Updated: Jan 14
A very special moment in our hobby occurred as one decade ended and another began. The very first Duesenberg passenger car—owned by the same family for 100 years (you read that correctly)—has been donated to the ACD Museum in Auburn IN.
James and CyrAnn Castle of Monterey CA gifted their cherished 1921 Duesenberg Model A Coupe wishing that it be preserved and enjoyed for many generations to come.
The most historic Duesenberg passenger car now resides at the ACD Museum in Auburn IN thanks to the generosity of the Castle family. Photo courtesy ACD Museum.
Last summer I was contacted by Gordon McCall regarding the Castle's desire to preserve their Duesenberg, potentially in a museum setting. I had worked previously with Museum director Brandon J. Anderson and collector Perry Pintzow of Albuquerque NM with respect to his generous gifting of a 1926 Model A Duesenberg show chassis. The ACD Museum soon emerged as the single best perpetual caretakers of the Castle's hugely significant vehicle.
The 1921 Duesenberg Model A Coupe features one-off coachwork by the Bender Body Company of Cleveland, Ohio. It was produced to the order of the car’s original owner, Samuel Northrup Castle, including space for his seven-foot-tall stature. Mr. Castle was from a family of Hawaiian missionaries and was a founder of Castle & Cooke Co., a Hawaiian sugar cooperative, when he ordered the car and received it in 1921 due to delayed production. It was the first production Model A to be built after the prototypes were completed and tested and the first one to be sold to the public.
“This gift to the museum is one of the most significant donations to the collection in the 45-year history of the museum,” states Brandon J. Anderson, Executive Director & CEO of the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum. “The Castle’s generosity will allow for future generations to appreciate the history of Duesenberg, automotive design and engineering, the evolution of the automobile, and the legacy of the Castle family in perpetuity.” - Brandon J. Anderson
WIBC Indianapolis interview with museum ED Brandon Anderson. Please excuse the reference to "Duesenberry!"
The most historic Duesenberg "returns home," cruising the roads of Auburn IN on a chilly December day! Video courtesy ACD Museum.
The Castle Duesenberg emerged from an extensive restoration to debut at the 2013 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance. As part of the judging team that year, we were blown away by the car's jaw-dropping appeal among marque enthusiasts and the general public; it won the Classic Cars of America Trophy. Soon to be followed by Best of Show at the Niello Concours at Serrano, and the Automotive Heritage Award at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance.
The Duesenberg's coachwork was stripped to its bare wood frame. No detail was left unaddressed. Photo courtesy Canepa Restoration.
This early Duesenberg is no trailer queen. Here she is at the Pebble Beach Tour d'Elegance during the 2013 Monterey car week.
The first Model A Duesenberg ready for delivery to Mr. Castle in 1921, chassis #601. Fred Duesenberg is believed to be the second individual from right top photo. Tommy Milton's record setting twin engine land speed record car can be seen in the showroom bottom photo. Photos courtesy ACD Museum.
The Castle family Duesenberg appeared at the 1999 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance wearing modifications completed by the factory in 1928. At that time, the vehicle underwent brake repairs, smaller diameter Buffalo wire wheels and tires were fitted, a revised spare tire carrier and a Model J steering column were also installed. Photo courtesy Killorin collection.
Immaculately restored, the "Castle Coupe" bristles with technical innovations. Extensive use of weight-saving cast aluminum, an overhead cam straight engine producing 100 HP and the industry's first four-wheel hydraulic brakes. Photos courtesy Dave Kurtz of The Star.
Gordon McCall is well-known among automotive enthusiasts the world over. His Motorworks Revival is the must-attend kick off event each year in Monterey, CA, and he is developing a new TV program about the hobby set to air later this year. Gordon provided key advice to the Castle family during the donation process.
I am grateful for my long-term friendship with the Castle family, and am honored to have helped facilitate this most important gift to the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum. It was critical to the Castle family that their cherished 100-year family heirloom be cared for throughout the next 100 plus years, and the ACD Museum is the perfect place to do so. An amazing homecoming for an important motorcar to be enjoyed by generations to come, all made possible by the generosity of the Castle family.” - Gordon McCall
Yours truly on the judging field at the 2013 Pebble Beach Concours. A tough job but someone has to do it!
Succession plans for important family vehicles can be a monumental challenge. An outright sale may not yield the desired results and an uncertain ownership future. Maintenance and insurance costs weigh heavily, and oftentimes newer family generations are not in a position to devote the time and finances required.
That the Castle Family chose the ACD Museum to preserve and display their Duesenberg is a message to all owners of significant classic cars. Museums can provide an enduring succession plan that respects the donating party’s passion and devotion to their cherished family vehicle. - Eric Killorin
A very happy James Castle alongside his grandfather's 1921 Duesenberg at the 2013 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance.
In a September 1968 newspaper article, J.B. McIntosh, nephew of Samuel's son James C. Castle, commented about the car's potential future disposition:
We have had offers to sell to various museums including Bill Harrah's in Reno. But she has always been in the family and we have a rather deep sentimental attachment that goes beyond any intrinsic value. Perhaps, some day, she will wind up in a museum..." - J.B. McIntosh
Over 50 years later, the "Lady from Hawaii" has found its new home!
“Chris and I just want to say we are so glad she is where she is for the whole world to see the ‘Lady from Hawaii." - James and CryAnn Castle.
I would also like to thank Bob Sellers of Reliable Carriers whose generous and timely assistance provided the perfect end to a great story.
The "Castle Coupe" will make its public debut under Museum ownership at the February 9th Boca Raton Concours where a special class of Model A/X Duesenbergs will be featured. Please join us!