After E.L. Cord took over the Duesenberg company in 1926, he wanted Fred Duesenberg to design the largest, finest, fastest, and most expensive automobile ever, one that could compete with the best European luxury cars of that time, such as Rolls-Royce, Hispano-Suiza, Mercedes-Benz, and Isotta-Fraschini. Fred took about 27 months to develop the Duesenberg Model J.

The Model J was shown to the public for the first time at the New York Car Show on the 1st of December, 1928. It was one of the largest and most beautiful automobiles ever built. Its straight-eight engine was based on the engines of successful racing cars that were built by Duesenberg in the 1920s. The un-supercharged version could deliver 265 hp, enabling the car to reach a maximum speed of 119 mph. There were other cars with bigger engines, but none of them could match the power of this car.

The Duesenberg Model J was not only the fastest car of its time; it was also the most expensive. Buyers had to pay $8,500 for the chassis or $13,000 to $19,000 for a complete base model. During that time, a physician in the US was making an annual income of less than $3,000. Due to its steep price, the Model J did not sell well. The Duesenberg company produced about 200 cars by 1929 and received 100 orders in 1930, which was much less than its annual target of 500 cars.