Classic Cars, Legendary Warbirds and a 1950's Retro Diner just outside Wanaka, NZ.

1934 Duesenberg at Warbirds and Wheels


It’s a real ‘Duesy’ and it’s in Wanaka


A 1934 Duesenberg Model J is one of only a handful of its kind believed to be outside the United States and the only one in the Southern Hemisphere.  

According to Duesenberg records the original owner of the car was Hollywood actress Carole Lombard who shared her passion for luxury cars, especially Duesenbergs, with her husband Clark Gable.

The car came into New Zealand ownership in 2011. It had previously been owned by the same American owner since the early 1950s.

When it arrived in New Zealand a start had been made on restoration but a team of Wanaka craftsmen went back to the beginning to bring the vehicle back to its original glory.

The restoration job was overseen by Wanaka businessman Robert Duncan who describes himself as the caretaker of the vehicle.

“You never own a Duesenberg you are just the caretaker,” said Mr Duncan.  “It was very satisfying to be able to do the full restoration in Wanaka and for the car to go on display here.”  “I had a vision for how the car could look and I’ve got to admit that the restoration team have surpassed my expectations, it is simply stunning.”  

Classic Car Duesenberg - Museum Wanaka

The Warbirds and Wheels 1934 Duesenberg J features a Le Baron “sweep panel” dual-cowl sports phaeton body.  The original owner was actress Carole Lombard who paid $US17,000 for the vehicle.  At the time she was Hollywood’s highest paid actress at $US500,000 a year which was five times the amount received by the President of the United States.

When it was built the Duesenberg possessed the most powerful production car motor in the world.  The straight 8 motor puts out 265 horsepower and can reach a top speed of up to 200 kilometres an hour.  The Duesenberg Model J has been described by many as the greatest car ever built in the United States.   It is a reflection of their value today that some 378 of the original 481 Model J Duesenbergs ever built are still in existence – all but a handful of these are in the United States. 

One of the biggest Duesenberg fans today is American talk show host Jay Leno who owns no less than 16.


Restorers of the Duesenberg:

Rodz & Restos, Gordon Road, Wanaka - panel work and paint  (website)

Upholstery Alley, Gordon Road, Wanaka - upholstery and hood (website)  or  (Facebook)

Design N Wood, Cromwell - woodwork including hood bows

Performance Engineering, Wanaka - fabrication and engineering

Shiny Bits, Geraldine - chroming