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The Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum, an Art Deco Centerpiece

By Jennifer Strong:  In 1930 a beautiful art deco building was built to house the showroom and offices of the Auburn Automobile Company. The company may not have survived the economic depression of the 1930s but the building still stands and is now home to the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum in Auburn, Indiana. A historic landmark, the building provides a wonderful backdrop for viewing a extraordinary collection of some of the finest and most attractive cars crafted in America during the twenties and thirties.

L29 Cord Speedster

  • L29 Cord Speedster cockpit.

The art deco light fixtures, columns and flooring complement the curves and features of the classic era Auburns, custom Duesenbergs and the innovative Cord L-29s and 810/812s built from 1925 to ’37 on display in the grand showroom. Once you can take your eyes off cars like the Duesenberg X, a rare boattail version of the mighty marque, you notice the grand staircase. Like the museum’s brochure suggests, you can imagine Errett Lobban Cord bounding up the stairs to his office above.

Duesenberg Model A Boatail

  • Model A Duesenberg McFarland Boattail Speedster.

Cord had a list of people allowed to use the front staircase, but it is now open to all to enjoy the carefully curated galleries upstairs. The main upstairs gallery has more Auburns, Cords, and Duesenbergs displayed with cars from their contemporary rival companies such as Ruxton, Lincoln, Packard, and Rolls Royce. Also upstairs are Auburns from 1903-’24, Gallery of Racers and Record Setters, cars manufactured in Indiana, and the Hall of Technology with lovely Duesenberg marine and aircraft engines.

Some of the many highlights upstairs include the Samuel B. Stevens Trophy Cord, Duesenberg Super-Charged Indianapolis Racing Car and the William Stout designed IMP cycle car. Also not to be missed are the recreated executive offices and the design studio with Gordon Buehrig’s original model of the Cord 810 on display.

ACD Museum Showroom2

  • ACD Museum showroom from the grand staircase.

The attention to detail even extends outside museum. You can walk through the oldest building on the property that once housed Auburn’s predecessor the Eckhart Carriage Company, take a picture with statues of Cord and Fred and Augie Duesenberg, and stage a shot of your classic car at the vintage gas station or row of period vacation cottages. The historic building, 125+ beautiful cars, expertly curated galleries and helpful staff make the museum a must see for all car enthusiasts. It is truly one of the country’s great automotive destinations. Learn more at the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum. 

Editors Note: Jennifer Strong is a San Francisco, California based car aficionado with a great eye for interesting designs, coachwork, engineering, and vintage racing cars. View her earlier and popular article Fordite – Beauty Left Behind On The Factory Paint Line.

E. L. Cord Moument

  • E.L. Cord moument outside the Auburn Cord Duesenberg building.

Duesenberg Model J Touring car

  • Duesenberg Model J Phaeton.

The Banana Wagon Sidewinder Supercharged Racing Car

  • Peter De Paolo’s 1925 Indy-winning Duesenberg  “Banana Wagon” with a side-mounted supercharger.

Ab Jenkins 810 Cord

  • Ab Jenkins 1937 Cord,  Samuel B. Stevens Trophy 24-hour production car racing car.

ACD Museum Cord Wood Lite

  • Woodlite headlamp on a L29 Cord Speedster.

ACD Museum Building

  • View of the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum.

Gordon Miller Buehrig Bronze

  • Gordon Buehrig Bronze with Custom Duesenberg Model J Coupe rendering.

Auburn Boatail Roadster

  • Super-Charged Auburn Boatail Roadster.

Cord 810-812

  • 810 or 812 Cord frontend details.

Replica Gordon Miller Buehrig clay model tooling

  • Replica Gordon Buehrig clay model tooling.

852 Auburn

  • 852 Auburn Convertible Coupe.

Auburn V-12 Automobile Racing Club of America Racer

  • Auburn V-12 Automobile Racing Club of America car.

ACD Museum Showroom 2

  • ACD Museum showroom from the grand staircase.

Super-Charged Auburn 2

  • Super-Charged Auburn Speedster exhaust pipes.

Duesenberg 48-valve V-16 Engine

  • Duesenberg 48-valve V-16 aircraft engine.

John Dilinger Car

  • Gangster John Dillinger’s 1933 Essex Terrplane.

