The ex-William Boyd 'Hopalong Cassidy',1933 Duesenberg Model J Victoria  Engine no. J384
Lot 223
The ex-William Boyd “Hopalong Cassidy”, unique coachwork,1933 Duesenberg Model J Torpedo Convertible Victoria Chassis no. 2535 Engine no. J384
Sold for US$ 1,437,000 inc. premium
Lot Details
The ex-William Boyd “Hopalong Cassidy”, unique coachwork
1933 Duesenberg Model J Torpedo Convertible Victoria
Coachwork by Rollston

Chassis no. 2535
Engine no. J384
Body No. 532A
Design No. 319

“With action and suspense out of the old west comes the most famous hero of them all, Hopalong Cassidy, starring William Boyd.

“The ring of the silver spurs heralds the most amazing man ever to ride the prairies of the early West, Hopalong Cassidy … Raw courage and quick shooting have built a legend around this famous hero. “Hopalong” is a name to be feared, respected and admired, for this great cowboy rides the trails of adventure and excitement.”
So started the Hopalong Cassidy radio shows narrated by William Boyd, the culmination of a generation of novels, movies, television and merchandising which made Hopalong Cassidy and William Boyd, the actor who portrayed Hoppy in every medium and episode, the idol of millions of kids from the depths of the Great Depression to the postwar flowering of the American Dream.

Hoppy’s character was created in a series of Western pulp novels by Clarence Edward Mulford in the years just after the turn of the twentieth century. Originally a rough-spoken cowpoke, Hoppy’s image was developed on film by William Boyd into something very different. Clean cut, immaculately attired, astride magnificent white horses named Topper, plain spoken and cheerful, Hoppy was honest, forthright, courteous, abstemious … and the implacable, ingenious foe of bad guys, outlaws, dishonest sheriffs, greedy ranchers and avaricious mine owners.

Born in Hendrysburg, Pennsylvania in 1895, William Boyd was raised in the boomtown of Tulsa, Oklahoma. In 1918 he got his break in Hollywood, eventually playing romantic lead roles in silent films for Cecil B. DeMille and D.W. Griffith. His career was in decline in 1935 when Harry Sherman approached him to play in Hop-Along Cassidy. Originally offered the role of Buck Peters, the conniving ranch foreman and rustler, Boyd instead asked for and received the title role.

By then the success of Mulford’s series had stretched through some two dozen books, abundant material for a quick Western film and the possibility of a series if it proved to be popular. In fact it proved to be so popular that an entire industry was born, revolving around Bill Boyd and eventually owned, directed and managed by him to even greater success after World War II. It was not a fad, it was a phenomenon. It revitalized the Western as a film genre, helped establish television as a popular entertainment medium, expanded to radio and spawned commercial ventures, Hoppy branded products, comic books and even more novels by Clarence Mulford which brought the total to 28 through 1941. Later the series was continued with four more Hopalong books by Louis L’Amour.

William Boyd made sixty-six full length Hopalong Cassidy movies in a span of just fourteen years. From 1935 through 1941 forty-one were produced by Harry Sherman for Paramount and another thirteen for United Artists. All featured the immaculately-attired cowboy star in his signature black hat, shirt and trousers astride a silver-dressed show saddle on white horses named “Topper”. That’s nearly five features a year.

In 1944 Sherman tired of the formula but Boyd recognized it still had legs and bought the Hopalong Cassidy concept, from Mumford’s books to the film rights, and continued to make another twelve features from 1946 through 1948. He caught the wave of America’s postwar growth and seized upon the hunger for content from the new medium, television, editing the films into half-hour episodes to fill TV’s growing appetite and selling them to the nascent NBC network. Boyd paralleled his television work with a series of 104 radio shows from 1948 through 1951. Once again, as in everything that featured Hopalong Cassidy, it was Bill Boyd who read the shows’ narratives and acted the part of Hoppy.

The reach of television and radio created unprecedented merchandising opportunities and Boyd seized upon them enthusiastically. Lamps, bedding, pocket knives, lunchboxes, clothing, watches, cap guns and holsters were part of a seemingly endless stream of Hoppy and Topper branded products and promotional tie-ins with cereal makers and others.

Hopalong’s success was built on the bedrock of Bill Boyd’s consistent presentation of the character, which emphasized truthfulness, good manners, hard work, thrift, kindness to animals, cleanliness and lawfulness. He never struck a blow where reasoning could avoid fisticuffs, never drew his sixgun where his quick fists could subdue the bad guy, but when gunplay was necessary no one was quicker nor had surer aim.

It is an amazing body of work. It made Bill Boyd, who had so nearly been penniless when Hoppy showed up, a rich man.

Hopalong Cassidy made Bill Boyd rich enough, it turns out, to buy this unique, wonderful 1933 Duesenberg Model J Convertible Victoria. At the same time, he was thrifty enough – just like Hoppy – to recognize the good value in buying it used.

The history of this Duesenberg Model J is exceptional. Its design was conceived in large part in the fertile creativity of Duesenberg designer Gordon Buehrig during the period when Duesenberg’s Sales Manager Harold Ames recognized that outside coachbuilders were impinging upon Duesenberg’s reputation by selling the same or very similar coachwork designs to be installed on other chassis. The practice damaged the exclusivity Model J buyers expected and Buehrig was charged with creating coachwork designs which would be unique to Duesenberg. This is one of them, and it is the only one of its kind.

Built on the 142½” “short” wheelbase chassis for E.T. Foley in St. Paul, Minnesota and bodied by Rollston in New York, the coachwork has several unique features. Foremost among them is the mechanically operated top mechanism, a design that was created for this car and later applied to some Walker-built LaGrande convertible coupés. Operated by a crank which is engaged through an opening in the right quarter, the blind quarter top folds completely into a top boot compartment behind the rear seats giving a clean, unobstructed window sill line when lowered. Foley specified added enclosed luggage capacity which is accommodated below the extended rear deck with a trunk rack behind it.

