A Duesenberg of a Fellow

Angelo Van Bogart |

On June 3, the old car hobby lost one of its most enthusiastic souls with the passing of 88-year-old Alfred “Al” Ferrara. Al was well-known around his beloved home of Cleveland for his family-run, straight-out-of-the-’50s Italian food market, Ferrara’s Imported Foods, and around the hobby for his Classic-era automobiles, particularly his Duesenberg and Pierce-Arrow car collection.

Al was one of those people that makes the hobby so great by sharing his cars, his knowledge and his historical artifacts ­– all of which appeared on the pages of Old Cars Weekly through Al’s generosity. Readers may remember several stories featuring Al’s vintage photos of Duesenbergs on streets during the 1950s and earlier, a feature story on his 1928 Pierce-Arrow sedan and yet more pictures of his other cars at various events around the country.

While Al was happy to share his cars and vast knowledge about them with the public, he also enjoyed talking about cars one-on-one. Despite having some of the greatest cars ever built, including the Duesenberg known as the “Clark Gable SSJ,” Al was extremely approachable and loved to tell stories about the early days of car-collecting, when Classics could be purchased at used-car prices and those who purchased such cars did it purely out of love, rather than as an investment. Such stories mesmerized me, and I was fortunate  to listen to them at Auburn Cord Duesenberg Club, Antique Automobile Club of America and Classic Car Club of America meets, Al’s home and market and the seats of his Duesenbergs. (On one occasion, we switched places and Al rode with me on a tour to the sites of closed car factories and dealerships around Cleveland in a drive I’ll never forget).

The only thing more important to Al than cars was family and friends, and he leaves many behind, including his sons Frank “Chick” and Alfred, Jr., grandsons Alfred III and John, several siblings and many friends in car clubs to which Al belonged for more than 50 years.

Al was a “Duesenberg of a man” who proved you didn’t have to be on the silver screen to inspire and excite people. For that, I’ll always call the red-and-silver short-wheelbase 1936 Duesenberg he owned for 45 years “Al’s SSJ.” Like his favorite marque, there will never be another, but we’re all much richer for the legacy each left behind.

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