It has been a few days since we clipped a displacement sweet spot on the BangShifty calendar but we were waiting for this one and the days to follow. Today we’re not talking about a V8 engine but rather an inline eight engine, one that encompassed incredible technology for its day which is now about 80 years ago. We’re talking about the Duesenberg 420ci straight 8 that powered their cars from 1928-1937. There were naturally aspirated and centrifugally supercharged versions of this mill and it could push the huge cars to speeds of 110-120mph if they were really set on kill and given enough room to do it.
The legend of the Duesenberg car company is cool because they really were the pinnacle cars on Earth for a time. The Great Depression certainly did not help the sale of huge, ultra-luxury cars, and the company was dead by the end of the 1930s. While that’s kind of a sad way to look at it, we think it is better to have burned brightly and spectacularly for a shorter time than to have bumbled about and fizzled out like so many companies did over the years.
With the dual overhead camshaft engine had four valves per cylinder and sported a bore of 3.75″ and a stroke of 4.75″. The engines made 265hp naturally aspirated and 320hp with the blower attached to them. These were astronomical numbers in the 1920s and 1930s. As many know, the cars set speed records on the Bonneville Salt Flats, won Grand Prix races, and won at the Indy 500 as well. They were robust, amazingly well engineered, and built to last. Much like the cars they were bolted in.
We actually know two guys who have these cars and one of them is actually in a video below. The 1929 Model J owned by “Hemi Joel” Nystrom is a beautiful car that Joel drives as often as he can in good weather. His car has the naturally aspirated version of the engine and as you will see, it gets down the road nicely.
Our favorite two videos feature the rumbling sound of the mill. It is kind of amazing to listen to this thing and place yourself in the timeframe of the 1930s. The garbled chuff of a Model T was the most commonly heard sound then so when this thing lit off people must have thought a warplane started on the street. The engines sound tough!
Happy 4/20…its Duesenberg Day here at BangShift.