Coachbuilder - Union City Body Company

Domino's Pizza Founder Tom Monaghan and past owner of the Detroit Tigers.

This would be a good time to point out the scope of E.L.Cord's purchase of the Union City Body Company. Not only was Union City Body Company the in-house Coachbuilder for Duesenberg, but due to strict body standards for the other COACHBUILDERS to follow, all Duesenberg Chassis came with a choice of  skirted or tablespoon fenders, running boards and the entire hood assembly built by the Union City Body Company. Just about any Duesenberg you observe, at least 1/3 of its build will be Union City Lagrande.


2013 Website created by:     Emerson McNutt

In 1929,Cord let it be known that he was going to build the largest and most impressive Automobile in America. In July of 1930 a work order was issued to Union City Body Company, reading. Design and construction of sample E-1 ( 16 cyl. F.W.D, Car...Cord Salon Sedan 7 passenger...use same cowl as Victorias built in last Oct.'29. Trim with brown leather in driving compartment and Tan Laidlaw in passenger compartment./ Aluminum Body, the chassis  was stretched to a 157.5 inch wheelbase, longer than any Duesenberg.          E-1 Experimental, First Model. This was said to be E.L. Cords personal car, but after 800 mi. of being driven, the massive 16 cylinder engine developed problems and the automobile was put in storage. Sometime later, the 16 cylinder was replaced with a 12 cylinder.

On Display at the Louwman Museum in the Netherlands. 

The first Duesenberg to sell for over $ 1 million was this Super Charged Union City lagrande Sweep Panel Dual Cowl Phaeton. Sold to Domino's pizza founder Tom Mohaghan at the 1985 kruze Auburn sale for Richard Gold who had restored J-107. Today it is estimated that the cars worth is around $4.5 million and is rated as one of three of the most desirable Duesenbergs. The car is in the Keller family's collection and has been restored in black and maroon.

E.L. Cord introduced his namesake Automobile in 1929, the unheard of front wheel drive. Duesenbergs  custom builders, were building bodies for the J chassis. Cord on the other hand, built a chassis engineered by race car builder Harry Miller. The super long front allowed body engineer John Oswald to craft a flowing hood, fenders ensemble. Auburn chief designer Al Leamy applied a Duesenberg - style radiator that only accented that impressive length and lowness of the front wheel drive L - 29 Chassis.  Production ceased Dec. 31st 1931, with only 4,993 produced. Factory body types: Sedan, Brougham, Phaeton, and Cabriolet. Custom body types: Victoria, Town Car, Coupe, Salon and Speedster. Union City built 8  L-29's  2 - Victorias, 2 - Town Cars, 1- Coupe, 2- Sedans, one being a Salon ( Salons were built for Auto Shows and Dealer Showrooms ) and 1- Boattail Speedster .

E. L. Cord's

Auburn - Cord - Duesenberg  Museum

A beautifully constructed 60 pound working model of a 1932 Union City LaGrande Duesenberg Dual Cowl Phaeton. The engine runs, the lights work, the top mechanism functions along with the transmission and driveline. About 35 inches long made in 1/6 scale. Louie Chenot spent 10 years building this detailed model. Bill Miller permitted the measuring of body contour from his LaGrande Dual Cowl Phaeton.

Mr. Manning's wife Katie


Duesenberg J-436,one of two long wheel based Union City Lagrande Dual Cowl Phaetons known to exist. Originally purchased by Rudolph Bauer, an eccentric German artist.


The only one out of the fifteen Sweep Panel Phaetons built by Union City LaGrande without the rear windshield, more of a convertible style.

Union City Body Company, an established supplier for Auburn and Cord, was one of the first to supply Duesenberg with bodies for the Model J Dual Cowl Phaeton. Very few Automobiles in the World have Coachwork that is as attractive, and highly desirable as the Model J lagrande ''sweep panel'' Dual Cowl Phaeton.

Dual Cowl meaning seperate cowl and windshield for the front and back passenger.

Duesenberg Model- J   LaGrande Sweep Panel Dual Cowl Phaetons

Coachbuilder LeBaron

.1935  851 Auburn Boattail Speedster

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1930 Duesenberg model J-324 Sweep Panel Dual Cowl Phaeton by Union City Body Company, Union City, Indiana. Owner Clara  Bow, who became known as ' the it girl ' was the leading Actress of the 1920s and "came to personify the Roaring Twenties."

Folddown windscreens


1935 Photo

President of Duesenberg C0. and Vice President of Cord Corporation  Holdings Company Lucius B. Manning had at his disposal a '' Sweep Panel'' Dual Cowl Phaeton, designed by Gordon Buehrig and built under the "LaGrande'' label by the Union City Body Company , Union City Indiana.                                              

Photo taken after the Auto Show ,Supercharger  was added in 1934.

