Monthly Archives: November 2016

Errett L. Cord – Famous for Auburn, Cord, and Duesenberg

Errett Loban Cord
Errett Loban Cord
Photo Courtesy – Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum

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 $500 profit per vehicle. In the early 1920’s, Cord became a successful salesman at the Moon Dealer in Chicago, Illinois.

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.

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.

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.

For more information on Indiana auto pioneers follow this link.

Get it Fixed Right the First Time

In this installment of Car Care Tips, we’ll look at how to get it fixed right the first time.

Dennis E. Horvath  Copyright ©2012 Dennis E. Horvath
Dennis E. Horvath
Copyright ©2012 Dennis E. Horvath

Previously, we looked at the care and feeding of our cars. Now it’s time to get some work done. You might be wondering how to find a good mechanic you can trust.

The easiest and most reliable way that I’ve found over the years is to ask your friends, relatives, and co-workers. I did this a number of years ago and found an auto shop that I explicitly trust for all our mechanical work. They don’t over prescribe work, and they fix it right the first time, no returns.

If you are new to an area and aren’t sure about a local mechanic, you can check the AAA listing of recommended shops in your locale. Another service is the Better Business Bureau, to see if they have any complaints on file. Check the business for National Institute of Automotive Service Excellence certification. Test it out with a small repair or preventive maintenance.

If this is a large repair, get multiple opinions. Ask friends what sounds reasonable. Do some web research to check for chronic problems with certain autos? Don’t necessarily go for the lowest price.

There are a number of items that you should do before you leave your car at a shop.
Make a list to cover each point of concern.

Fully detail the car’s symptoms:
What sounds abnormal?
What smells unusual?
How does it act?
What happened before or after the car stopped running?
Are symptoms consistent, or are they sporadic?

I’d advise to describe symptoms only! Make no diagnosis. If you do, you may get service you don’t need.

Ask the mechanic what the specific problems might be. Ask them for a detailed explanation, what needs to be repaired, why, and what it will cost.

Don’t authorize repairs until you are satisfied they are reasonable and fair. Get a written estimate if possible. State that additional repair must be authorized before they are preformed. Stipulate on the work order: “Save all replaced parts for your inspection.” Get all warranties in writing. Pay with a credit card as a hedge against faulty service.

By doing some basic homework and proper vetting of an auto repair shop, you can get your car fixed right the first time at a fair price.

For more information on cruise-in.com follow this link.

The Ghosts of Jungle Park

Recently, I had a chance to read The Ghosts of Jungle Park after attending the Jungle Park Reunion on October 9th.

the-ghosts-of-jungle-park

Author Tom W. Williams does an outstanding job of sharing the story of this half-mile track on US 41 in western Indiana. The track presented interesting events from 1926 to 1960. Over 60 drivers from the Indianapolis 500 like Bill Cummings, Al Miller, Mauri Rose, and Wilbur Shaw, competed at Jungle Park during this time frame.
Earl Padgett built the track on 72-acres of land just south of Sugar Creek on US 41. Over 5,000 spectators attended the first race on July 5, 1926, with a $1,000 purse. Most of the crowd came from Terre Haute, Indianapolis, Chicago, and Danville, Illinois.

The track enjoyed much success in the late 1920’s. With the Depression in the early 1930’s, the track thrived during most of the period. In August 16, 1930, the track debuted a new lighting system to present night racing. On May 3, 1936, the Central States Racing Association began sanctioning races at the Park. This led to larger fields for the races.

With the advent of World War II, there were only two races at Jungle Park in 1942, before the U.S. government banded racing. Full-scale racing didn’t return until late 1945 when the Midwest Dirt Track Association began sanctioning races. There were 17 cars entered for the last race in 1945.

The 1950’s brought an abundance of hot rod and stock car races to Jungle Park. With CSRA now sanctioning the races there were six races in 1950. There was a good number of races from 1950 to 1953, but then interest began to wane. In 1960, there were two races sanctioned by the Car Owners Racing Association. In the last race in October, a spectator was killed, causing racing to end at Jungle Park.

In the recent years, there have been several Jungle Park Reunions were racers and spectators get together to celebrate the drivers, cars, car owners, and the track. This is how I became aware of this interesting facility.

Author Williams has done a great job researching the races, cars, and car owners. His story takes you all the way from the beginning to the end of the story. I invite you to pick up a copy of The Ghosts of Jungle Park and enjoy the saga of this track in western Indiana.

For more information on Indiana auto pioneers follow this link.

Congratulations to Indiana Racing Memorial Association for recognizing the Chevrolet brothers

I must say congratulations to the Indiana Racing Memorial Association for renovating the Chevrolet brothers grave site in Indianapolis.

Chevrolet brothers memorial

I have known about the Chevrolet grave sites in southern Indianapolis for many years, but was concerned about the poor up-keep and failure to recognized their accomplishments in our automotive industry.

The Indiana Racing Memorial Association, with sponsorship from Chevrolet Motorsports, and the Central Indiana Chevrolet Dealers Association have corrected this oversight. They have created a renovated grave site in the Holy Cross and St. Joseph Cemetery at 2446 S. Meridian Street. They have constructed an exquisite granite monument for
the Chevrolet brothers: Louis, Arthur, and Gaston.

chevrolet-brothers-marker

In addition to the monument, they dedicated a historical marker celebrating their automotive accomplishments. All three raced multiple times in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with Louis winning the first 10-mile race at the Speedway in August 1909 and Gaston taking the 1920 Indianapolis 500.

In 1911, Louis was named president of the Chevrolet Division of General Motors and developed the Chevrolet Classic Six five-passenger touring car. Upon leaving General Motors in 1915, he began developing race cars that competed at the Speedway and across the country. In 1922, Louis and Arthur created the Chevrolet Brothers Company, in Indianapolis, to develop Frontenac cylinder heads to extract greater horsepower from the Ford Model T engine. They produced over 10,000 units that dominated dirt track racing across America.

The easiest way to get to the site is to turn west on Pleasant Run Parkway off South Meridian Street and go about a quarter-mile. Then turn north into the cemetery and proceed to the flagpole. The monument and marker are right there north of the flagpole.

I believe IRMA’s efforts with the monument and historical marker beautifully recognizes the Chevrolet brothers automotive accomplishments. Thanks to IRMA for commemorating our automotive heritage.

For other Louis Chevrolet articles click here. For more information on Indiana auto pioneers follow this link.

Louis Schwitzer winner of the first 5-mile race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Louis Schwitzer on the Speedway Technical Committee
Louis Schwitzer on the Speedway Technical Committee

The winner of the first 5-mile race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in August 1909 was Louis Schwitzer, an automotive engineer. He drove a stripped down, five-cylinder Stoddard Dayton touring car at an average speed of 57.4 m.p.h. for five miles on the macadam track.

Schwitzer’s work in the automobile industry began as an engineer for Pierce Arrow where he worked on one of the first six-cylinder engines made in America.

Schwitzer also designed the six-cylinder engine that powered the Marmon Wasp race car driven by Ray Harroun to win the first 500-mile race at the Speedway in 1911.

In 1912, Schwitzer joined the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Technical Commit¬tee and served as its chairman from 1919 through 1945.

In 1914, he joined the United States Army Motor Trans¬port Corps. He was deeply involved in the design of class ‘B’ military trucks.

After World War I, he started his own business to manufacture automotive cooling fans and develop cartridge-type pack¬ing gland seals. These seals opened new markets in industrial equipment, food processing, and the chemical industries. During the 1920’s, his experience in gear production for the oil pump business was easily transferred to ‘positive displacement’ rotary lobe type superchargers. Schwitzer is credited with building the first high- production supercharger for gasoline and diesel engines in America.

Following World War II, Schwitzer designed the low-cost, efficient “turbocharger.” Schwitzer’s turbocharger debuted on the Cummins diesel race car that won the pole position for the 1952 Indianapolis 500. Today, turbochargers are considered standard equipment on almost all diesel engines. Schwitzer also contributed to the development of crankshaft dampers, which are used on heavy duty engines.

That’s the story of this little-known Indiana automotive pioneer.

For more information on Indiana auto pioneers follow this link.