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Photo: Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) rides with Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) in the 2013 film version of F. Scott Fitzgerald‘s The Great Gatsby.

Here’s how Nick Carraway describes Gatsby’s car in Fitzgerald’s novel:

It was a rich cream color, bright with nickel, swollen here and there in its monstrous length with triumphant hat-boxes and supper-boxes and tool-boxes, and terraced with a labyrinth of wind-shields that mirrored a dozen suns. Sitting down behind many layers of glass in a sort of green leather conservatory, we started to town..”

While Nick describes Gatsby’s car as “cream colored,” other characters in the book describe it as “yellow” — which, as most of us learned in high school, symbolizes Gatsby’s pursuit of the gold, of the American Dream.

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Photo: Nick Carraway (Sam Waterston) drives with Jay Gatsby (Robert Redford) in the 1974 film version of Fitzgerald‘s novel.

But what make and model of car did Gatsby drive — in the novel and the various film versions? A recent article in the New York Times by Jerry Garrett offers some interesting answers. Since the information gets a bit convoluted, I’m going to resort to bullet points — and, in movie parlance, cut to the chase.

  • 1925 novel: Fitzgerald writes, “On weekends, his Rolls-Royce became an omnibus, bearing parties to and from the city between nine in the morning and long past midnight …” According to Garrett’s New York Times article (May 10, 2013), “The Rolls most likely would have been a 1922 Silver Ghost…”
  • 1974 movie (starring Robert Redford): Redford drives a 1928 Rolls-Royce Phantom  – for a story set in 1922.
  • 2013 movie (starring Leonardo DiCaprio): DiCaprio drives a 1929 Duesenberg Model J — again, for a story set in 1922.

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Photo: Cars featured in the 1949 film version of The Great Gatsby starring Alan Ladd.

I also checked out Jerry Garrett’s blog, where he adds another interesting fact…

  • 1949 movie (starring Alan Ladd): In this film version, as in the 2013 offering, Gatsby drives a Duesenberg (though I don’t know year or model). According to vintage car expert Jerry Garrett, “The point of having Gatsby owning a Rolls-Royce in the book, and having a closet full of clothes from England, was to help sell his fantasy girl Daisy Buchanan on his lie of having gone to school at Oxford. The original Duesenberg was made in Indiana. Would Daisy, a society belle from Louisville, Kentucky, have been impressed with a Hoosier?”