Category Archives: Car Culture

The Cord debuts Streamline Style

The Cord debuts Streamline Style in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum Indiana Automobiles: Precision over Production exhibit is the 1930 L-29 Cord. Visit the Indiana Automobiles: Precision over Production exhibit today.

1932 L-29 Cord
1930 L-29 Cord

Renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright once described the first Cord model as “the best design from my ‘streamline’ standpoint ever put on the market”. Made in Connersville, the Cord L-29, with its long, sweeping fenders, did indeed set a new course in automotive design.

The Cord L-29 was introduced in August 1929 as a 1930 model. It was the first production automobile with front-wheel drive and was made to fill the gap between the low-priced Auburn and the top-of-the-mark Duesenberg in the Cord Corporation line of cars. The Cord sedan and brougham were priced at $3,095 each, and the cabriolet and phaeton were $3,295.

Project engineer Cornelius W. Van Ranst designed the new front-wheel drive system around the units in the successful Indianapolis 500 racecars. Harry Miller and Indianapolis driver Leon Duray served as consultants on the project. Alan H. Leamy was the chief stylist.

Cord claimed advantages in safety, easy handling, comfort, and durability. Plus, front-wheel drive provided a lower body silhouette, allowing a distinctive and pleasing front end appearance that appealed to coachbuilders.

The L-29 was available in four models: a convertible Cabriolet with rumble seat, four-door convertible Phaeton Sedan, five-passenger Sedan, and the five-passenger Brougham. All four models sported a stylish cadet-type visor. The Cabriolet and the Phaeton Sedan stood only 58 inches high, some 12 inches lower than their competitors. They are known for their long, low, racy lines. Their narrow corner posts provided a clear field of vision. The V-shaped radiator grille would inspire a throng of imitators, most notably the 1931 Chrysler Imperial.

The L-29 regularly won prizes in the European Concours d’Elegance, which was quite an accomplishment for an American manufacturer. A Cord L-29 Cabriolet was also the pace car for the 1930 Indianapolis 500-mile race.

Unfortunately, the Cord L-29, which was the first automobile to bear Errett Lobban Cord’s name, was introduced only two months before the stock market crash in October 1929. Although praised for its quality, sales didn’t reflect its popularity. The L-29 was built from 1929-1931 with only 5,010 units produced. The last cars were 1932 models.

After a lapse of four years, the Cord name was revived for 1936. Gordon M. Buehrig’s original work on the Cord Model 810 began as a “baby Duesenberg” in 1933. By December 1934, the design of the new front-wheel-drive model was essentially complete and then shelved. When the project was revived in July 1935, there was less than four months in which to build and test a prototype, tool up, and get the cars into production for the New York Auto Show on November 2, 1935. The company made the deadline, but without the transmissions in place. Plus, the phaetons were without any tops. The missing parts didn’t matter. The Cord 810 stopped the show. People had to stand on surrounding cars just to get a glimpse of Cord’s exciting new design. Cord received over 7,600 requests for more information on the 810. Unfortunately, due to unanticipated production start-up problems, almost six months would pass before any deliveries were made.

The new catalog boasted, “The New Cord demonstrates that it is possible to build a radically different kind of motor car which is, nevertheless, completely in accord with the very highest standards of beauty and good taste. ”We predict that the New Cord will exert a pronounced influence upon the future offerings of the entire automotive industry.” The company extolled further, “You will be constantly amazed that a car so low in design should be so spacious and provide so much head and leg room.”

The first Cord 810 rolled off the assembly line in Connersville on February 15, 1936. Innovations on the Cord 810 included disappearing headlights, concealed door hinges, rheostat-controlled instrument lights, variable speed windshield wipers, Bendix Electric Hand (steering column mounted-electric gear pre-selection unit), and factory installed radio. The model was the first automobile in the United States to adopt unit body construction in its full sense.

In November 1936, the company introduced the Cord 812 for the 1937 model year. An example of the model’s claim-to-fame was its use as the official chief observer’s car for the 1937 Indianapolis 500 mile race.

When production of the Cord automobile was terminated in October 1937, fewer than 3,000 Model 810/812 units had been produced. The automotive operations of Cord Corporation died when E.L. Cord shifted his focus to other interests.

In their day, these Cords stirred the imagination of the motoring public. Their clean simplicity of line, exciting innovations, and luxurious appointments won much admiration and many awards. The Cord Model 810/812 is revered by many as one of the most popular classic cars of all time.

