What is not to love about the Auburn, Cord, Duesenberg museum? The museum is located in the former administrative building built by E.L. Cord as a showplace to appeal to customers coming to check out the Cord Company products. The products included the above mentioned cars in all of their shiny, curved beauty. What is the topping on this Sunday is the building itself. Built in the Art Deco style, everywhere you look, the architecture screams to be studied and enjoyed. On a hosted trip to Northern Indiana, I stopped at this place that has been on my bucket list for a long, long time!
Outside the building there are statues of E.L.Cord and William Eckhart who started the company. Eckhart began his career working at Studebaker making wagons, working as a wheelwright. He started a carriage company in Auburn, Indiana in 1874 that eventually became the Auburn Automobile Company. Several models of Auburns were made, this medium priced car was built primarily by Charles son’s Morris & Frank.
The popularity of the Auburn cars increased after each new model had a few new introductions. The 1905 model had a two-cylinder engine, the 1909 version was a four cylinder, and the 1912 car was a six cylinder. “In 1919 Auburn introduced the new Beauty 6,” Jon Bill shared, “and this caught the attention of investors from Chicago. Among them was William Wrigley Jr”
With a struggling economy, the Eckhart brothers were willing to sell to the investors. There was only one problem, Jon Bill said, “The investors purchased the company, but they didn’t know how to run the company.”
Around 1924, with sales lagging during the tough recession the investors began looking for something or someone to save the company. That someone turned out to be Erret Lobban Cord. While the Auburn Automobile car company was producing six cars a day., they were not selling. It took top car salesman Cord who was working in Chicago to turn it all around. Cord worked at Quinlan Motor Car Company selling Moon cars. With money to invest, he convinced the investors to let him have a percentage and he did just that. Jon Bill said , “With an eye to get rid of the inventory in the lot, he repainted the cars and added some nickel plating and started selling the cars. He gave a pep talk to local dealers and cut prices and unleashed a national advertising campaign.”
This worked and Auburns were flying off the showroom floor. Sales went through the roof, and by the middle of 1926, Cord was President of the Auburn Automobile Company. Expanding his empire, he acquired Stinson Aircraft, the Arnstead Engine Company, the Lexington Motor Car Company, Central Manufacturing, Lycoming of Williamsport, PA, Limousine Body in Kalamazoo, MI, and the Duesenberg Motors in Indianapolis. He combined all these car companies into one that he called the Cord Corporation. “He was an accomplished pilot and he founded Century Airlines that later became American Air,” Jon Bill said.
“At one time he had 60 companies under his belt,” Jon Bill added. This addition meant that he needed a new corporate headquarters to sell his luxury cars. Choosing Fort Wayne architect Elvin Strauss, this famous architect designed a building in true art deco style. “Art Deco was all the rage. They created a floral ceiling, specially designed lamps from Italy. The show room was designed to impress people those coming he showed the Cord Company Products.”
In the early 1930’s Cord became bored and turned his eyes elsewhere to other investments. Long story short, the company folded in 1937. After the factory closed, the building was sold to Dallas Winslow who bought the companies that sold the parts and through his efforts preserved many of these early cars.
Today the museum is a beautiful place I was so impressed with the cars, where else can you go and see the rare Auburn, Duesenberg, Cord and other vehicles? These rare beauties are on display in a pristine setting just waiting for you to come and take a look. My mom was along for the ride for this museum and she is not an automobile person and she too was mesmerized. Jon Bill provided an amazing tour and I go into much more detail in an upcoming article in Farm World. Keep your eyes posted for the stories in my column Wrenching Tales!
For more information about the museum, check out their website at http://www.automobilemuseum.org/#home.htmlhttp://www.automobilemuseum.org/#home.html.