Auburn / Cord / Dusenberg Through the Years

A Pictorial of Auburn / Cord and Duesenberg

The Auburn Automobile Company grew out of the Eckhart Carriage Company, founded in Auburn, Indiana, in 1874 by Charles Eckhart. Eckhart's sons, Frank and Morris, experimented making automobiles before entering the business in earnest, absorbing two other local carmakers and moving into a larger plant in 1909. The enterprise was modestly successful until materials shortages during World War I forced the plant to close.

In 1919, the Eckhart brothers sold the company to a group of Chicago investors headed by Ralph Austin Bard, who later served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy for President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and as Undersecretary of the Navy for President Roosevelt and President Harry S. Truman. The new owners revived the business but failed to realize their anticipated profits and in 1924, approached Errett Lobban Cord, a very successful automobile salesman, with an offer to operate the company. Cord countered with an offer to take over completely in what amounted to a leveraged buyout and the Chicago group accepted. Cord aggressively marketed the company's unsold inventory and completed his buyout before the end of 1925.

However styling and engineering failed to overcome the fact that Cord's vehicles were too expensive for the Depression-era market and Cord's stock manipulations would force him to give up control of his car companies. Under injunction from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to refrain from further violations, Cord sold his shares in his automobile holding company. In 1937, production of Auburns, along with that of Cords and Duesenbergs, ended.

Auburn / Cord / Duesenberg Videos

Auburn (1900-1937)

1910 Auburn Model X
1910 Auburn Model X
1934 Auburn Twelve Salon Cabriolet
1934 Auburn Twelve Salon Cabriolet
1935 Auburn 851 Speedster
1935 Auburn 851 Speedster
1936 Auburn 852 SC Boattail Speedster
1936 Auburn 852 SC Boattail Speedster
In 1924, Errett Lobban Cord, a highly successful automobile salesman, made an offer to take over Auburn completely in what amounted to a leveraged buyout and the Chicago group accepted. Cord aggressively marketed the company's unsold inventory and completed his buyout before the end of 1925.

Duesenberg (1913-1937)

1922 Duesenberg A 661/1075 Coupe by Fleetwood
1922 Duesenberg A 661/1075 Coupe by Fleetwood
1927 Duesenberg Model X
1927 Duesenberg Model X
1936 Duesenberg SJ Dual-Cowl Phaeton
1936 Duesenberg SJ Dual-Cowl Phaeton
1937 Duesenberg Model J
1937 Duesenberg Model J
In 1913, brothers Fred and Augie Duesenberg founded Duesenberg Motors Company, Inc. on University Avenue in St. Paul, Minnesota, to build engines and race cars. The brothers were self-taught engineers and built many experimental cars. Duesenberg cars were considered some of the best cars of the time, and were built entirely by hand

E.L. Cord bought the company on October 26, 1925, for the brothers' engineering skills, talent and the brand name in order to produce luxury cars. He challenged Fred Duesenberg to design an automobile that would be the best in the world. Indeed, Cord wanted the biggest, fastest, and most expensive car ever made. He also ordered a large chassis to be able to compete with the biggest, most powerful, and most luxurious European cars of the era, such as Hispano-Suiza, Isotta Fraschini, Mercedes-Benz, and Rolls-Royce.

After Cord's takeover, the new company was renamed "Duesenberg, Inc." Fred would continue in the new organization, now with the title of vice president in charge of engineering and experimental work. Whereas Augie had played an important role in the development of the Model A and its variant, the very rare X, he had nothing to do with the J and had no formal connection with Duesenberg, Inc. until later. According to the expert Marshall Merkes, "Cord did not want Augie around." However, all Duesenberg racing cars produced after 1926 were Augie-built in an enterprise that functioned separately, and in a building apart from the main Duesenberg plant. He was also responsible for a number of engineering achievements like the superchargers he developed for both the Auburn and Cord motorcars.

Duesenberg Motors Company (sometimes called "Duesy") was an American manufacturer of race cars and luxury automobiles. It was founded by brothers August and Frederick Duesenberg in 1913 in Saint Paul, Minnesota, where they built engines and race cars. The brothers moved their operations to Elizabeth, New Jersey in 1916 to manufacture engines for World War I. In 1919, when their government contracts were cancelled, they moved to Indianapolis, Indiana, home of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and established the Duesenberg Automobile and Motors Company, Inc. (Delaware). In late 1926, E.L. Cord added Duesenberg to his Auburn Automobile Company when the market for expensive luxury cars was severely undercut by the Depression, Duesenberg folded in 1937.

Cord (1929-1932),(1936-1937)

1929 Cord L29
1929 Cord L29
1932 Cord L29 Cabrolet
1932 Cord L29 Cabrolet
1936 Cord 810
1936 Cord 810
1937 Cord 812 Sportsman
1937 Cord 812 Sportsman
1938 Cord 814 Prototype
1938 Cord 814 Prototype
Cord was the brand name of an American luxury automobile company from Connersville, Indiana, manufactured by the Auburn Automobile Company from 1929 to 1932 and again in 1936 and 1937. The Cord Corporation was founded and run by E. L. Cord as a holding company for his many transportation interests, including Auburn. Cord was noted for its innovative technology and streamlined designs.

Reliability issues early on, including slipping out of gear and vapor lock, dimmed initial enthusiasm, and the dealer base rapidly shrank. Unsold left-over and in-process 1936 810s were re-numbered and sold as 1938 812s. Cord production ended in 1937. A single 1938 Cord prototype with some modifications to the grille and transmission cover was built, and it still exists. The Cord empire, amid allegations of financial fraud, was sold to the Aviation Corporation, and E.L. Cord moved to Nevada where he got into real estate and other enterprises.

The Cord 812 design was re-marketed almost immediately in 1940, as ailing automakers Hupmobile and Graham-Paige tried to save money, and revive their companies, by using the Cord body dies. Except for their similarity to the 810, their four-door sedans, the Hupp Skylark and the Graham Hollywood, were unremarkable. Retractable headlights were replaced with plain headlight pods, and they were powered with a standard front-engine/rear-wheel drive design. Although Hupp Motor Company built a few prototypes in 1939 that gained them sales orders for the 1939 model year they did not have the resources to build the car. Graham Paige stepped in offering to build the Hupmobile Skylarks on a per piece contract basis. Graham built a combined 1850 units for sale in the 1940 model year. Hupmobile closed before the end of the 1941 model year. Of the 1850 cars built in the 1940 model year by Graham only around 450 were the Hupmobile Skylarks. Graham continued to build the Hollywood into late 1941. They stopped production in November of that year having only built a rumored 400 units. The Hollywood was powered by a supercharged Continental in line six with nearly 124 HP, about 50 HP less than the original supercharged Cord.


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Auburn / Cord / Duesenberg Automobiles Through the Years Reviewed by Gene Wright on . Rating: 5