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Dave Stoltz’s job is better than yours is. Working for Canepa Design, he restores cars and currently is rebuilding the world’s first Duesenberg passenger car, a 1921 Duesenberg Model A road-rocket. Owned by Jimmy Castle, whose Hawaiian missionary family has owned the car since it was new, these same cars were driven by a verifiable of Whose Who of names of the time from William Randolph Hearst to Al Capone.

Duesenbergs are highly valued by collectors. Speaking about this, Canepa spokesman John Ficarra said, “Duesenbergs routinely fetch eight figures, so for this one, the very first production car that’s stayed in the same family, the price could well be more than $50 million.”

While $50 million is a healthy take, the Castle family will pay more than $1 million towards the car’s restoration with most of it going towards labor. Stoltz is working alone restoring and making replacement parts that he identifies by looking at four photos of the car when it was in its prime.

Regardless of the costly rebuilding, it is not believed that the Castles are selling. In fact, just a few years ago the family turned down an offer by Jay Leno to buy the car.

Leno still lusts after the car. “The Duesenberg brothers built racing cars, which eventually gave way to making a few production cars,” Leno said. “This car had a straight 8 [cylinder] engine, which was fairly new at the time, and hydraulic brakes. It was big, heavy and reliable. The first of anything is always significant. It’s like a Honus Wagner baseball card. And some cars these days really are moving into the realm of kinetic artwork, investments that aren’t unlike buying an early [Marc] Chagall or a Picasso.”

Stoltz certainly sees these older vehicles as being both practical and works of art as well. Stoltz said, “This is definitely a dream job for me. This Duesy is like a ghost car, because no one has seen it for years. But in the end a car’s a car. If you’re willing to put in the hours researching, scouring the Web looking for parts, making parts, starting from scratch when you have to, then anything is possible.”

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About the author: Andrew Greene


Now playing the role of grumpy old man in the foothills of Northern California’s Gold Country, Andrew has had a life-long love affair with vehicles of all sorts, from the bicycle he pedaled across the continent in 1991 to the armored personnel carriers he drove in the Army to the bamboo rafts, elephants, motorcycle taxis, ferries and buses he traveled by during the 13 years he lived and worked in South East Asia. Always eager to learn more about how the people of the world get from here to there in their day-today lives, he, a professional journalist, has been covering the vehicle industry for years.


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