A Duesenberg in Miniature by Louis Chenot

a beautifully constructed working model about 35" long made in 1/6 scale

No, it's not a real full-size Duesenberg, but rather a beautifully constructed working model about 35" long made in 1/6 scale. Louis Chenot has spent the past ten years building this incredibly detailed 1932 SJ Duesenberg LaGrande dual-cowl phaeton. Not only does it look good, but the engine runs, the lights work, the top mechanism functions and the transmission and driveline are complete. Lou started his research on this project over fifty years ago with the purchase of a book and over the years collected many drawings and studied a number of Duesenbergs while they were being restored, taking photos and recording dimensions.

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Here's a shot of the finished car from the side. The model weighs about 60 pounds. Lou's 40 year career was spent as a mechanical engineer. He once restored a vintage 1930 Cadillac convertible that was on the show circuit for years, but now he prefers to work in miniature in the comfort of his home shop.

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The bodywork is all metal, not fiberglass. Here is the car in Lou's shop before the brass coachwork was primed or painted. Lou is not adverse to starting over on a part that doesn't meet his standards. He started over on the especially difficult brass radiator shell nine times.

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Here is the engine removed from the model and sitting on its test stand. The transmission is in the foreground. Most running models are built at larger scales like 1/3 or 1/4. Working in the smaller 1/6 scale magnifies the problems caused by miniaturizing certain parts. Remember that scale parts are 1/6 as long, 1/6 as high and 1/6 as deep as real parts, making them 1/6 x 1/6 x 1/6 or 1/216th of the volume of the original part. Further complicating the prospect of building a running engine at that size is the fact that fuel molecules and electricity don't scale. It is very difficult to get tiny carburetors and little spark plugs to work like the big ones. A video of Lou starting and running the engine for the first time can be seen at http://videos2view.net/Duesenberg-run.htm.

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Inside the straight eight engine are all the correct parts custom machined to scale from steel, cast iron and aluminum. Here we see the block and crankshaft at the top. Arrayed below the block are the cast iron cylinder sleeves, pistons, wrist pins and assembled connecting rods.

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Inside the straight eight engine are all the correct parts custom machined to scale from steel, cast iron and aluminum. Here we see the block and crankshaft at the top. Arrayed below the block are the cast-iron cylinder sleeves, pistons, wrist pins and assembled connecting rods.

 

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Even though there would be no way to tell once it is all assembled, the cylinder head shows that Lou didn't cheat. The engine has 4 valves per cylinder--32 total--just like the real thing. Here is the head (before painting) with the camshafts in place--there are 16 lobes on each shaft. (The apparent curve of the upper shaft is caused by the camera's wide angle lens.)

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The gears inside the differential will never be seen by anyone,
but Lou cut them as actual hypoid gears rather than machining simpler bevel gears.

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This is the dashboard and interior with the body primed but not yet painted.
Note the detailed instruments and engine-turned finish on the dash.

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The complicated convertible top mechanism is shown in the lowered position.

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Lou was presented with a special Lifetime Achievement award by the Joe Martin Foundation for Exceptional Craftsmanship in 2009. The model was nearing completion but the engine had not yet run. Now that the engine runs and the model is completed. Lou has been selected as the foundation's "Metalworking Craftsman of the Year." The award includes an engraved award medallion and a check for $2000.00. Lou is the 15th person to receive this coveted annual award. Because it is likely that this could well be the finest running model car ever built in this small a scale, Lou's award this year will be presented as the "Craftsman of the Decade." More can be seen on this car and some of Lou's other projects at www.CraftsmanshipMuseum.com/Chenot.htm.

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In case you didn't get enough, here's one more photo of the Duesy from rear quarter. The model will be on public display in 2011 at the Cabin Fever Model Expo in York, PA in January and at the North American Model Engineering Society Expo in Southgate, MI in April where Lou will be officially presented with his award. It was on display at the Western Engine Model Exhibition to be held in conjunction with the Good Guys car show in Pleasanton, CA in August, 2011. This message was produced by the Joe Martin Foundation. Please feel free to forward it to anyone you know who likes fine craftsmanship, car models, miniature engines and/or Duesenbergs. See the outstanding work of Lou and 99 other world-class craftsmen at www.CraftsmanshipMuseum.com.

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