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1911 Cole Model 30 Torpedo Roadster displayed at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum

The 1911 Cole Model 30 Torpedo Roadster displayed at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum is an excellent example of the early Cole automobiles. Visit the Indiana Automobiles: Precision over Production exhibit today.

1911 Cole Torpedo Roadster
1911 Cole Torpedo Roadster

In the early months of 1908, Joseph J. Cole began to give serious thought to building an automobile and secured the permission of the other board members of the The Cole Carriage Company to build an automobile that the company might manufacture. The first Cole Solid Tire Automobile was ready for the board’s inspection on October 9, 1908.

The first Cole’s carriage appearance was the result of its design to meet the road conditions of the day. It was a primitive high wheeler with solid tires, powered by a 14 hp air-cooled flat twin engine. In the next seven months, the Cole Carriage Company built 170 solid tire cars retailing from $725 to $775.

The Model 30 introduced in 1910, was successful in racing events around the country. They captured the Massapequa Trophy in the Vanderbilt Cup Race, in addition to numerous other contests on both East and West coasts, including a 24-hour marathon at Brighton Beach.

Plans for the new 1912 Cole Model 40 were reviewed by the board in November 1911. This model included a Leonard Electric lighting system, a Prest-O-Lite self-starter, a Bosh dual ignition, a Schebler carburetor, and Firestone pneumatic tires with demountable rims. Their second newcomer, the Speedster was built for “The man who wants to get there first.” Each and every Speedster was tested at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and guaranteed to go 70 miles per hour. Other major improvements for 1913 include shifting the driver’s seat from the right to the left side of the car and the adoption of the Delco “starting, lighting, and ignition system.”

The “Cole Eight” made its debut in January 1915. With this introduction, Cole became the second manufacturer after Cadillac to offer a V-8 engine. Cole headlined the “Berline Limousine,” a large model that seated six in the spacious body. The early part of 1916 marked the shift to total eight-cylinder engine production.

The year 1917 saw the introduction of the unique “Cole Toursedan,” designed to give the motorist a closed car in the winter and an open touring car in the summer. The Toursedan had a permanent top and could be transformed to a touring car by storing all of the windows and the upper sections of the door frames in provided compartments.

The Cole “Aero-Eight” was displayed at the New York Auto Show in January 1918. The V-8 engine, rated at 80 h.p., had a counterbalanced crankshaft and aluminum-alloy pistons. In 1919 marked a high point for the company and was very near the actual capacity of the plant. This ranked Cole as second only to Cadillac among America’s high-priced automakers.

The recession brought a decline in all business activity as well as a serious curtailment of automobile sales. The success of the low-price, mass-produced cars cut the volume of Cole class cars approximately 50 percent.

In 1922, Cole had all aluminum bodies on three of the five closed models. Cole added another “first” to its credit in September 1923 by introducing “balloon tires” as standard equipment on the Volante model. The Firestone Balloon Tire operated at 25 p.s.i. versus the 70 p.s.i. in a standard tire. The 1924 Master Models offered a newly designed multiple disc, self-adjusting clutch. Production of the Cole automobile ceased in October 1924. In January 1925, while his company was still solvent, J. J. Cole chose to liquidate rather than jeopardize the remaining assets of the corporation. The 1925 Cole Brouette on display at the Speedway Museum is one of the last Coles built.

A total of 40,717 automobiles bear the Cole name. Each and every automobile was a quality product, utilizing the best material and craftsmanship available, and designed in the latest manner. These characteristics were all a symbol of the J. J. Cole, who had built them, a man who truly possessed a touch of tomorrow is all he did.

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The Auburn Automobile Company made its mark on Indiana with style.

A stylish Auburn in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum Indiana Automobiles: Precision over Production exhibit is the 1935 Auburn SC Cabriolet. Visit the Indiana Automobiles: Precision over Production exhibit today.

1935 Auburn SC Cabriolet
1935 Auburn SC Cabriolet

The company’s most notable model—the Auburn boattail speedster designed by Gordon Buehrig in 1934—had the look that would be remembered for many years to come. Today the speedster is still regarded by enthusiasts as one of the most stylish cars ever made.

The legendary designer Gordon Buehrig started to work for Auburn in 1934. He designed the Auburn 851 with a Lycoming straight-eight engine. The car was introduced in August 1934, which was one of the first mid-year introductions. Buehrig also designed the Auburn 851 boattail speedster with a Lycoming supercharged 150 h.p., straight-eight engine, and a price tag of $2,245. Its success was legendary. An 851 speedster became the first fully equipped American production car to exceed 100 m.p.h. for 12 hours at the Bonneville salt flats in Utah in July 1935. The Auburn 851 speedster with its tapering tail, pontoon fenders, and four chrome-plated exhaust pipes is regarded by many as one of the most beautiful cars ever built.

