Rebuilding the first Duesenberg, part two: The break-up
Last fall, I checked in on what remains of the world’s first production Duesenberg, currently undergoing a ground-up restoration at Bruce Canepa’s eat-off-the-floor shop in Scotts Valley, Calif. Back then, the hulking beast was a drab shell of its former self, squatting near a stripped Mercedes 300SL, with a deadline less than a year away.
On a more recent visit, it was in pieces.
“It should be put together soon, but there are still things we’re waiting on,” says Dave Stoltz, the pony-tailed master craftsman who has been charged with reviving a Duesy that was purchased new in 1921 by an ancestor of Californian Jimmy Castle, whose family made its fortune in Hawaiian land and produce. “We’ve had some interesting hurdles to clear in rebuilding this thing using just four black and white photos. But it’s getting done.”
The completion target date remains mid-August, in time for an unveiling at the fabled Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, which this summer celebrates Duesenbergs. Canepa’s crew has just cleared away space for this Duesy next to an old Volkswagen bus, which owner and racer Bruce Canepa — whose facility also sells some of the most pristine exotics around — is looking to stuff with a twin-turbo Porsche engine so it can rocket to 170 mph.
Behind Ficarra, the car’s suspension parts gleam in their new coat of black paint. A few stalls away, the car’s long and narrow frame awaits a paint job, as does the carriage-like body resting a few feet away. Nearby is a disassembled dash.
Missing is the car’s engine, a straight-eight that could rev to 4,000 rpm and hit 80 mph, a blistering road-going speed for the day and likely a frightening one given the car’s lack of safety features and meager stopping power. “Ed Pink’s is doing the engine, and, well, we’re still waiting,” says Stoltz of the legendary Van Nuys powerplant building shop.
Most Duesys are seven-figure cars, or more. But Ficarra speculates that this car’s value could hit mid- to high-eight figures if its owner were to sell, which he won’t. Fellow Duesenberg owner Jay Leno has confirmed he sought to buy the car in its former state of dilapidation (it was stored for decades in an old Hawaiian farm house) and was politely refused.