“Best In Show” Goes To Duesenberg “Mormon Meteor”
It is perhaps the most legendary Duesenberg ever built, more so even than the fabled “Twenty Grand” built for the 1932 Worlds Fair or either of the two SSJs built for Clark Gable and Gary Cooper.
It is the “Mormon Meteor” and it won “Best in Show” at the Pebble Beach Concours, the premier concours in America, on Sunday.
Technically, the car is the 1935 Duesenberg SJ Special. It was built by Duesenberg to capture the 24 Hour Land Speed Record, which it did – driven by Ab Jenkins. Jenkins, apart from being a racing driver, was also mayor of Salt Lake City, a successful building contractor, and had been running cars on the Bonneville Salt Flats since he was 16 years old.
The body was specially designed by Herbert Newport to minimize wind resistance. The radiator sloped sharply backward. It was a two seat car with a narrow body, tapered tail, a full belly pan, and “teardrop” fenders covering 18” wheels with Firestone racing tires.
The engine was a supercharged Duesenberg J engine, 420 cubic inches, 400 horsepower, dual overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder. (Remember, this was 1935. A 1935 Ford, with the “Flathead” V-8 produced 85 hp.) The chassis was basically stock Duesenberg J.
Jenkins drove the car on the Salt Flats and set a new speed record, averaging 135.47 miles per hour for 24 hours. The record was broken a few days later by Donald Campbell in one of the original “Bluebirds,” who raised it to 140 mph.
Jenkins agreement with Duesenberg gave him an option to buy the car, which he did, for $4,800, including all spares.
Eventually, working with Augie Duesenberg, Jenkins fitted a Curtis V-12 aircraft engine to the car. He dubbed the car “The Mormon Meteor,” It set an average at Bonneville of 154.823 mph for 24 hours, another record.
After that, Jenkins had the original Duesenberg engine returned to the car and the car was slightly modified, including having small doors cut into the sides and changing the wheels, and then drove it on the streets of Salt Lake City for a number of years. Jenkins was elected Mayor of the city and put 20,000 miles on the car before selling it in 1943. Jenkins set his last speed record in a Pontiac in 1956, and died about two months later.
After Jenkins sold it, the “Meteor” went through various owners.
In 2004, the “Mormon Meteor” set a new record.
At the Gooding and Company auction at Pebble Beach, it was sold for $4,445,000, the highest price by far ever paid for any Duesenberg.