Having accumulated a vast fortune producing all kinds of chemicals in the 19th century, the duPont family ventured out into unknown territory in the first half of the 20th century. One of them was E. Paul duPont, who started building cars right after the first World War. E. Paul had no ambition to challenge the big three, but instead set out to build the best and most luxurious cars in the United States. At the time his relative Pierre duPont was briefly president of General Motors, which was partly owned by the duPont company.
In the War, E. Paul's factory had manufactured marine engines in the War, so it was no surprise that the first duPont car was completely designed and built in-house. Simply dubbed the Model A, it debuted at the highly exclusive New York International Salon in 1919. Power came from a 4.1 litre straight four engine, which was installed in a fairly conventional chassis. To ensure the cars were finished to E. Paul's high standards only a select number of coachbuilders, like Merrimac and Murphy, were commissioned to body the rolling duPont chassis.
Shortly after the Model A's introduction, it was replaced by the slightly revised Model B. Of the two models only 118 examples were produced over a five year period, making the duPont one of the most exclusive cars out there. For the Model C launched late in 1923, duPont used a third party supplied six cylinder engine. E. Paul had concluded that the benefits of an in-house developed and built engine did not outweigh the additional cost. The engine was sourced at Herschell-Spillman, who are much better known for their Merry-Go-Round carousels.
In the following years new duPont models followed in quick succession, with the Herschell-Spillman replaced by a similar Wisconsin engine in the Model D. The main difference between the new models was in the size of the chassis, which grew to meet the demands of the customers. In 1928 the luxury segment was given a shaking by the introduction of the Duesenberg Model J. Powered by a massive and very powerful eight cylinder engine, it eclipsed all that came before. E. Paul duPont had to act quickly and come up with a suitable answer.
That answer came in the same year with the launch of the Model G duPont. It was powered by a Continental side-valve eight cylinder engine with a 5.3 litre displacement. Depending on the state of tune, it produced 114 - 140 bhp. The ladder frame chassis was still very conventional with live axles on both ends and drum brakes on all four wheels. Although not quite matching the advanced mechanicals of the Duesenberg , the Model G was the most successful duPont to date with production figures reaching 200 within two years.
In 1929 a short wheelbase version of the Model G was constructed, equipped with a Speedster body. duPont intended to race the car in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, to take on one of the company's biggest rivals, Stutz. As the classic endurance race was open to four seater cars only, the entry was refused. duPont hastily set about building two cars that met the regulations. Only one was finished in time; after a good start, it retired early in the race with gearbox issues. Of both the two and four seater Speedsters several copies were constructed by Merrimac. They featured bullet-shaped radiator and unusually styled Woodlite headlights.
Unfortunately the economic conditions in the United States quickly deteriorated and luxury goods manufacturers are of course the first to suffer. duPont was one of the first victims and production of ceased in 1931. That year just three examples of the final incarnation, the Model H, were produced in the Indian motorcycle factory in Springfield. In total E. Paul duPont produced just 537 cars between 1919 and 1931. While the cars were highly acclaimed at the time, they are largely forgotten today. Fortunately several examples have survived and are frequently shown at concours d'elegance all over the country. Many of these are owned by the duPont family.
Source: Ultimatecarpage, Drivingline, Flickriver, En.wheelsage, other