The Auburn Automobile Company was incorporated August 22, 1903, with Charles, Frank, and Morris Eckhart listed as directors and officers. Capital was set at $7,500. By 1903, the Auburns were more substantial and were offered with pneumatic tires.

In the 1910’s, Auburns were known as good solid cars and competed well in the marketplace. With increased competition, late in the decade, Auburn’s sales began to falter. Introduction of the Auburn Beauty-Six in 1919 briefly gave sales a short-lived boost. In 1924, Auburn was producing only six units per day. Over 700 unsold touring cars filled the storage lot.

Auburn took a dramatic turn when the Chicago investors installed Errett Lobban Cord as general manager in 1924. Cord agreed to work without a salary with the understanding that, if he turned the company around, he would acquire a controlling interest.

Upon arriving in Auburn, Cord ordered the sluggish inventory repainted in snappy colors and had trim and accessories added for a more engaging look. The inventory was soon sold. In 1925, he updated the Auburns with the addition of Lycoming straight-eight engines to the line-up. He then paid a reputed $50 for a flashy new design in time to put it on the floor of the 1925 New York Auto Show—all without putting the company one cent in debt. This new styling theme was used for nine years and featured a graceful beltline that swept up over the top of the hood to the radiator cap and two-tone color schemes.

Cord could turn the company around. Sales increased rapidly, and in 1926, Cord became president of the company. Starting in 1926, Cord conceived a self-sufficient organization, like Ford, that could produce practically all the parts needed for automobiles, eliminating the need to buy a lot of material outside. He believed he could reduce costs this way. To accomplish this goal, Cord acquired control of Ansted Engine Company, Lexington Motor Car Company, and Central Manufacturing all based in Connersville, Indiana, Lycoming Manufacturing Company (and subsidiaries) of Williamsport, Pennsylvania; Limousine Body Company of Kalamazoo, Michigan; and Duesenberg Motors Company of Indianapolis. Growth in the company continued. In five years E.L. Cord had increased production 1,000 percent. On June 14, 1929, the Cord Corporation was organized with a capitalization of $125 million as a holding company to centralize growing activities.

The powerful Auburn 8-115 with Lockheed four-wheel hydraulic brakes was introduced for 1928. Styling innovations were a trend at Auburn in 1928, with the introduction of the five-passenger Phaeton Sedan—a sporty touring car that could be converted into a closed sedan. Premiering this year was the first Auburn boattail speedster designed by stylist Alan H. Leamy, who provided the genesis for Buehrig’s version.

The aerodynamic Auburn Cabin Speedster was introduced in 1929. That year’s catalog boasted, “Here is tomorrow’s automobile design. Automobiles, as well as planes, must minimize wind resistance to attain increased speed. The Cabin Speedster is a subtle compound of racing car and airplane, sky-styled, and designed by the famous racing driver and aviator, Wade Morton.”

Unfortunately, critical acclaim and styling achievement did not add up to a commercial success. The Depression finally caught up with Auburn in the mid-thirties. The last Auburns were built in 1936.

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1912 The Mission of the Sturdy Stutz

This article is about the advertisement titled “The Mission of the Sturdy Stutz” by the Ideal Motor Car Company the predecessor of the Stutz Motor Car Company.

1912 Stutz photo 2

“In the introduction of the Stutz Car a little less than a year ago, Harry C. Stutz determined to place on the market a car designed to embrace all the best features of his previous creations and constructed and equipped in each part with the best that money could buy, and to sell same at a legitimate manufacturing profit. He was able, through long experience in the buying of motor car parts and the personal attention he gives to this work, to purchase materials advantageously. After calculating our costs and our small overhead expense, we found we could produce the Stutz car, to be equal in mechanical perfection to any car built, no matter what the price, at a price of $2,000.00.”

“Our claim is that, as far as mechanical construction is concerned, it is not possible for anyone to build a better motor car than the Stutz. The wonderful satisfaction the car has given the many Stutz owners has fully substantiated this claim. If a 50 H.P., four-cylinder car is large enough there is absolutely no necessity of paying more than $2,000.00: you can buy nothing better that the Stutz.”