Fred Duesenberg died July 25,1932 from medical complications resulting from an accident driving the above automobile.He was driving a customers Duesenberg equipped with a prototype supercharged engine along the Lincoln Highway back to Indiannapolis from New York. The car went out of control when he swerved to avoid an oncoming car. Fred was thrown from the car and his injuries were relatively minor. However, he developed pneumonia while recovering in the hospital and passed away several days later.

Folding windshield

Duesenberg's La Grande bodies have stood the test of time, their classic elegance and tasteful embellishments distinguishing them among the most coveted coachwork on these great chassis. In an era of great designers and coachbuilders. This handsome Duesenberg Union City La Grande Phaeton J 510,chassis 2540, one of three supercharged Phaetons built by La Grande built on the long wheel base chassis. It is the second of the three cars built. J-510 was purchased  in 1933 by Mr. Ben E. Smith, Sr. of the brokers Hutton & Co. in New York. By 1944,Mr. Smith's son, Ben E. Smith, Jr., had taken the car to Mexico where it was given to Bruno Paglie, the manager of the Hippodrome built by Smith in Mexico City. The car was purchased by Valentine G. Melgarejo in 1950.Melgarejo a used car dealer kept the car for 18 years before passing it on to William J. Metta of Alabama, who is reported to have partially restored it, with just 26,000 miles It passed next through James Southard in 1975, a dealer based in Wisconsin. the same year it is believed to have been purchased by Thomas S. Gene Storms, who purchased a faithful Leo Gephart reproduction supercharger in 1979. The car has remained in California by it's current owner, with a full restoration and the odometer showing less than 31,000 miles

Union City Indiana's connection to Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg


1935  851 Auburn Salon Phaeton

Indianapolis "Brickyard"


Supercharger added

Latest Restoration

1935 Duesenberg model J-537 short wheel base body # 1015, last of the LaGrande Sweep Panel Dual Cowl Phaetons. First owner Hugh Bancroft Jr.  26 year old heir to Dow Jones & Co., publishers of the Wall Street Journal. This rare highly prized model underwent a complete body-off restoration in 2003 and has since received many prestigious awards, and was recently featured in " 24 Motor Cars Under the Stars" in Philadelphia.

1931 Chicago Auto Show

Mexico City used car lot 1963,price tag $18,000

1933 J-281 LaGrande Dual Cowl Phaeton. This Duesenberg is certified by the ACD Club as an original, cloning and replication are not acceptable. This particular car J-281, has history since new with 12 owners and has been part of three important private Museum Collections. This Duesenberg has won the ACD Meet Award in Auburn. Awarded best of Class at the Meadowbrook Concours beating out 12 other Duesenbergs in it's Class.

Gordon M. Buehrig at the age of 25 became chief body designer for Duesenberg, where he designed the Model J. He joined the Auburn automobile Company of Auburn, Indiana in 1934, producing the famous 1935 Boattail Speedster built at the Union City Body Co. in Union City, Indiana.

Chassis 2552,a 142.5-inch short wheelbase version with engine J-523. One of the final Dual Cowl Phaetons to be built, J-523 was only one of four to be fitted with the supercharged engine known as the SJ. The supercharger would produce 320 horsepower with top speeds of 130-mph. The early years of the J-523 belonged to such personalities as Listerine heir and aviation pioneer Stafford Lambert; Pennsylvania Governor James Earle and race car driver Ralph depalma. In 1947 it's owner R.J.Woods brought the car to former Duesenberg factory man Marion Roberts for modern restyling,mostly limited to a cut down windshield,scoops cut into the fenders, and the installation of 17 inch wire wheels. The Duesenberg eventually ended up with C.B. Frye of Hamburg New York.   Around 1950 it was acquired from Hamburg by George Lamberson of Chicago. Mr. Lamberson in 1952 passed the car down on to Harry Whithall of Chicago,then to a Mr. Dickens. Acquired in 1961 by Homer Fittering of South Bend Indiana, a long time Auburn - Cord - Duesenberg Club member.    In 1989 the car was acquired by L.K. Newell, who set about restoring the Dual Cowl Phaeton back to it's original appearance.The original body panels were restored and repainted in two tone scarlet red, with tan upholstery and matching top. The famous scooped front fenders were filled in with new metal and returned to their original appearance.                                             

Duesenberg Miniature by Louie Chenot.

1932 J-261 Union City LaGrande SJ Sweep Panel Dual Cowl Phaeton , Fred Duesenberg's personal automobile.

The Wealthy World War I  flying Ace Reginald Sinclair was the first owner of this 1935 Duesenberg SJ; where the S stands for Supercharged. Like other Duesenberg owners, he had to pay approximately 20,000 dollars for his new car; that was 8,500 for the chassis with engine and 12,000 for the Union City Body Company  LaGrande Coachwork.

One of 20 original Supercharged -8 's known to existType your paragraph here.

1977 photo of the Alabama Southern Belles.

Lagrande Union City