Famous “20 Grand” Duesenberg visits Jay Leno’s Garage

Any Duesenberg is bound to attract attention, but the car featured on this episode of “Jay Leno’s Garage” has always stood out from the rest.

This four-door was built as a show car for the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair, where it became famous in its time as the “Twenty Grand” Duesenberg because of its then-outrageous price of $20,000. Leno notes in the video that the average American car cost less than $1,000 at the time, and the average house was less than $2,000.

The one-off Twenty Grand was not the most expensive Duesenberg ever built—the 1934 Duesenberg Walker Coupe cost $25,000 when new—but it was too expensive to attract a buyer the first time around. Duesenberg repainted it black and brought it back to Chicago in 1934, where it was eventually sold to a wealthy buyer. It’s now part of California’s Nethercutt Collection, where it’s displayed alongside other classics from storied automakers like Bugatti and Hispano-Suiza.

Like other Duesenbergs, the Twenty Grand is powered by a straight-8 engine based on Indianapolis 500 racing engines. This car’s engine displaces 421 cubic inches and has a supercharger, generating 320 hp. Like the car’s price, that was an astounding figure in the 1930s. 

The race-bred engine and the performance it provided meant that Duesenbergs were considered driver’s cars in their time, but this car was also designed to be chauffeur driven. Its unique coach-built body includes a partition and a complete set of gauges for rear-seat passengers so they monitor what the driver is doing. It gives new meaning to the term “back-seat driver.”

The car was restored in 1979 and has been shown frequently since then, although because of its value it isn’t driven very often anymore. That means the driving portion of this video is limited to a bit of taxiing around an airport apron, but it’s rare to see this unique Duesenberg in motion at all.

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