Monday, March 11, 2013

The Duesenberg - the Original "Duesy"

Duesenberg Model Y

Have you ever heard anyone say "that's a real duesy" when they're talking about something that outdoes other things of its kind? What you likely don't know is that the term actually comes from an old American luxury automobile, the Duesenberg. The company and its cars were lovingly given the nickname "Duesy" which was instantly grafted into English slang.

Even more-so than today, in the early 1900s European cars were revered for their refinement and luxury while American cars were looked down upon as more "common" and therefore inferior. Despite what I was taught in school (thank you public education system) Henry Ford was not the inventor of the automobile -- that honor is usually reserved for German engineer Karl Benz. So Europe was home to the first automobile, giving Europeans a little bit of a jump start on the development of automotive technology. Henry Ford was the one who figured out how to make cars more affordable through assembly line manufacturing.

Jay Leno with his Duesenberg Model Y
In any case, American cars couldn't get any respect since the Model T and other cars from the US weren't exactly high-class. That's where the Duesenberg changed things. The first car produced by the company, the Model A, produced between 90 and 100 horsepower with the first mass-produced straight-eight engine from the United States. The Model A came with a chrome nickel steel frame and four-wheel hydraulic brakes among other amenities not found on other American cars. The Model J, which was produced several years later, represented the pinnacle of engineering and design success for Duesenberg and was the car that cemented "Duesy" into our everyday language. The car produced 265 horsepower with a naturally aspirated eight-cylinder engine, but a supercharged version was available for those who wanted even more power. It was the most expensive American automobile to date, costing up to around $250,000 in today's dollars. Car aficionado Jay Leno owns several Duesenbergs, which he says perform like modern cars when it comes to acceleration, handling and braking. Really the Duesenberg set out a blueprint for where the auto industry was to go, even though the company went under during the Great Depression.

So remember the next time you or someone else says "that's a duesy!" where the term originates.