Fred and Augie Duesenberg built some of the greatest racing cars of their generation. As engine builders for cars, boats and aircraft, their motors appeared in many race winning cars including the 183 which won both the French Grand Prix and Indianapolis 500.
Born August Duesenberg in Kirchbeide, Lippe-Detmold, Germany. 'Augie' was one of the brothers behind the famous American luxury car icon. Brought up in Lippe a small farming community, it was the dream of Augie's eldest brother, Henry, to seek his fortune in America. His mother, who lost her husband two years after August was born, would not let him go until he was 21. Henry finally left for America in 1884, and brought his mother and younger brothers over to live with him in Iowa soon after.
Augie was 5 when he arrived in the United States and had to learn to speak English before attending school. After leaving school Augie and Fred worked as technicians for agricultural machines and as manufacturers of windmills. At the age of 17 Fred Duesenberg founded a bike shop in Rockford and Augie ran a similar shop in Garner, Iowa.
Fred, who was christened Friedrich, designed his first car in 1904. They founded the Duesenberg Motor Company in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1913 and together they built racing cars and developed engines, many of which were used during World War I. It was not until 1920 that Fred and Augie started production of the elegant Model A luxury car bearing their name and the first straight eight for sale in the US.
When in 1926 E.L. Cord purchased Duesenberg Motors, factory backed racing came to a halt. Fred concentrated on developing the Model J while Augie continued with developing racing cars as a private venture.
In 1932 Fred was driving to Indiana from New York City when he had a minor accident. His injuries were not serious however double pneumonia set in. He had fought the disease seven times before and though his lungs improved, his heart couldn't take the strain and he died on July 26 at the age of 56.
Augie continued to work with racing cars until Cord asked him to work on supercharging the Lycoming straight eight and V8 engines. Duesenberg was merged into Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg.
1933 Enzo Ferrari purchased a Duesenberg racing car and entered it in the Italian Grand Prix. The car set a 3.5 litre class record of 138.15 mph at Brooklands the following year that stood until the track was closed in 1940.
The 1935 Indy 500 saw the last Duesenberg make the field. It retired thus ending the long association between Duesenberg and the Brickyard.
That year Ab Jenkins set a 24-hour speed record of 135.47 miles an hour in a Duesenberg on the Bonneville Salt Flats. Soon thereafter, the Cord Company, near bankruptcy in 1937, was sold to Aviation Corporation.
After World War II, Augie attempted to revive the Duesenberg name, but failed and his son Frederick P. "Fritz" Duesenberg also tried another revival in 1966 which was also unsuccessful.
August Samuel Duesenberg died in Indianapolis of a heart attack and was laid to rest at Crown Hill Cemetery, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA.