Years Active: 1913-1937
Complex Says: Duesenberg was the great American competitor to the top-tier European luxury marques like Rolls-Royce, Isotta-Fraschini, and Mercedes-Benz. As a company, it produced a few good cars, and it produced the absolutely brilliant Model J and variants thereof. In 1930, a normal car's horsepower rated around 70. A Model J's straight-eight engine produced 265 horses, while the superchaged SJ and SSJ produced 320 and 400 horsepower, respectively. These are numbers that are still impressive today, 80 years later. The Duesenberg SSJ was the Bugatti Veyron of its day--unbelievably powerful, an inspiring status symbol, and decades ahead of its time technologically. All of that came at a shocking price of $13,000-$25,000 at a time when the average annual salary was $1,368.
There's a reason Model Js were driven by celebrities and royalty like Cary Grant, Tyrone Power, the Duke of Windsor, and King Alfonso XIII of Spain. It was the best car money could buy—assuming you had that kind of money.
Duesenberg is the sixth Indiana-based company to be featured on this list. It's clear that Hoosiers need to start designing cars again. They're shockingly good at it.