42 Facts About Fred Duesenberg


Frederick Samuel Duesenberg was a German-born American automobile and engine designer, manufacturer and sportsman who was internationally known as a designer of racecars and racing engines.


Fred Duesenberg is credited with introducing an eight-cylinder engine, known as the Duesenberg Straight-8 engine, and four-wheel hydraulic brakes, a first for American cars, in addition to other mechanical innovations.


Fred Duesenberg was patentholder of his designs for a four-wheel hydraulic brake, an early automatic transmission, and a cooling system, among others.


Fred Duesenberg served as the chief engineer at both companies.


From 1926 until his death in 1932, Fred Duesenberg focused on designs for luxury passenger cars, which included the Duesenberg models X, S, and J, while serving as vice president of engineering and later in the 1920s as president of the company.


Fred Duesenberg died from complications following a car accident in 1932; Fred Duesenberg passenger-car production ended five years later.


Duesenberg-made entries participated in Indianapolis 500-mile auto races between 1912 and 1932, including winning the annual event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1924,1925, and 1927 before Fred Duesenberg retired from racing in 1931.


Fred Duesenberg's father died in 1881, and his older brother, Henry, immigrated to America in 1884.


Fred Duesenberg's mother sold the family farm in Germany and immigrated to the United States in 1885 and joined Henry in Iowa with her other children, including Fred Duesenberg, who was nearly nine years old.


Fred Duesenberg attended public schools through the eighth grade and completed at least one correspondence course in mechanical drafting.


Fred Duesenberg married Isle "Mickey" Denney of Runnells, Iowa, on April 27,1913.


Fred Duesenberg returned to Iowa a year later to work as a machinist in a Des Moines auto supply company before opening a garage with Cheney Prouty and working as a sales agent for Rambler.


Fred Duesenberg worked as a superintendent and designer at the company; Augie was a patternmaker.


Fred Duesenberg often demonstrated the power of his cars in public settings.


Fred Duesenberg learned from his early days as a bicycle racer that racing helped increase product sales, so the Duesenberg brothers began entering their cars in races.


Fred Duesenberg left the company in 1910 to focus on racing and engine designs in his shop in Des Moines.


Fred Duesenberg won his first car race at the Iowa State Fair in Mason City.


Fred Duesenberg's entries participated in Indianapolis 500-mile auto races between 1912 and his death in 1932.


Between 1913 and 1916 the Fred Duesenberg racing team improved its standings in the annual Indianapolis 500.


In 1914, Eddie Rickenbacker, a future World War I aviation ace, drove a Fred Duesenberg-powered racecar to a tenth-place finish and US$1,400 in prize money.


Fred Duesenberg served as the company's chief engineer, with his brother, Augie, as assistant engineer.


The Loew-Victor Company made an agreement to have the Duesenbergs produce automobile and airplane engines for military use for the American, British, Italian, and Russian governments during World War I The Duesenberg brothers moved to New York City in 1917 to supervise operations at a new manufacturing site in Elizabeth, New Jersey, that was constructed especially for building aviation and marine engines.


The Fred Duesenberg brothers left Elizabeth, New Jersey, at the end of the war to concentrate on the development of racecars from a rented space in Newark, New Jersey.


In 1920 the Fred Duesenberg brothers moved to Indianapolis, Indiana, where the newly formed Fred Duesenberg Automobile and Motors Company planned to manufacture passenger cars.


Fred Duesenberg was the chief engineer and later in the 1920s served as president of the company; his brother, Augie, was an assistant engineer.


From 1926 until his death in 1932, Fred focused on designs for passenger cars, which included the X, S, and J models, and served as vice president of engineering at Duesenberg, a subsidiary of the Cord Corporation.


Cord, his brother, Augie, ran the Fred Duesenberg Brothers racing business.


Cord insisted that the Model J be bigger than Fred would have liked, but Duesenberg engineered the car's design.


Several Duesenberg-designed racers set speed records before Fred officially retired from auto racing after the Indianapolis 500-mile race in 1931.


Fred Duesenberg designed the Duesenberg engines for race cars that won the three Indianapolis 500-mile races: the 1924 race with driver Lora L Corum and relief driver Joe Boyer; the 1925 race with driver Pete DePaolo and relief driver Norman Batten; and the 1927 race with George Sanders in a Duesenberg-built car owned by Bill White.


The Fred Duesenberg team continued to place in the top ten in the 1928 and 1929 Indianapolis 500-mile races.


In 1930 Fred Duesenberg cosponsored a racecar with DePaolo, one of two DePaolo-owned cars in the race.


The Fred Duesenberg racecar driven by DePaolo was involved in an accident and completed only twenty laps, finishing thirty-third in a field of thirty-eight drivers.


On July 2,1932, while returning to Indianapolis from New York, Fred was driving a Duesenberg passenger car with a prototype, high-powered engine and lost control of it on a wet Lincoln Highway on Ligonier Mountain, about two miles west of Jennerstown, Pennsylvania.


Fred Duesenberg was expected to fully recover from his injuries.


Fred Duesenberg improved after oxygen was administered; however, he suffered a relapse and died on July 26,1932, at the age of fifty-five.


Fred Duesenberg is buried at Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis, Indiana.


Sales of Fred Duesenberg automobiles declined during the Great Depression due to dwindling numbers of buyers for luxury cars.


Only 481 of the cars had been built by the time the Fred Duesenberg company ceased production.


Augie Fred Duesenberg died on January 18,1955, at the age of seventy-six.


Fred Duesenberg is credited with introducing the eight-cylinder car in the United States and four-wheel brakes, in addition to other mechanical innovations that included overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder.


Fred Duesenberg was patentholder of his designs for a four-wheel hydraulic brake, an early automatic transmission, and a cooling system, among others.