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 Frederick Samuel Duesenberg

Frederick Samuel Duesenberg

Birth
Berlin, Germany
Death 26 Jul 1932 (aged 55)
Johnstown, Cambria County, Pennsylvania, USA
Burial Indianapolis, Marion County, Indiana, USA
Plot Section 104, Lot 294
Memorial ID 302 · View Source
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Automobile Pioneer and Industrialist. He is remembered for designing and building the Duesenberg automobile that became renown as a race car as well as a luxury vehicle. He is credited with the introduction in this country of the eight-cylinder car and of the four-wheel hydraulic brake and was instrumental in the perfecting of other mechanical advancements including overhead cams and four valves per cylinder. Born Friedrich Simon Düsenberg in Lippe, Germany, he emigrated to the US with his family when he was eight years old, settling in Rockford, Iowa. In the 1890s he began building and racing bicycles with his brother August and in 1900 they began experimenting with gasoline engines and building motorcycles. In 1906 the brothers obtained funding from Edward Mason, an Iowa lawyer, to manufacture cars and with Fred Maytag of the Maytag washing machine and appliance magnate, they formed the Maytag-Mason Motor Company in Waterloo, Iowa. But neither Maytag nor Mason were experienced in the car business and the company gradually folded. The Duesenberg brothers then relocated to St. Paul, Minnesota to work on racing car engines. In 1913 the Duesenberg brothers founded Duesenberg Automobile & Motors Company, Inc, in St. Paul to build engines and racing cars. They began using the Indianapolis Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana as a laboratory, and for nearly twenty years his own entries participated in races there. By World War I their engines had made a good showing in the Indianapolis 500. Eddie Rickenbacker, the US World War aviation ace, drove cars powered by those motors before he flew in the war, piloting the first Duesenberg-powered automobile to prize money in 1914, finishing 10th. Shortly before World War I, they started to change many of their engineering ideas. They began using a Bugatti engine, a straight-eight engine consisted of two straight-four engines that were mounted in series on a common crankcase with two flat crankshafts which were both linked at 90 degrees to form a single shaft. They were granted an American contract to produce the engine for the French government, and it was their experience with the Bugatti masterpiece that led to the design of the famous Duesenberg straight-eight engine. At the end of World War I, they ceased building aviation and marine engines in Elizabeth, New Jersey. In 1919 they brothers sold their Minnesota and New Jersey factories to John Willys and came to Indianapolis, Indiana where the Duesenberg Automobile and Motors Company was established in 1920. He became manager and chief engineer and later its president, and the Duesenberg Model A was produced. In 1921 the Duesenberg was the first American car to win the famous Grand Prix at Le Mans, France. Driven by Jimmy Murphy, the car established a new road record by outdistancing the entire field by fourteen minutes. Other Duesenberg race cars won Indianapolis 500 races three times in the 1920s, making the brothers the first to be three time winners of that race. Despite their engineering prowess, they were unable sell their Model A car, their first mass produced vehicle. In 1926 the company was discussing merger with Du Pont Motors, indicating some level of financial concern. Duesenberg was only able to survive to the classic era because Errett L. Cord wanted a "supercar" to round out his automotive duo of Auburn and Cord. Cord admired the Duesenberg Model A and in 1926 proposed a financial rescue, but it came with a price, by designing the most extravagant car of its era. Cord insisted that the new Model J be bigger (and heavier) than he would have liked, but the rest was pure Duesenberg. The cars will be strictly custom built, the owners selecting their own body styles, body makers and colors, with a cost of around $18,000. He stopped building race cars and focused on passenger cars. He served as vice president of Duesenberg, Inc., of Indianapolis, a subsidiary of the Cord Corporation. Early in 1927 the test board of the American Automobile Association presented to him with a bronze tablet in recognition of the leading part he had played in the development of several fundamental improvements in automotive engineering. In June 1931, at a meeting of the Society of Automotive Engineers, he predicted that speeds of 100 miles per hour on the highways would soon be common. On July 2, 1932 he was driving his Duesenberg on a wet Lincoln Highway on Ligonier Mountain near Jennerstown, Pennsylvania when his automobile overturned, apparently at high speed. He was initially was expected to fully recover from the spinal injury and dislocation of the shoulder when pleural pneumonia developed. He was put on oxygen and again was thought to be out of danger but he suffered a relapse and died at the age of 55. In 1962 he was inducted into the Auto Racing Hall of Fame (later renamed Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum). In 1990 he was inducted into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in its inaugural class and in 1997 he was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America.

Bio by: William Bjornstad



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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 1 Jan 2001
  • Find A Grave Memorial 302
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Frederick Samuel Duesenberg (6 Dec 1876–26 Jul 1932), Find A Grave Memorial no. 302, citing Crown Hill Cemetery, Indianapolis, Marion County, Indiana, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .