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Writing Project AET330 Essay


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Writing Project AET330


The outcomes was a vast nation opening up into a free market economy in such a short duration placing all other countries at the time at a novice position. Traffic lights emerged, interchanges were introduces, 10,000 miles of smoothened highways and most memorably, the Duesenberg reigned supreme (Adler, 2004). As such, the Duesenberg was such an impressive automobile produced early in 1920’s and 1930’s and still continues to wow speedsters in the new millennium. The Duesenbergs possessed the power and finesse to attain speeds of more than 100 miles per hour comfortably. While the automobile quickly became America’s international symbol, the Duesenberg reflected the cream of America’s domestic society and its adoration of the finest things (Adler, 2004). This research paper seeks to discuss how the sheer dedication of two immigrant brothers introduced the Duesenberg as America’s automotive pedigree that left behind an unrivalled history, economic, social and cultural developments as well as technological prowess unique to the US.

Automobiles Emerge as a Disruptive Technology

Disruptive technologies with always emerge in human society. One such technology was the automobile said to have killed off the centuries old horse drawn vehicle industry. According to Hinckley and Robinson, (2005), more than 820,000 horse drawn vehicles were manufactured in 1909 with lesser than 125,000 being produced the same year. Then only 2 decades later, only about 4,000 horse powered carriages were manufactured. The automobile was such a radical invention that it ultimately transformed the entire fabric of America’s national persona. For instance, rural isolation experienced by farmers withered away as automobiles enables for fueled prosperity from expanded markets (Argyres, & Mostafa, 2016). Factory employees came into a position where the family vacation took prominence where members simply actualized extended travel though American countryside thereby sparking a vivacious domestic tourism industry (Hinckley & Robinson, 2005). More so, the automobile resulted in a novel national obsession commonly referred to as the Sunday drive.

The long Journey to the Birthing of the Phenomenal Duesenberg Car

The economic conditions prevailing in Germany and more so, the rest of Europe created a situation where there were many Germans who moved into American borders to find economic refuge. Fred and August were two little boys when the mother, Luise Duesenberg immigrated from Lippe, Germany to America’s Iowa state (Adler, 2004). Fred and August Duesenberg aged 9 and 6 years respectively were the youngest boys in the seven children family. Both were able to learn American English as well as access public school education up to the 8th grade. Fred is said to have attained a correspondence course in engineering which at the time was highly respected educational achievement for rural Americans (Hinckley & Robinson, 2005). At 17 years, Fred Duesenberg was already working as a blossoming mechanic for a local farm implements seller. He worked a relatively short while before opening a bicycle business where he built, sold and repaired bicycles (Adler, 2004). During this period of entrepreneurship success as a very young man, Fred Duesenberg became notably engrossed in racing. Fred Duesenberg himself is known to have set two bicycle racing speed records (Dick, 2013). At about the same time, his entrepreneurial strengths compelled him to use the races as a marketing tool for his shop’s bicycles. As such, the Duesenberg became very pronounced in the state of Iowa where every town was conversant with the highly sought after bicycle racing circuits. The Duesenbergs were not only known in neighboring states as bicycle race champions as persons adept to curing a myriad of mechanical ills (Hinckley & Robinson, 2005).

The Guilded Age was a time when America embraced rapid development in terms of transportation (Adler, 2004). Bicycles, automobiles and the dominant transportation form, horse drawn carriages share roads. Technological innovations occurred quite quickly as most of America’s bicycle repair shop owners and repairers diverted attention towards experimenting with automation (Argyres, & Mostafa, 2016). A form of locomotion gained without the need for strong horses or an individual’s leg power. By 1903, August Duesenberg had worked at Fred’s bicycle repair shop for a while and such also gained notable mechanical prowess.

The Rambler Precedes the Deusenberg

The same year so the two brothers sell off their Des Moines shop to work with a small firm in Wisconsin producing the Rambler. After a year, Fred relocated back to Iowa to work in the foremost auto-repair garage serving Des Moines automobile owners (Hinckley & Robinson, 2005). Here, Fred was able to acquire great expertise working with a variety of engines as we as diverse mechanical systems common with cars (Unique Cars & Parts, 2017). About a year later, Fred partnered with Chenney R. Prouty to open up their own garage which also served as the agent for Marion and Rambler automotives (Hinckley & Robinson, 2005). This garage is said to have performed exceptionally well but Fred Duesenberg still sought to pursue his unique dream of racing automobiles. His deep desire was to successfully produce an automobile fully designed for racing competitions though this ultimately required for significant financing and as such, a wealthy partner.

