Tag Archives: Auburn Automobile Company

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.

Visit the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum

I encourage everyone to visit the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum. For me this is a return to Mecca. ACDAM is the place that probably ignited my interest in collectible autos. If you are ever in the northeast corner of Indiana, you have to visit ACADM.

1936 Cord convertible coupe
1936 Cord convertible coupe
Copyright © 2011 Dennis E. Horvath

Let me tell you about this automotive gem. ACDAM is the only auto museum occupying an original factory showroom and administration building. The art-deco structure was built in 1930 for the Auburn Automobile Company and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Galleries on the first floor showcase Auburn, Cord, and Duesenberg automobiles. Some of these are one-of-a-kind automotive icons, while others are original unrestored examples.

The museum dedicates a large portion to Indiana-built automobiles from the 1890s through 1960s. In addition to the namesake cars, the Cars of Indiana Gallery on the second floor shows a cross section of cars like Marmon, Studebaker, and Stutz that brought world wide acclaim to the Hoosier state. One of my favorites here is an Indianapolis-built 1919 Cole Aero-Eight TourSedan.

1919 Cole Aero Eight TourSedan
1919 Cole Aero-Eight TourSedan
Copyright © 2011 Dennis E. Horvath

Second floor galleries feature design examples across a wide spectrum. The Gordon Buehrig Gallery of Design focuses on the process of design at the company. Buehrig is probably most famous for designing the 1936 Cord Model 810 in addition to the 1935 Auburn Boattail Speedster and many Duesenberg Model Js. E. L. Cord’s office and design studios remain with period correct trappings from the company’s heyday. One item I particularly like is the many clay styling models of the Cord Model 810. These give an idea of the attention to detail required in designing this creative auto.

I always enjoy finding new treasures during my visits to the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum. Everyone I recommend it to agrees with my accolades for this Indiana automotive gem. You should be sure to visit ACDAM on a trip to the Midwest.

To find more about Indiana car culture follow this link.