Car Talk: The Duesy Was the Star of This Show

One sure sign that May is underway in Indianapolisdazzling, one-of-a-kind cars, often in bunches, making appearances around town.

Today’s Green Flag Celebration on Monument Circle brought out a strong lineup of racing greats and power brokers, including three-time 500 winner Johnny Rutherford, two-time champ Arie Luyendyk, IMS chief Jeff Belskus, and Mayor Greg Ballard.

But a rare 1929 Duesenberg J108 prototype convertible coupe, owned by John Groendyke of Oklahoma, stole the show. Everything about the car says “glamor,” from the elegant white finish, to the swooping line of the fenders, to the gleaming chrome of the spokes, grill, and headlights.

Even more glamorous, though, is the car’s pedigree: It was originally owned by film legend Ginger Rogers, and appeared in the 1933 flick The Gay Divorcee with Rogers and Fred Astaire. In fact, the specialists who restored the beauty referred to still frames from the film to stay faithful to the original trim, says Richard Crump, who worked on the project. “I think Ginger would like it,” he says.

 Other highlights of today’s collection:

  • 1932 Packard stationary coupe. Believed to be one of only two in existence.
  • 1934 Packard coupe roadster. Features a handy golf-club door.
  • 1937 Cord 8112 Super Charged Phaeton. Hidden headlights, no running boards, and “coffin nose” made it a groundbreaker in automotive design.
  • 1957 Buick Roadmaster 75. Before he died, the father of current owner Mike Gale, Greenwood, said, “I want to be buried in the glove box.”
  • 1970 Lincoln Continental Mark III Lehmann Peterson Sedan. Custom-ordered by former chairman of Martin Marietta Corporation, it is believed to be the only 4-door Continental sedan in existence.
  • 1964 Studebaker Daytona convertible. 1964 was the last production year that Studebakers were manufactured in South Bend.
  • 1962 Studebaker Hawk “Gran Turismo”
  • IndyCar two-seater. Rutherford and Luyendyk (left to right) used this ride for a photo-op.

To see these classics and others, check out this May Madness photo gallery, or visit IMS tomorrow for Opening Day (Saturday, May 12, 10 a.m.6.p.m, $10)—and while you’re at it, catch the Indy cars running their first practices for the 500.


Movie photo via brighlightsfilm.com

Since first joining Indianapolis Monthly in 2000, West has written about a wide range of subjects including crime, history, arts and entertainment, pop culture, politics, and food. His feature stories have twice been noted in the Best American Sports Writing anthology and have received top honors from the Indiana chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. “The Collapse,” West’s account of the 2011 Indiana State Fair tragedy, was a 2013 National City and Regional Magazine Awards finalist in the category of Best Reporting. He lives on the near-east side.