Edward R. Manson came to partner with Fred Duesenberg at a dinner table where the two discussed Fred’s dreams to create an automobile dedicated for winning races. By 1905, the first car was fully operational and the company ready to battle it out with other numerous car manufacturing entities that came up at the time. The founding of the Mason Motor Company was the first of the many partnerships the Duesenberg brothers entered into on the way to dominance in the first half American auto racing (Hutchinson, 2009).

The first car produced under the Mason Motor Company banner was a 2 cylinder which quite amazingly was very fast winning numerous regional dirt road races (Hinckley & Robinson, 2005). It fueled Fred’s and August’s ambitions towards the creation of faster more superior automobiles. The initial car is said to have sold at 1,250 dollars and to market the novel product, Fred favored races to showcase strength and reliability (Hinckley & Robinson, 2005). The years running between 1906 and 1910 saw public interest in the cars produced by the Mason factory increase tremendously as a result of the unrivaled performance in races (Dick, 2013). As a result, sales increased pushing the company to expand plant operations as well as capital stock.

In 1912, the two brothers made appearance at the renowned Indianapolis 500 which had began operations only a year before (Hinckley & Robinson, 2005). Rather than holding numerous regional races all over the US, the owners of the Indianapolis 500 brand envisioned a racing competition where the numerous small car manufacturing outfits existing at the time could host one very significant race (Dick, 2013). It had a more demanding race course and offered a significantly huge prize for winning cars as well as generated greater incomes for race organizers. The very first race attracted well over 80,000 spectators.

The Mason Company collapsed in 1913 and the Duesenberg brothers relocated to Minnesota to work on automobile as well as marine engines where they were contracted to build a hydroplane engine for J. A. Pugh, an American seeking to participate in the 1914 British International Trophy Race (Dick, 2013). The brothers received an amazing 50,000 dollars for successfully completing engine construction which availed the requisite capital for their race car ambitions. In 1916, they worked with the Loew-Victor Mfg. Company to produce marine engines for America’s war efforts.

In 1917, the company entered into a merger with the Duesenberg brothers to create the Duesenberg Motor Company which allowed for an opportunity for a large pool of resources. Indeed, the company was contracted to produce 2000 airplane engines but the war ended after only 40 had been completed (Hutchinson, 2009).

Through a series of partnerships, the brothers found individuals with the capital capacity to allow them pursue automotive racing excellence. The experiences gained with working with numerous individuals and the exposure gained in constructing various forms of engines came in very handy after relocating to the heart of America’s auto industry, Indianapolis (Hinckley & Robinson, 2005). The decision to situate the Duesenberg Automobiles and Motors Company in this region proved to be of great economic importance (Dick, 2013). Firstly, the Indy 500 was quite popular and offered them an arena through which to showcase excellence in automobile workmanship. Secondly, there were very many other small scale automotive manufactures in Indianapolis which allowed for the availability of a huge pool of highly skilled workers for the auto industry. Thirdly, the motor speedway offered exceptional opportunities through which to test motor engines not only for racing but prior to making delivery to a customer (Hinckley & Robinson, 2005).

The experiences and specialized expertise gained working with airplane engines during the First World War offered the brothers with a unique knowledge of achieving greater engine power (Hinckley & Robinson, 2005). For instance, the brothers observed that rather than having two rows of four cylinders working together, more power was achieved and therefore greater velocity was attained when the straight eight cylinders configuration was employed. As much as the quality of the engines produced by their company was superior and vastly powerful, the initial Duesenberg Model A produced between 1921 and 1927 was not as popular as envisaged mainly because of boxy and stodgy exteriors (Hinckley & Robinson, 2005). More so, it was also a very expensive car in comparison to other car manufacturers who for the same price offered finer exterior designs. The company was therefore not a financial success which in essence was not the main objective of its owners, Fred and August Duesenberg. The two were more adept at evolving the design and mechanical aspects of the business (Hinckley & Robinson, 2005). In order to position his company to one that looked into the different social classes existing in the US at the time, the entrepreneur Cord sought to acquire the Duesenberg brand towards capturing the American luxury car consumer market. Given that the Duesenberg engines were essentially superb, the only thing remaining was to have exterior bodyworks that marched engine performance. This led to the creation of the models S and J which envisioned Cord’s objective of prolific styling with the best possible mechanical engineering of the time (Hinckley & Robinson, 2005).

