Tag Archives: Auburn

Is your Indiana car club looking for a program for March 2017?

If your Indiana car club is looking for a program for March 2017, I strongly recommend a trip to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum Indiana Automobiles: Precision over Production exhibit. Visit the Indiana Automobiles: Precision over Production exhibit before the closing date of March 26, 2017.

1896 Reeves Motocycle
1896 Reeves Motocycle

I believe the folks at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum have done an incredible job of telling the story of Indiana-built automobiles. They have gathered 35 cars from an 1896 Reeves Motocycle to a 1963 Studebaker Avanti. Plus, nine race cars from a 1905 Premier to the 1950 Cummins Diesel Special are included.

Indiana once vied for Michigan’s title as the automotive titan of the United States. It was at a time when the names of automobiles like Duesenberg, Stutz and Cord brought worldwide acclaim to the Hoosier state. Indiana’s contributions to automotive history have been numerous. Tilt steering, cruise control and hydraulic brakes are just three examples of the innovations introduced by Indiana automotive pioneers. Yet the innovators themselves have become nearly forgotten–overlooked as we take their inventions increasingly for granted as part of the standard equipment on today’s models.

Over 40 Indiana towns and cities can claim some sort of connection to our early automotive history. More than 400 firms – large and small – operated statewide between 1894 and 1963.

The earliest car on display at the museum is a Reeves Motocycle built in Columbus, Indiana, which used a two-cycle, two-cylinder Sintz gasoline engine with a variable speed transmission produced by Reeves.

1933 Duesenberg Model J Berline
1933 Duesenberg Model J Berline

As many of you know Indianapolis was one of the largest producers of automobiles in the nation. Some of these autos are well represented from the 1899 Waverley Electric to the 1933 Duesenberg Model J Berline. Other Indianapolis autos on display are various models of American Underslung, Cole, Marmon, Pathfinder, Premier, and Stutz.

Other makes built in other Indiana towns and cities are represented with cars like Apperson, Auburn, Cord, Davis, Haynes, Lexington, McFarlan, Monroe, Richmond, and Studebaker.

I invite your Indiana car club to come to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum and check out these Indiana-built cars today. This may be the only chance you’ll see such a wide array of Indiana-built cars at one location.

For more information on Indiana-built automobiles, follow this link.

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.

For more information on Indiana cars & companies follow this link.

Indiana’s place in automotive history

Indiana once vied for Michigan’s title as the automotive titan of the United States. It was at a time when the names of automobiles like Duesenberg, Stutz and Cord brought worldwide acclaim to the Hoosier state. Indiana’s contributions to automotive history have been numerous. Tilt steering, cruise control and hydraulic brakes are just three examples of the innovations created by Indiana automotive pioneers. Yet the innovators themselves have become nearly forgotten–overlooked as we take their inventions increasing for granted as part of the standard equipment on today’s models.

Indiana’s automotive innovation began with Elwood Haynes’ kitchen experiment on an internal combustion engine in the fall of 1893. Haynes’ research and development led to the demonstration of his “Pioneer” automobile along Pumpkivine Pike, outside Kokomo, on July 4, 1894. Haynes and two passengers traveled at a speed of seven miles an hour and drove about one and one-half miles further into the country. He then turned the auto around, and ran the four miles into town without making a single stop.

1894 Haynes Pioneer
Elwood Haynes in the 1894 Pioneer
Copyright Elwood Haynes Museum

“I remember as the “little machine” made its way along the streets we were met by a “bevy” of girls mounted on wheels.,” Haynes noted. “I shall never forget the expression on their faces as they wheeled aside, separating like a flock of swans and gazing wonder-eyed at the uncouth and utterly unexpected “little machine.”

In 1898 the Haynes-Apperson Company was incorporated and auto production was on its way in Indiana.

By the late 1800s Indiana’s plentiful supply of lumber had also lured several industries into its borders, including the makers of carriages and wagons. The automobile industry in the early 1900s was a natural offspring of carriage manufacturers, which could provide not just parts but the skilled labor as well. Five Indiana manufacturers entered commercial automobile production in the late 1890s.

1902 Studebaker Stanhope
1902 Studebaker Stanhope

By 1900, The Haynes-Apperson Automobile Company was one of the few firms in the country with annual production exceeding 100 units. In the 1900s, 74 different models were introduced by Indiana manufacturers. These models range from A to Z, with names like Auburn, Cole, InterState, Lambert, Marmon, Maxwell, National, Overland, Premier, Richmond, Studebaker, Waverly, and Zimmerman.

