THOUGH Louis Chenot of Carl Junction, Missouri has produced several outstanding projects over the years, his finest effort to date is his recently completed 1:6 scale 1932 Dusenberg SJ. Some say this may be the finest and most complete model automobile ever built. Correct down to the smallest detail, even the tiny straight eight, 32-valve engine runs. Due to the significance of this achievement, the Joe Martin Foundation’s Metalworking Craftsman of the Year award has been renamed ‘Metalworking Craftsman of the Decade’ this year in Lou’s honour. Lou is the 15th person to receive the annual award, which was first presented in 1997. The award includes an engraved medallion and a cheque for $2000.00 that will be presented at the North American Model Engineering Society Expo in Southgate. The public is invited to see Lou and the Duesenberg at the show April 30 - May 1, 2011.

About Louis Chenot

Lou spent his 40-year working career as a mechanical engineer, with the last ten years as Director of Engineering for Leggett & Platt Corporation Automotive Group. He has restored full-size vintage cars including a 1930 Cadillac Convertible in the 1960s that was shown on the classic car circuit for years. He has been a modeller since the age of five, leading up to steam powered models and a beautiful 1895 American LaFrance fire engine that involved about 4000 to 5000 hours of work over a 25-year period. It was finally finished in Lou’s first year of retirement. He also built a 1/6 scale Bentley rotary aircraft engine before starting on the Duesenberg.

Building the Duesenberg

The Duesenberg project began many years ago with Lou collecting all the drawings, photos and information he could on the car. He first purchased a book on the car in 1955, and in the years following visited the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg Automotive Museum in Auburn, IN, restoration shops in Troy, MI and Randy Ema’s shop in Orange. He also gathered advice and information from other museums and owners, including the Nethercutt Museum and Jay Leno. With approximately 10 years now involved in building this project, it is at last ready for display. In addition to the NAMES show, the car will be featured at the Western Engine Model Exhibition to be held in conjunction with the Good Guys Car Show in Pleasanton, CA in August.

Lou’s quest for model engineering perfection on the model includes duplicating the engine down to the 32-valve layout, although he often wished Duesenberg had found two valves per cylinder to be sufficient instead of four. His ‘development bin’ (sometimes known as a scrap bin) does contain many parts that didn’t quite meet his standards. He says: “It doesn’t bother me a great deal to start again on something if it isn’t suitable—nine starts were made on the radiator shell.” The car includes more that 6000 parts, with 300 plus in the cylinder head alone. Lou even developed a technique to mould the rubber white wall tires himself. Not resting on his laurels, Lou has immediately started on his next project; a vintage triple cockpit mahogany racing boat to be powered by a model Liberty V-12 aircraft engine.

About the Joe Martin Foundation

The Joe Martin Foundation is a non-profit organization funded by Mr. Martin from the income of his machine tool company, Sherline Products, Inc. Private donations of funds and projects are accepted as well and are tax deductible under the U.S. Tax Code. The purpose of the foundation is to promote and reward outstanding craftsmanship with emphasis on metalworking at the small end of the size scale. In addition to cash awards, the foundation also funds an online museum at  http://www.CraftsmanshipMuseum.com and a 16,000 square foot museum in Carlsbad, California that features more than 200 steam, Stirling and IC engines plus miniature guns, ships, aircraft, tools and hand-made clocks.

Louis Chenot (left) with Joe Martin