Friday, April 24, 2009

Auburn Automobile

Auburn Automobile Historical Marker, Auburn, IN

Auburn was a brand name of American automobiles produced from 1900 through 1936.

Corporate history

The Auburn Automobile Company grew out of the Eckhart Carriage Company, founded in Auburn, Indiana, in 1875 by Charles Eckhart (1841–1915). Eckhart's sons, Frank and Morris, began making automobiles on an experimental basis 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.

Auburn 8-100A Custom 4-Door Sedan 1932

Auburn 652Y Custom Phaeton Sedan 1934

Auburn 851 Phaeton Sedan 1935


The 1904 Auburn was a touring car model. Equipped with a tonneau, it could seat 2 or 4 passengers and sold for US$1000. The flat-mounted single-cylinder engine, situated at the center of the car, produced 10 hp (7.5 kW). A 2-speed planetary transmission was fitted. The angle-steel-framed car weighed 1500 lb (680 kg) and used half-elliptic springs.

In 1919, the Eckhart brothers sold out 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 Under Secretary of the Navy for President Roosevelt and for President Harry S. Truman. The new owners revived the business but failed to realize the profits that they hoped for. In 1924, they approached Errett Lobban Cord (1894–1974), a highly successful automobile salesman, with an offer to run the company. Cord countered with an offer to take over completely in what amounted to a leveraged buyout. The Chicago group accepted.

Cord aggressively marketed the company's unsold inventory and completed his buyout before the end of 1925. In 1926, he partnered with Duesenberg Corporation, famous for its racing cars, and used it as the launching platform for a line of high-priced luxury vehicles. He also put his own name on a front-wheel-drive car, the Cord, later referred to as "L-29"..

Employing imaginative designers such as Alan Leamy and Gordon Buehrig, Cord built cars that became famous for their advanced engineering as well as their striking appearance, e.g., the 1928 Auburn Boattail Speedster, the Model J Duesenbergs, the 1935–1937 Auburn Speedsters and the 810/812 Cords.

Styling and engineering failed to overcome the fact that Cord's vehicles were too expensive for the Depression-era market and that 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, Cords and Duesenbergs ended.

The company's art deco headquarters in Auburn now houses the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum. It was made a National Historic Landmark in 2005.

The Auburn Automobile Company also had a manufacturing plant in Connersville, Indiana, that occupied a facility formerly owned by the Lexington Motor Company.

Auburn production specifications

Auburn 8-Eighty-Eight Sedan

References in popular culture

In the 1937 musical comedy film A Damsel in Distress Fred Astaire drives a Cord 810 Convertible.

In the 1974 film The Great Gatsby Bruce Dern drives a 1927 Auburn 8-88.

The popular 1980's TV Series Remington Steele featured a 1936 Auburn Speedster replica as one of the company cars, appearing in many episodes.

The crash of a Buick that is modified to look like an Auburn 852 Speedster sets the plot in motion for the 1937 film "Topper." The car features prominently in the film, being driven by stars, Cary Grant, Constance Bennett and Roland Young.

The car driven by the character Short Round in the opening scenes of the 1984 movie Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is a replica of a 1936 Auburn Boattail Speedster.

In "Dial Axminster 6-400", one in a collection of short stories called Hollywood Nocturnes by neo-noir author James Ellroy, Lee Blanchard of The Black Dahlia and his partner pursue a group of hostage takers from Oklahoma who are on the lam in a maroon 1936 Auburn Speedster.

In the 1989 comedy Who's Harry Crumb?, John Candy's character engages in a comedy pursuit in a replica Auburn Speedster which gets locked onto a late 1980's Chevrolet Camaro's tow hitch. The Auburn then crashed into an orange tree.

In the 2008 concert tour Sticky & Sweet Tour by Madonna. In the Pimp Act, the first section of the show, Madonna drives a white 1935 Auburn Speedster, singing Beat Goes On, song from her eleventh studio album Hard Candy.


Auburn-Cord-Dusenberg Club Official Website

The Auburn Gallery at White Glove Collection Auburn Photo Galleries

Auburn Automobile History and Photo Galleries