by Dr. Iain Corness
Mormon Meteor wins again!
Mormon Meteor (Photo by David
Hemmings group in the US reports that the Mormon Meteor, a
1935 Duesenberg Special once owned by the legendary Ab Jenkins, may well be the
most desirable Duesenberg (if not the most desirable prewar American car) on the
A multiple land speed record holder, the car claimed Best in Show honors at the
2007 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, becoming the first competition car to do
so. Last weekend, the car continued its winning ways for owner Harry Yeaggy of
Cincinnati, Ohio, capturing a Duesenberg class win backed up by a Best of Show
award at the 2016 Arizona Concours d’Elegance.
Harry Yeaggy acquired the car at auction in 2004, paying $4.45 million for the
Duesenberg and setting a then-record price for an American car in the process.
Since Jenkins and the car had parted ways in 1945, it had only passed through
three additional owners, and had received a pair of partial restorations over
That’s not to say it was in original condition, and one of Yeaggy’s first goals
was to return the open-top Duesenberg to its as delivered 1935 condition. (And
that was after paying the thick end of four and a half million!) This was
necessary as both Jenkins and subsequent owners had altered the car to suit
their needs and expectations. For land speed record attempts, Jenkins had once
fitted a 750 horsepower Curtiss Wright Conqueror V-12 up front, christening the
car the Mormon Meteor II in this configuration.
After setting speed endurance records in 1935 and 1936, Jenkins “retired” the
car after the 1937 season. At this time it was converted for road-going use,
with the original 420 cu.in., 400 horsepower supercharged SJ engine replacing
the aircraft V-12. The driver’s head fairing was removed (the passenger head
fairing had been deleted shortly after Jenkins took delivery of the car), the
exhaust was rerouted to allow the fitting of doors, and the car was resprayed in
red instead of its original (and now familiar) pale yellow. In this
configuration, Jenkins enjoyed the car during his tenure as the mayor of Salt
Yeaggy had long studied the car before its purchase, and he understood the
extensive amount of fabrication that would be needed to return the car to its
original state. Entrusting the work to Classic Car Services of Oxford, Maine, a
firm that had previously restored Yeaggy’s 1937 Bohman & Schwartz Convertible
Coupe, the project began with even more research of the car in its as delivered
to Jenkins state. The three-year project began with the review of as many
in-period photos as Yeaggy and Classic Car Services owner Chris Charlton could
unearth, with the assistance of Duesenberg historian Fred Roe.
Disassembly revealed that the prior restorations had been partial in scope, and
not nearly as thoroughly researched. One attempt returned the car to a yellow
hue, but a much darker shade than the factory paint. With accuracy being the
primary goal of the restoration, the original shade of pale yellow was
replicated from both period accounts of the car and from traces of the original
paint left on brackets not removed during previous work.
Both driver and passenger head fairings were replicated, and the straight
exhaust was fabricated after the now original body with no doors was fitted to
the chassis. The straight-eight engine, which produced 80 horsepower more than a
standard SJ courtesy of a revised supercharger, ram’s horn intake manifold, twin
Stromberg UU-3 carburetors and custom camshafts, had already been rebuilt to a
high standard, but was refinished to match the rest of the car.
Since taking top honors at Pebble Beach, the Mormon Meteor has also won at
Amelia Island and graced the field at the 2012 Glenmoor Gathering of Significant
Automobiles. As its win last weekend demonstrates, the Duesenberg Special
remains a force to be reckoned with even eight-plus decades after its creation.
Other cars in the running for Best of Show included a 1956 Ferrari 250 GT
Zagato, owned by David Sydorick of Beverly Hills, California; a 1931 Chrysler
Imperial CG LeBaron dual-cowl phaeton, owned by Aaron and Valerie Weiss of San
Marino, California; and a 1932 Rolls-Royce Phantom II Continental Pillarless
Berline with Figoni et Falaschi coachwork, owned by Don Williams of Danville,
(Reading about the range of classic cars available in the US and the UK would
make an enthusiast weep. I am sure a Hilux will never be a classic!)
Natter, nosh and noggin
The Pattaya car club meets at Jameson’s Irish Pub on Soi AR next to Nova Park.
The next meeting is on Monday February 8 at Jameson’s at 7 p.m. A totally
informal meeting of like-minded souls to discuss their pet motoring (and
motorcycling) loves and hates (plus lies and outright exaggerations). Come along
and meet the guys who have a common interest in cars and bikes, and enjoy the
Jameson’s specials, washed down with a few beers. A couple of the members are
scrutineers at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, so they often have some scuttlebutt
about the F1 scene, and one is just back from driving around Australia towing a
caravan! Always a fun night. Be prepared to laugh a lot at some of the antics of
the members (when they were younger)! The Car Club nights are only on the second
Monday of the month (not every second Monday)!
Last week I asked what is the link between Prince Chula
Chakrabongse, HG Wells, Rudolf Valentino, the Shah of Iran and the Sultan of
Morocco? They all had Voisin C7’s.
Incidentally, Peter Eades, a regular quiz entrant found there was another
identical E-Type hearse a couple of weeks back in a movie called Johnathan
Livingstone, 2013, a film by Francois Curlet. Here is the link
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j_F28RIoPL8 &feature=youtu.be You deserve two
beers for that, Peter!
So to this week. A special finish for a Grand Prix team in 1914 was never
repeated until 1924 and then again in 1928. Even today, that finish cannot be
equaled by the current F1 cars.
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email
[email protected] or viacars @gmail.com. Good luck!
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