Welcome to the 20s everyone! That’s right, the 20s. Much better than the teens or aughts or whatever the hell we were supposed to call the last twenty years. It sounds nice. It’s also reminiscent of a glorious time in American history; a time when the stock market was unstoppable, movies, telephones, and automobiles saw wide-spread production, and everything seemed possible. We were sure it would never end, sure that we could beat on, boats against the current, blissfully unaware that we were a decade away from financial ruin and Nazis.
Here we are, sitting at the beginning of another 20s, ignorant of whatever financial ruin and genocidal fascists may or may not be in the future. This time we could approach things with an understanding of the consequences of our actions. We can conduct our affairs with purpose and forethought, to create a better world and set ourselves up for a great 30s as well.
Or we could fill our face holes with prohibited substances and ride the stock market to ludicrously unsustainable highs while driving the most opulent and unnecessary cars.
Obviously, we should choose the former. But should you chose the latter, I have found the three best 1920’s cars for you to negligently and fervently roar through this decade with.
You need to go fast, at least triple-digit speeds, but you don’t want to do it in a tiny little one-seater. You need room for four, at least. Bentley’s first car, the 3 Litre, won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1924 and 1927. The car was heavier and significantly larger than the dominant race cars at the time, prompting Ettore Bugatti to call it “the fastest lorry in the world.” The straight-4 engine had four valves per cylinder, an overhead camshaft, and a dry-sump oil system. The Green Label 100 mph variants were offered with a 1-year warranty instead of the 5-year warranty on the other variants, alluding to a higher stress and failure rate due to the higher engine tune. I recommend that one. The original price was around $5000, or about $75,000 in today’s money.
Going fast is good, but sometimes you just want to cruise around in a beautifully designed, technologically advanced car that is just a little bit different than the Franklins and the Packards. Cord was an America luxury automobile company notable for its innovative technology and streamlined designs. In 1929 the company released the L-29 which it advertised as America’s first production front-wheel-drive automobile. It was the first FWD vehicle made anywhere that used constant velocity joints. Commonly used on FWD cars today, CV joints eliminate the varying angular acceleration of U-joints at high angles. The car was powered by a 301 cubic inch Lycoming inline-8 making 125 horsepower. It was underpowered for its weight, but the stying was excellent and it was competitively priced around $3000 ($44,000 2020 dollars).
Duesenberg Model J
You’ll also need some really expensive luxury, so you’ll want to consider the Duesenberg Model J. Duesenberg Motor Corporation was purchased in 1926 by E. L. Cord and the newly revived company designed the Model J to compete with top European luxury brands like Rolls-Royce and Hispano-Suiza. The car was introduced in December of 1928, less than one year before the stock market took a giant shit on everyone. By that time, the company had made only 200 cars, and sales decreased the following year. Duesenberg didn’t make it out of the great depression, ending production in 1937 when Cord’s financial empire collapsed.
The Model J’s bare chassis went for $8500 and coachwork often brought the price closer to $20,000. Adjusted for inflation, that’s about $300,000. A typical car at the time was about $500.
Speed, beauty, and luxury. Buy your cars, pick your coachbuilder, and start writing checks, because this financial boom is never going to end!