Monthly Archives: August 2015

Thanks to E. L. Cord

Recently, while reminiscing about my automotive obsession, I decided to offer a thank you to E.L. Cord. Indiana automotive pioneer Errett Lobban Cord is one of the individuals most responsible for the Auburn, Cord, and Duesenberg automobiles of the classic era. Without his influence, insight, and entrepreneurship, these fine auto products of the Cord Corporation would never have existed.

Before graduating from high school, E.L. Cord demonstrated the spirit that led to his entrepreneurial success. He purchased a Model T Ford, modified its engine, hand-built a speedster body, and then sold it at a substantial profit. Later, he barnstormed for a time as a racing driver and mechanic, while continuing to sell modified Ford speedsters at an average of $500 profit per vehicle. In the early 1920’s, Cord became a successful salesman at the Moon Dealer in Chicago, Illinois.

1935 Auburn 852 Speedster
1935 Auburn 852 Speedster
Copyright © 2008 Dennis E. Horvath

In 1924, a group of investors enlisted Cord to salvage the faltering Auburn Automobile Company. He took over the general manager position at no salary with the provision to acquire a controlling interest in the company if his efforts were successful. Cord had the large stock of unsold cars repainted in bright, attractive colors. He also instituted new designs and models and offered them at attractive prices. Sales moved forward, and by 1926, E.L. Cord was president of the company. About the same time, he purchased Duesenberg Motors and instructed Fred Duesenberg to design the world’s finest motorcar.

1933 Duesenberg La Grande
1933 Duesenberg La Grande
Copyright © 2008 Dennis E. Horvath

In 1929, he assembled a holding company called the Cord Corporation. The holdings included Auburn, Duesenberg, Central Manufacturing, Lycoming Engine, Limousine Body, and Columbia Axle. In the 1930’s, he added Stinson Aircraft Co., Century Airlines, and New York Shipbuilding Corp.

1936 Cord sedan
1936 Cord sedan
Copyright © 2008 Dennis E. Horvath

Cord lured top designers, engineers and marketers to his companies and encouraged excellence. For example, Auburn became one of the first automakers to offer straight-eight power in a medium-priced car. He also introduced the Cord L-29 America’s first front-drive automobile and the magnificent Duesenberg Model J, the most luxurious and best-engineered motorcar of the day.

Production at the automotive operations ceased in 1937. Later, Cord developed a career in broadcast ownership, real estate, ranching, and politics.

Today, E.L. Cord’s automotive legacy is celebrated at the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum, the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Festival over Labor Day weekend, and on numerous other occasions around the world. So, the next time you see one of these works of automotive art, be sure to offer a thank you to E.L. Cord.

This story was excerpted from Indiana Cars: A History of the Automobile in Indiana.

Ralph R. Teetor

Ralph R. Teetor is most well known as the inventor of cruise control and president of Perfect Circle Corporation in Hagerstown. Throughout his career, he displayed an astonishing competence with machinery and confidence with people and places even though he had been blind from the age of five. Teetor developed unusual coping mechanisms and lived his life as if he could see. Many who came into contact with him never realized he was blind.

Ralph Teetor
Ralph Teetor
Copyright © 1995 Marjorie Teetor Meyer

His interest in automobiles developed early on. When he was 12 years old, Teetor and his second cousin built an automobile during the summer of 1902. Mechanical engineering became his career choice, and he graduated in the top third of his class from University of Pennsylvania in 1912 with a degree in this field.

In 1918, while working on a contract for the Navy at the New York Shipbuilding Corporation in Camden, New Jersey, Teetor developed a process to dynamically balance steam turbine rotors. He succeeded where many other engineers had failed. The new process was used through World War II.

In May of 1924 Teetor invented and patented a fluid-actuated automatic gear shift. The Bendix Company bought the patent and produced an automatic gearshift for Hudson. After World War II, popularity of the automatic transmission grew dramatically. For the next 40 years, most of the automatic transmissions on automobiles were based on the principles of his invention.

In 1936, Teetor was inspired to invent cruise control while riding with his patent lawyer one day. The lawyer would slow down while talking and speed up while listening. The rocking motion so annoyed Teetor that he was determined to invent a speed control device. He filed for the first patent on his device in the spring of 1945. Obstacles developed in production and delayed the debut of cruise control until 1958 on the Chrysler Imperial, New Yorker and Windsor models. Teetor’s persistence paid off again in the commercialization of a device that is now standard equipment on many automobiles.

In 1946, Teetor became president of Perfect Circle Corporation, where he had worked in various engineering capacities for the previous 32 years.

Teetor was posthumously inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in Dearborn, Michigan, in 1988 for his numerous contributions to the industry.

I recommend the following book on Ralph Teetor: One Man’s Vision: The Life of Automotive Pioneer Ralph R. Teetor, by Marjorie Teetor Meyer, ISBN 1878208675 for more information.

For more information on Indiana auto pioneers follow this link

Cruise in at The Suds is a Greenwood tradition since 1957

If you are looking for somewhere to cruise to on a Saturday night, The Suds Drive In, located in Greenwood, IN, has been a tradition since 1957. Car Craft Magazine rated the Suds as the #6 best cruising spot in America. This location is probably central Indiana’s most popular spot celebrating cruising car culture.