During this period, the American car industry was so vibrant such that there were numerous small scale car manufacturers with only a few companies such as Chevrolet and Chevy embracing mass production to suit demand for America’s middle class and more so, the working class populace (Hinckley & Robinson, 2005). However, the Duesenbergs in collaboration with Cord opted to capitalize on a niche market targeting the wealthiest and most astute Americans. The partnership offered high end clients with the unique opportunity to opt from several chassis blueprints housing the car frame and mechanical systems. After completion at the Indianapolis plant, the customer was then requested to choose interior and exterior carriage designs from a number of contracted coach builders all with a taste for exquisite finesse (Post, 2001). These cars therefore cost 14,000 dollars to 20,000 dollars not because of the engine and chassis construction but due to the exceptional bodywork employed. It is critical to point out that production of the Duesenberg masterpieces was never high though its customers continued to make purchases throughout the Great Depression.

Duesenberg automobiles continued to impress on the Indianapolis 500 events taking first place podium finishes in 1925, 1924 as well as in 1927 (Hinckley & Robinson, 2005). When Fred merged with Cord’s company, he assumed the position of Vice President Engineering-Duesenberg Incorporated but August opted to remain committed to Duesenberg Brothers venture. This venture specialized in automotive racing and as such, its creation is recognized as the pioneer American automobile to successfully take part in the prestigious French Grand Prix (Post, 2001). Though Fred went on to continue in dedicating his time towards the assembly of fine passenger vehicles, he continued to manifest significant support to the venture. August indeed made headway in the American racing industry and was very successful at it but the income was not enough to ensure sufficient sustenance for a family man. He continued to run a separate shop close to the Duesenberg factory. When Fred opted to officially retire from competitive racing after the 1931 Indy 500 event, his son Denny and August worked to continue with his reputable legacy (Hinckley & Robinson, 2005).

Fred Deusenberg suffered not so serious injuries in a car crash but soon after contracted pneumonia which ultimately led to his demise and with it came the inevitable collapse of the Duesenberg brand. The Great Depression indeed played a part in the outfit’s collapse in 1937. The Model A is said to have sold 650 units while the popular model J sold 481 units of the 501 cars constructed after the Cord/Duesenberg merger (Hinckley & Robinson, 2005). The Model J was such a sought after care that even feared gangsters like Dillinger favored it for its powered and reliability when committing the infamous bank robberies of the Great Depression (Thowens, 2015).


As this paper has shown the immigration of German families in the final decades of the 1880’s proved to be a great addition towards the development of the US economy on its way to capturing superpower status (Post, 2001). The contributions injected by the Duesenberg brothers translated to a rich history; economic, social and cultural developments as well as technological prowess unique to the US (Post, 2001). Fred Duesenberg was an individual with a distinct persona and as such, a genius in his own right. He progressed from racing bicycles to winning the French Grand Prix on the international arena. Closer to home, his engines were perceived with much awe by racing enthusiasts and are still considered today as masterpieces which were far ahead of their time. The turbulent economic conditions and deficiencies in entrepreneurial capacities as well as an untimely death of one of the most iconic persons in America’s automotive industry led to the unprecedented collapse of a powerful brand (Post, 2001).


Adler, D. (2004). Duesenberg. Iola, WI: Krause Publications.

Argyres, N., & Mostafa, R. (2016). Knowledge inheritance, vertical integration, and entrant survival in the early US auto industry. Academy of Management Journal59(4), 1474-1492.

Dick, R. (2013). Auto Racing Comes of Age: A Transatlantic View of the Cars, Drivers and Speedways, 1900-1925. Jefferson NC: McFarland.

Hinckley, J., & Robinson, J. G. (2005). The big book of car culture: The Armchair Guide to Automotive Americana. Minneapolis, MN: Motorbooks International.

Hutchinson, H. (2009). Mystery engine. Mechanical Engineering-CIME, 131(4), 64-65.

Post, R. C. (2001). High Performance: The Culture and Technology of Drag Racing, 1950-2000. Baltimore, MA: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Thowens. (2015). Dillinger’s 1933 Essex Terraplane, Tommy gun featured at Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum.  City of Auburn. Retrieved from http://www.ci.auburn.in.us/news/dillingers-1933-essex-terraplane-tommy-gun-featured-auburn-cord-duesenberg-automobile-museum

Unique Cars & Parts. (2017). Fred and August Duesenberg. Unique Cars & Parts. Retrieved from http://www.uniquecarsandparts.com.au/lost_ma

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