hands of a wealthy British art collector, the car made its way back to the Midwest over the course of four subsequent owners. Ornazian bought it from a Wisconsin enthusiast in 2011.
At $13,000 to $25,000, the Model J was designed to compete with the biggest, fastest and most expensive European luxury cars made at the time. This was a time when a nice home was around $2,000. Duesenberg built the chassis and drive train; bodies and interiors were custom-made by custom coach builders and specialists; no two are exactly alike.
The normally aspirated straight-8 motor produced 265 hp and had a top speed of 119 mph.
“It’s a time capsule,” Ornazian said of his prize vehicle. “It gets more looks than any other car I own.”
Ornazian has exhibited in Milwaukee before. His 1935 Auburn Boattail Speedster won Best of Show at the Milwaukee Concours in 2015. He said the Model J would be comparable in its era to modern-day Ferraris, McLarens and Porsches. Celebrities of the time, including Howard Hughes, Greta Garbo, William Randolph Hearst, Clark Gable and several European royal heads of state, flaunted Model J’s as the ultimate status symbol.
“My Doozy,” Ornazian said, “is huge and it’s open, but it was the supercar of its day.”
The two-day Milwaukee Concours d’Elegance is scheduled for the first weekend in August, opening with the open Show & Glow by the Lake car show, a motor tour and the annual Style & Speed Social on Saturday, Aug. 5.
The Milwaukee Concours d’Elegance is hosted by The Masterpiece Ltd. The Masterpiece Ltd. is organized and operated exclusively to support other public charities including but not limited to those operating in southeastern Wisconsin which provide medical and social service care and relief to underprivileged children and families through various motor vehicle-related fundraising events. Learn more at masterpieceltd.org.