Dual windshields for the rear seat passengers slide down behind the front seats. Their protection is augmented by soft folding side windows. The front seats are individually adjustable on crank-operated tracks.

It also features a dual beltline which similarly is unique. A full-length beltline molding continues from the hood hinges back through the doors and rear quarters, flowing down to the lower corner of the luggage compartment. Another raised molding surrounds the 4-seat passenger compartment from the windshield posts back. The effect is unusually attractive and serves to lower the visual perception of the body’s side profile.

Other luxurious features include dual Pilot-Ray driving lights, chrome wire wheels, dual sidemounted spares enclosed within chromed outer rings and body color panels which expose the chrome wire wheels within, thermostatic radiator shutters, Twilite headlights, a raked flat windshield hinged at the top for ventilation, Duesenberg combination taillights, double sided whitewall tires and chrome trumpet horns.

The mighty Model J’s 420 cubic inch, 265 horsepower dual overhead camshaft inline eight cylinder engine’s three-speed manual transmission is fitted with freewheeling. The combination of the many extra and special features on this unique Rollston Torpedo Convertible Victoria are believed to have brought its cost in 1933 to $19,000, within a whisker of the “Twenty Grand” price which so amazed viewers of the supercharged Rollston torpedo sedan at the 1933 Chicago Century of Progress Exposition.

Originally completed with non-skirted front fenders and sensuously flared rear fenders on 19” wheels, the coachwork was updated at some point more or less coincident with William Boyd’s acquisition of it to skirt the front fenders and add teardrop rear fenders as well as smaller wheels. Boyd is believed to have bought it from the original owner, who had a California home (where the torpedo convertible victoria would have been much more practical than in Minnesota.) “‘Bill’ Boyd – famous picture star with Harry Sherman Productions” is pictured with it in an advertisement for Alexander Bros., West Coast distributors for “Martin ‘Custom Made’ Tires”, showing the teardrop rear fenders, disc wheels with hubcaps and trim rings and identified by the distinctive rear seat windshields and double beltline moldings,.

Its subsequent history is not known until 1943 when it was in Texas. It was acquired there in June 1952 by James L. Sewell of Dallas. Sewell had it restored and the color changed to red by Joe Lalande. At that time the original engine, J-384, was swapped for J-361. Sewell then donated it to his San Antonio Museum Association where it was displayed for many years with little if any use. Sold in 1994 in inoperative condition (missing its exhaust manifolds), it was then treated to a richly deserved restoration by the multiple Pebble Beach Best in Show winning shop of RM Restorations in Canada, returning it to its original non-skirted fender configuration with chrome wire wheels and liveried in black with burgundy leather upholstery and interior trim following original documents, including the body drawings from Buehrig and Rollston, from the collection of marque authority Randy Ema. The original engine, J-384 which had been kept as a spare by a Texas collector, was reunited with the car at the same time.

Following restoration it was awarded a Classic Car Club of America National First Prize in 1996. It was displayed at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in 1996 and earned its CCCA Senior Award in 1999.

It was acquired by Sid Craig in 1999, joining the other select cars with elegant design and intriguing celebrity connections in his small but choice collection.

By itself this one-off Rollston Torpedo Convertible Victoria with its many luxurious, ingenious features is a rare and highly prized example of the lengths to which Duesenberg and its clients would go even in the Thirties to create individual automobiles on the chassis which E.L. Cord had Fred Duesenberg create to be the greatest automobile in the world. Its many highly refined features and singular design make it the counterpart of the most important Duesenbergs, and therefore also the counterpart of the finest automobiles of the classic era of the late Twenties and Thirties.

It is the manifestation of the ideal which E.L. Cord had in mind when he commissioned Fred Duesenberg to create on a clean sheet of paper an unparalleled basis for the most demanding clients’ to express their automobile desires.

In character, achievements, quality and the simple elegance of its performance it is the embodiment of the qualities espoused by its second owner, William Boyd, the legendary personification of the “feared, respected and admired” Hopalong Cassidy.

Sid Craig realized this car was an expression of ideals, effort, persistence and achievement, one of the finest Duesenbergs built and a fitting monument to one of Hollywood’s best-known and most loved stars, William Boyd, “Hopalong Cassidy.”

Without reserve


  • Please note this lot is accompanied by a life-sized wax representation of William Boyd.
Auction information

This sale is now finished. If you are interested in consigning in future sales, please contact the specialist department. If you have queries about lots purchased in this sale, please contact customer services.

Buyers' Obligations


If you have any complaints or questions about the Conditions of Sale, please contact your nearest customer services team.

Buyers' Premium and Charges

For all Sales categories excluding Arms & Armor, Coins & Medals, Motor Cars, Motorcycles, and Wine & Whisky:

Buyer's Premium Rates
25% on the first $100,000 of the Hammer Price
20% from $100,001 to $2,000,000 of the Hammer Price
12% on the excess over $2,000,000 of the Hammer Price

Payment Notices

Payment for purchases may be made in or by (a) cash, (b) cashier's check or money order, (c) personal check with approved credit drawn on a U.S. bank, (d) wire transfer or other immediate bank transfer, or (e) Visa, MasterCard, American Express or Discover credit, charge or debit card. A processing fee will be assessed on any returned checks. Please note that the amount of cash notes and cash equivalents that can be accepted from a given purchaser may be limited.

Shipping Notices

For information and estimates on domestic and international shipping as well as export licences please contact Bonhams Shipping Department.

Lot symbols
Exempt from tax

Zero rated for VAT, no VAT will be added to the Hammer Price or the Buyer's Premium.