The early 20th century was an exciting time for Indiana towns. The automobile was gaining popularity and carriage manufacturers were swapping their horse-drawn vehicles for those powered by motors. This is one of the stories told in Auburn, Indiana, once home to the world headquarters for the Auburn Cord Duesenberg automobile.
Today the public can visit the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum, housed in the original art-deco factory showroom and headquarters for the company, and learn how these beautifully designed cars were ahead of their time, while taking in relics from that era including design drawings, clay models and artistic renderings of these highly collectible and expensive cars.
A brand-new car from Auburn Cord Duesenberg sold for about $7,500 in the early days. Some models offered for sale on the classic car market in recent years have sold for more than $50,000, a few for more than $2 million, and at least one for $22 million.
Walking into the showroom, which is now open to the public but was only open to dealers in its heyday, is stunning. Art-deco chandeliers, a bright and shiny terrazzo floor, and tall, formidable classic pillars reaching up to the 19’ ceiling create the vibe that fits the class and shine of the Auburn Cord Duesenberg. Period music plays and visual treats are everywhere, from the shine of the pristine automotive finishes to the display of 150 historic hood ornaments.
“Our visitors really do step into a time capsule,” says Brandon Anderson, the museum’s executive director.
The museum displays 130 vehicles at any time on three floors of museum spaces. There’s also an auto-themed gallery of artist renderings and engineering designs, the clay model studio, management offices, and the newly opened exhibit hall profiling the life of E.L. Cord, the man who rescued the Auburn Cord automobile and established the Auburn Cord Duesenberg as the world’s fastest and most groundbreaking new car design.
The museum first opened at noon on July 6, 1974. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. More than one million visitors have come to the museum in the 49 years it has been operating. More than 20 distinct exhibits are displayed throughout the building including galleries of design, fine art and archival treasures, and the gallery of the cars of Indiana, a tribute to the many automobile manufacturers throughout the state, some of which only lasted a few years and others that went on to achieve tremendous success.
One of the showpieces housed at the museum is a Cord automobile owned by the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright. He stated his appreciation for the automobile in this quotation: “The proportion and lines of the Cord come nearer expressing the beauty of both science and logic than any car I have ever seen.”
Other famous owners include Clark Gable and Gary Cooper, Anderson says, as well as other Hollywood royalty and wealthy families like the Vanderbilts.
Anderson says the museum gets visitors from throughout the U.S. and from 89 countries around the world. Cars were shipped out to destinations around the globe throughout the company’s history. That history began in 1900 and ended in 1967. In those six decades, the innovations in automobile design and engineering were patented and are still featured in today’s autos. The innovations include hydraulic brakes, X-frame chassis construction, front-wheel drive and retractable headlights.
For those who would love to claim a Duesenberg of their own but don’t have the cash to buy one on the classic-car market, the museum offers an option. The Adopt-A-Car program raises funds for the museum’s care of its collections, operations and programs. Adopters choose a vehicle to adopt for a 12-month period. Their name is displayed next to their adopted car, and this opportunity comes with other benefits. Anderson is one of the many people who have adopted their favorite car from the museum’s vast collection.
The Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum is located at 1600 South Wayne Street in Auburn, Indiana. For more information, visit automobilemuseum.org, call 260-925-1444 or email email@example.com.
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