The growth spurt between 1910 and 1920 separated the nation’s auto makers into two groups–the “mass-produced auto giants” and the “craftsmen.” Most of Indiana’s auto makers chose to be “craftsmen” and purchased automotive parts and assembled them by hand. Thus, these companies were small, and many became known for producing high-class and high-priced cars. Nearly every one of the Indiana cars that became well-known were in this category, includ¬ing names like Duesenberg, Cord, Stutz and Cole, appealing to the upper end of the consumer market.

Twenty Grand Duesenberg
Twenty Grand Duesenberg

The teens saw the introduction of another 69 Indiana models. Included in this group are Elcar, Empire, Jack Rabbit, Lexington, McIntyre, McFarlan, Monroe, Parry, ReVere, and Stutz.

Until about 1920, there seemed to enough demand for both the “mass-produced” and “high-quality” cars. However, a series of eco¬nomic factors at this time helped contribute to the decline of Hoosier auto making. Price slashing and an expansion-crazed environment trapped Indiana manufacturers in a philosophical battle with the Michigan titans. Hoosiers were ill-prepared for this kind of competition, and most wanted to remain craftsmen choosing to concen¬trate on “higher priced” vehicles instead of diversifying. Plus, the economic recession in the early 1920s added more financial burdens on the population, which became increasingly interested in the “mass-produced auto.”

Michigan had the financial backers willing to commit financial resources to give the state’s auto manufacturing the boost it needed. The Hoosier financial community generally proved to be of little assistance to its own local automobile industry.

Indiana in the twenties saw this decline to 22 models introduced. Among these were Blackhawk, Cord, Duesenberg, Elgin, Erskine, H.C.S., Lafayette, and Roosevelt.

1963-Avanti-Front
1963 Avanti
Copyright © 1962 Studebaker Corporation

Studebaker was the lone Hoosier survivor of the depression, continuing production for another 30 years, ending in December 1963.

Commercial production of the automobile in America began a little over 120 years ago, and America’s lifestyle has never been the same. Indiana automakers have made many contributions to that history. So, the next time you drive your car, you might wonder where you’d be without Indiana’s continuing automotive innovation and contributions.

For more information on Indiana cars & companies, follow this link.

More interesting Indiana Auto Facts

Check out these interesting Indiana Auto Facts from the 1920’s and 1930’s.

In October 1926, the new Auburn line was equipped with the Lycoming Eight-in-Line, a very advanced engine. It was a 260 c.i.d., L-head straight-eight generating over 60 h.p. at 2600 r.p.m. The car was fully equipped with items that were still aftermarket options on less expensive cars, including bumpers, a rearview mirror, shock absorbers, a windshield wiper, and a stop light.

1928 Auburn Speedster
1928 Auburn Speedster
Copyright © 2015 Dennis E. Horvath

In August 1928, H.H. Brooks, general sales director of the Marmon Motor Car Company, pointed out that the automobile could hardly be considered a luxury when it only cost $1 per day to own one! He was using statistics released by the American Motorist’s Association, which cited the average cost of a passenger car as $953, the average annual upkeep as $229, and the average life of the vehicle as seven years.

In 1929, both Cord and Ruxton introduced front-wheel drive. Previously, Harry Miller teamed up with Preston Tucker to produce the first front-wheel drive and four-wheel independent suspension Indianapolis racer.

In 1931, Studebaker introduced helical-cut transmission gears that almost completely eliminating gear whine. They also introduced the hill-holder clutch, a device that kept the brakes applied if the clutch pedal was held down.

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

In 1935, during the depths of the Great Depression, luxury car-makers were competing to sell cars with the biggest, most powerful, smoothest running engines. Auburn all had V-12’s, Duesenberg and Stutz chose sophistication over cylinder count, making straight-eights with dual overhead cams, 32 valves and careful design of intake and exhaust manifolds. The Duesenberg could be ordered with a supercharger, good for 320 h.p! Probably the most powerful natually-asperated engine was the all-aluminum Marmon V-16, with 490 c.i.d., making 200 h.p. These cars were huge with a wheelbase somewhere between 130 and 145 inches. Mass-market cars made do with straight 6- and 8-cylinder engines.

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

Eighty years ago, 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 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.

Isn’t interesting how some Indiana auto manufacturers were so innovative in the 1920’s and 1930’s, and how they faded from the automotive scene?

For more information on Indiana cars & companies follow this link.

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.