WHAT HE INVENTED
The Duesenberg car
Duesenberg, a German immigrant who came to the U.S. when he was eight, built his first motorcycles in 1900 with his brother, August. With help from a lawyer friend and Fred Maytag, the man behind Maytag washing machines, August and Fred started their first car company. Unfortunately, it was a flop, but their experience working on engines to ship to France during WWI served as the background needed to design the Duesenberg Model A.
Fred Duesenberg became a legendary and influential figure in the history of racing cars. His Duesenberg was the first-ever American car to win the Grand Prix in Le Mans, France, in 1921. He defeated the second-place finisher by an astounding 14 minutes. (14 minutes! He could have watched an entire Adventure Time before the next car passed the finished line, if only animation or TV had been invented!) Duesenberg is also credited with popularizing the eight-cylinder engine and the four wheel hydraulic brake in America, and his cars became highly sought-after by celebrities and the elite. They’re collector’s items today. Unsurprisingly, Jay Leno has a bunch of them!
Unfortunately for Fred and August, the Duesenberg Model A didn’t sell, and the brothers wound up focusing more on designing racing cars than passenger vehicles.
SO WHAT HAPPENED?
In July of 1932, Fred was driving his Duesenberg near Jennerstown, Pa., on a slick stretch of road and wound up overturning the car at high speed. He had a spinal injury, which was recoverable, but the accident led to a case of pleuropneumonia that he couldn’t shake.