“Our wheelbase of 120 inches is ample for either a two, four or five passenger car. Our engine with large valves, develops full fifty horsepower. Our Stutz rear transmission system has long been recognized as a phenomenal success.”

“The graceful body designs appeal to the most discriminating buyer.”

“The strong sturdy design, so devoid of complications, is a revelation in motor car construction.”
“We can safely leave the decision to your own judgement after comparison with other cars. It is not simply a good car, but as good as it is possible for anyone to build.”

It is interesting to note Stutz’s advertising claims in this early era in automotive advertising. The first Stutz automobile was built in just five weeks in 1911, and competed in the Inaugural Indianapolis 500-mile Race. Gil Anderson drove this first Stutz to an eleventh-place finish. Stutz began advertising “The Car That Made Good in a Day.” Later that summer, the Ideal Motor Car Company was organized to manufacture the Stutz Model A, a duplicate of the Indy racer. A Stutz Model A torpedo roadster served as the pace car at the 1912 Indianapolis 500.

The famous Stutz Bearcat sports car appeared in 1912 for a run of 10 years. It followed the usual Stutz recipe of a low-slung chassis, a large engine, and other bare necessities—hood, fenders, a right-hand raked steering column, two bucket seats, a fuel tank behind the seats, and wooden spoke wheels. The Stutz Bearcat was a popular car in the $2,000 price range. Its ap¬peal was boosted by Stutz’s success at the race track. Bearcats finished fourth and sixth at the Indianapolis 500 in 1912. During the summer the company entered 30 different racing contests and won 25 of them.

Harry C. Stutz enjoyed many accomplishments in the early automotive industry. Later, he founded the H.C.S. Motor Car Company and the Stutz Fire Engine Company. His success started with the Stutz Motor Car Company.

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Check out the Indianapolis made Waverley

An electric car in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum Indiana Automobiles: Precision over Production exhibit is the 1899 Waverley Electric. Visit the Indiana Automobiles: Precision over Production exhibit today.

1899 Waverley Electric

Waverley electric vehicles were built in Indianapolis under four different corporate names: Indiana Bicycle Company (1898 1901), International Motor Car Company (1901-1903), Pope Waverley (1903 1907), and The Waverley Company (1908-1916). The first Waverley electric car was a two-passenger Stanhope with tiller steering, 36-inch wheels with pneumatic tires, and a single headlight.

Waverley exhibited one Stanhope, four dos-a-dos, and one delivery wagon at the New York Auto Show in May 1899. This line-up showed that its factory was—at that time—manufacturing in quantities for a variety of needs. All the cars—except for one dos-a-dos—were sold and delivered after the show.

Waverley offered several other models like the piano box runabout and an open road wagon. About 2,000 vehicles were sold by 1903. Waverley then built the first coupe body ever constructed for an electric vehicle. The popularity of this type of closed car was so great that all the electric manufacturers soon devoted their attention to closed passenger cars. The demand for coupes, broughams, and limousines steadily increased, to the neglect of the smaller open cars. By 1909, the Silent Waverley Electrics used a “noiseless” shaft drive from the traction motor to the rear wheels.

The 1911 Model 81 Brougham’s interior was finished in broadcloth, broad lace and “Goat Morocco” leather. It used either solid or pneumatic tires with side-lever steering and ran on Exide, Waverley, and Edison batteries. Standard luxuries included a flower vase, two vanity cases with watch and salt bottles, a match safe and cigar holder, and an umbrella holder. In 1912, Waverley offered the first front-drive electric.

The 40-page 1914 catalog gave copious descriptions of six models including the Roadster Coupe that rode on a 104-inch wheelbase and looked like a conventional gasoline roadster with a long hood and a false radiator. The four-passenger Brougham was offered in three versions: front-drive, rear-drive, and front-and-rear-drive. To help promote sales, the company published “A day with a Silent Waverley.” This pamphlet charted the day of a fictitious woman as she rolled up the miles in the Silent Waverley traveling from the office, school, shopping, and other engagements. She could travel, according to the pamphlet, without the fussing and fuming of gasoline autos.

Most electrics, though almost noiseless, were annoyingly slow (5-25 m.p.h.) and their batteries needed recharging after a few hours of use. Suitable for densely populated areas, electrics were seldom seen in the open country because of their limited traveling range (up to 75 miles). Although later Waverley’s furnished a range between charges sufficient for about two day’s use, the popularity of electric cars began to wane. Waverley electrics were no longer produced after 1916.

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