The Suds
The Suds Drive In
Copyright © 2011 Dennis E. Horvath

The Suds, once part of the Dog n Suds chain of restaurants, has seen some rough spots over the past decade, but is now on stable ground with the Suds Hot Rod Club ownership. The drive-in is open Wednesday through Saturday nights during the spring through fall, with the possibility of future indoor winter seating.

Yes, the Suds still serves the traditional hot dogs and root beer. The menu also includes corn dogs, homemade hamburgers, tenderloins, pulled-pork barbeque, chicken strips, and root beer floats. I can vouch for the hamburgers and root beer, great.

But that is only part of the Saturday night fun. The addition of great tunes and the ever-changing car show continue. Some of the die-hard cruisers start arriving before 4 p.m. and don’t leave until after 10 p.m. Regulars have their favorite parking spot to view the cruisers along Market Plaza Drive.

Some of the cars I enjoyed during a visit included a 1951 Studebaker Starliner Sedan, a 1985 Avanti, a 1950 Chevrolet, a 1952 Plymouth that was built in Evansville, a 1960 Chevrolet Impala coupe, a 1957 Ford Skyliner retractable convertible, a 1965 Ford Galaxie 500 hardtop, and a 1937 Buick coupe convertible. The cars cruising by presented an endless procession for our evening enjoyment.

So, if you are looking for some great Saturday evening car culture entertainment, I say cruise on down to the Suds in Greenwood for the food, tunes, and the never-ending car show. Maybe I’ll see you there some Saturday night?

To find more about Indiana car culture follow this link.

Mileposts in Indiana automotive history

Over the years over 40 innovations debuted on Indiana-built automobiles. Here is a list of the Top Ten Innovations by Indiana manufacturers.

E. L. Cords 1937 Cord Beverley Sedan
E. L. Cords 1937 Cord Beverley Sedan

1895 Elwood Haynes introduces the first use of aluminum alloy in an automobile in the Haynes-Apperson crankcase.

1902 The Marmon motorcar, designed by Indianapolis automaker Howard C. Marmon, has an air-cooled overhead valve V-twin engine and a revolutionary lubrication system that uses a drilled crankshaft to keep its engine bearings lubricated with oil-fed under pressure by a gear pump. This is the earliest automotive application of a system that has long since become universal to internal combustion piston engine design.

1903 The Haynes-Apperson is designed with a tilting steering column to allow low easy access for the driver or passenger upon entering or leaving the vehicle.

1922 The Model A Duesenberg, introduced by Duesenberg Motor Distributing Co. of Indianapolis, is the first U.S. production motorcar with hydraulic brakes, the first with an overhead camshaft, and the first U.S. straight eight engine.

1926 Safety-glass windshields are installed as standard equipment on high-priced Stutz motorcar models.

1929 The first motorcar (Cord L-29) with front-wheel drive is introduced by E. L. Cord’s Auburn Automobile Company.

1929 Marmon warrants a listing in the Guinness Book of Records for its factory-installed radio.

1932 The Duesenberg SJ is the first stock automobile to be equipped with a centrifugal type supercharger, although some previously had Roots type blowers.

1936 The Cord 810 introduced by Auburn Automobile Company is a sleek modern motorcar with advanced features that include disappearing headlights, concealed door hinges, rheostat-controlled instrument lights, variable speed windshield wipers, Bendix Electric Hand (steering column-mounted electric gear pre-selection unit.

1937 Studebaker is the first American car to offer windshield washers.

For the complete list visit Mileposts in Indiana automotive history @

What is the best car show?

We are now well into car show and swap meet season, and I have wondered about my recommendation for the best car show.

Being born in the central Indiana, I have to admit my car show exposure primarily covers Indiana and neighboring states. My experience may be limited, but I believe there are some great car shows in the area.

Auburn Speedster
Auburn Speedster at the
AACA Special Spring Meet

The Indiana action begins in May with the Auburn Spring Collector Car Auction and the AACA Special Spring Meet in Auburn. The following weekend Indianapolis hosts the Dana Mecum’s Original Spring Classic Auction.

In June it is my chance to leave the Hoosier state and visit the CCCA Grand Experience at Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners, Michigan, and the Ault Park Concours d’Elegance in Cincinnati, Ohio.

July starts off with the Haynes Apperson Festival in Kokomo, Indiana, and ends with the Concours d’Elegance of America in Plymouth, Michigan.

In August I look forward to the Lincoln Highway Buy-Way Yard Sale in Ohio and Indiana, the Lincoln Highway Adventure in Indiana, and Carmel Artomobilia.

September is chock-full of Indiana events with the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Festival and the Fall Collector Car Auction in Auburn, and the Festival of Machines at Conner Prairie in Noblesville.

My fall wraps-up with the Hill Climb and Car Show in Newport, Indiana, in October.

So, there you have some of my nominations for “Best Car Show.”

To find more about Indiana car culture follow this link.