This model represents the full-size Duesenberg Model SJ 20 was built for the World Fair in Chicago in 1933. It was known as the "Twenty Grand" because of its expensive price tag. The car had a centrifugal supercharger, a claimed output of 320 bhp and a top speed of 130 mph (210 km/h). This Franklin Mint model reproduces the car's elegant exterior of metallic platinum and was made of 148 parts including the Duesenberg bonnet mascot and a range of dashboard gauges. It has diagrams of the engine and driver's compartment layouts, and a Certificate of Authenticity.
This object is one of a collection of 41 precision model cars which comprises 22 models of Corvettes, from 1953 to 1998, as well as famous Rolls-Royce, Duesenberg, Bugatti, Mercedes-Benz and Ford Mustang models. They were designed by the Franklin Mint in Philadelphia, USA, and collected by Queensland couple Michael and Jan Whiffen from 1983 until 2009 and donated by them in 2010.
By the 1980s many of the children who had collected Matchbox cars in their childhood returned to the hobby, but this time with more disposable income. The Franklin Mint recognised this trend and began making larger scale, collectible, limited edition, die-cast cars just for the adult collector market. They made everything from the collector's first car or motorcycle, and the luxury car they had always aspired to own, to the sports car they had lusted over, all at an affordable price. Despite being criticised for being a mass-manufacturer of kitsch, the Franklin Mint was the pioneer of the collectibles industry.
Although not Australian-made nor used in Australia, the cars reflect some of the most desirable vehicles around the world in model form. The meticulous attention to detail not only clearly illustrates increased sophistication of die-cast model making since Matchbox days, but also the changing design features of automobile bodies, interiors and engines. This is especially true in respect to the Corvette set, where the models represent cars from 1953 to 1998. This is a legitimate way to illustrate the developmental changes in automotive design over a 45-year period when it is impractical and impossible to display the full-size cars.
The cars themselves are a fascinating insight into the development of the collecting hobby which grew in Australia and around the world throughout the second half of the 20th century. This interest is seen in Australia with the enormously-popular ABC television programme, "The Collectors", which began in 2003 and spun off a magazine and, in 2010, a book entitled "Collecting the 20th Century".
Michael and Jan Whiffen have clearly enjoyed collecting the cars and other motoring collectibles, and it has been a passionate hobby for them to share together over 35 years.
"Business Wire", 19 February 2008,
Dinger, Ed, 'The Franklin Mint' in "International Directory of Company Histories" Volume 69, 1998.
Georgano, Nick, "The Beaulieu Encyclopaedia of the Automobile", The Stationary Office, London, 2000.
Information provided by Jan and Michael Whiffen.
Curator, Science, Technology & Industry