The Yellow Duesenberg in The Great Gatsby: A Duesy of a Car

The Great Gatsby with the yellow Duesenberg J.
The remake of "The Great Gatsby" was remarkable as a film, but also for Gatsby's stunning yellow Duesenberg J, a car worth a cool $3 million.

The Great Gatsby–the book at any rate–is often described as a crashing bore. That gorgeous yellow Duesenberg in the latest movie version of Gatsby, on the other hand, is a Duesy. That first glance of the dreamy yellow car, as Jay Gatsby pulls up to Nick Carraway’s cottage, quite takes one’s breath away–even if you know absolutely nothing about cars.

Knowing nothing about cars, or Duesenbergs in fact, doesn’t take away from the fact that you just know that stunner of a car runs like a dream and purrs like a cat. Have we used enough clichés to persuade you that this car is like nothing you’ve ever seen (there we go again)? If not, watch this clip from the film.

Jay Gatsby’s Yellow Duesenberg

Whether you watch the movie because you loved the book, the era, or a stellar performance by Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby, the truth is that the yellow Duesenberg steals the show. And it’s actually two cars we see, both on loan from a museum, just for the filming of the movie. In case you were wondering, the 1929 yellow Duesenberg J Sport Phaeton seen in the film, also known as the Duesenberg J., is worth a cool $3 million.

The use of this particular car model, as it turns out, is an anachronism. The movie is based on the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, “The Great Gatsby.” But the novel is set in 1922, a full seven years before the Duesenberg came on the market.

Yellow Duesenberg from The Great Gatsby
1934 Yellow Duesenberg Model J supercharged Dual Cowl Torpedo Phaeton. Design by Gordon J. Buehrig, coachwork by Weymann of America. (Accord14CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

A Duesy of a Price Tag

The Duesenberg J is beyond the means of most today, but the same was true of the luxury car back in the day. When the Duesenberg burst onto the market, the sale price was $19,000. For comparison, a top of the line Ford Model A sold for approximately $1,200. Meantime, the salary of the average physician, considered even then a job with above average earnings, was $3,000 a year.

Aside from its good looks, the Duesy had an inline eight-cylinder engine that could generate over 265 horsepower, which meant that at top speed, the Duesenberg J could go up to 120 mph.

Perhaps it was the price that did in the Duesenberg, which ceased production in 1937. By the time World War II rolled around, the car was no longer sought after, to the point that a Duesy could be bought for just a few hundred dollars. [SPOILER ALERT] That’s pretty much as sad as the ending of the movie–and DiCaprio’s co-star, that gorgeous yellow Duesenberg.



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