Imp Cycle Car 2

  • Imp Cycle Car designed by William Stout.

Ruxton Roadster

  • Ruxton Roadster.


16 responses to “The Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum, an Art Deco Centerpiece

  1. Been there a few times…it will take your breath away if you are a true classic car time to go is when the ACD festival is on as well…you will be in heven..oh yes,there is also a Truck museum beside it,cant recall the name…they did also have one of those red GM touring show buses..

  2. The “truck museum” is the National Auto and Truck Museum AKA NATMUS. It’s in two of the old ACD factory buildings behind the ACD museum. When I visited on Oct 1, the GM Futurliner was in Michigan having some repairs done.

    The ACD Museum is one of the world’s finest automotive museums and is so much more than just a bunch of rare and valuable cars.

  3. Wow! Fantastic! Thanks! Noticed the Woodlite cowl/parking lights on the Ruxton. How rare? ONE – not a pair -sold for $869.99 on ebay! (The June 2, 2014 “Old Motor” features a 1929 Packard detail photo showing a “Woodlite” headlamp and a parking lamp mounted on the fender. )

  4. The Saturday before Labor Day is the usual date of the parade of classics in downtown Auburn, Ind. A sight to see, for sure. It has been a while for me, but the way it used to be done was thus; a nice (not as classic) car would lead off to the reviewing stand, followed by two classics side by side. Remember, this is the Midwest and the streets are wide and cleared off. You can hear the square cut gears whine, and the straight 8 coming on, and occasionally the drivers will momentarily have an impromptu grudge match. Good natured of course. A fine event, put it on your bucket list.

  5. Woodlites on Cords – E. L. Cord and Al Leamy worked hard on the design of the L-29. E.L. demanded meticulous attention to detail, and Leamy supplied it. When finished, they considered the design to be complete, with all aspects being compatible and complimentary to their vision. Deviations from the original were discouraged. (The boys in the plating shop were given hell when they started chroming radiator louvers just to keep the shop busy.) Auburn Automobile Co. circulated a bulletin to its dealers requesting that they not sell or install Woodlites on the L-29, as they corrupted the perfection of the original design. Dealers, of course, liked the profits from selling the accessory headlamps and matching park lamps, so quite a few Cords got them. (source: ACD Club newsletters and publications)

  6. The “Dillinger” car is on loan (to us) to coincide with the return of one of the “Tommy guns” that he (Dillinger) and his gang stole from the Auburn Police dept at gunpoint in 1933. The FBI confiscated the gun after his death, and was ‘lost/stored’ by them until just last year when a retired Auburn police officer managed to have it returned to the rightful owner, the City of Auburn.
    Preparations are being made to have the gun on permanent display at the ACD Museum, but the value of the gun,insurance costs (premiums) and proper secure casing are taking a bit longer than expected.

    Thanks Dave for your fine article, and Ms Strong for the photographs.

  7. There are so many places to visit while in Auburn. V-8 Museum, Military vehicles plus just walking around town. Great place!

  8. When my wife and I visited the ACD museum a number of years ago, I felt like I was in a time machine that brought us back to the ’30s. What an incredible museum and the cars are just as incredible!!! To think, at one time, people were planning to demolish the building. Thank goodness cooler heads prevailed so that generations could come a see such a magnificent place.

  9. Great story from a Great Museum!
    The terrazzo floor was used as the slip case
    for Cord Complete, recognized as the ultimate Cord History. This building went
    Through many uses ; a machine shop, where lathes were bolted to these amazing floors, a service area, even a used car showroom!
    But it was all restored to its former glory by people who loved
    These cars and history as America’s finest.

  10. Wow – I sure would like to have the money to put the museum (and the whole area it seems) on a bucket list. It’s a long way from South Australia to Auburn but it would sure be an amazing journey- anybody got any spare plane travel tickets for me?

  11. Unfortunately I can only admire the beautify of the Auburn museum vintage automobiles collection through the photography of your website.

    It would be great to to see at least part of this historic collection at the Petersen or other related Museum in Los Angeles where thousands of car enthusiasts could admire an historical and most artistic period, that I would consider the American Renaissance of Automobile Design and manufacturing, a true and intregal entity of American culture and civilization that the world should see and learn about

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