Beware and be prepared for a shockingly gorgeous kaleidoscope of bright colors as you enter the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum.
The museum is housed in the former headquarters of the Auburn Automobile Company in Auburn, Indiana, so sunlight floods into the main showroom — now the museum’s main-floor show space. Arrayed within the showroom’s Art Decco architecture are Auburns and Cords and Duesenbergs in stunningly bright colors — they certainly lived large back in the 1920s and ’30s.
The first car we encounter is a yellow-and-red ’31 Cord Speedster. Parked off its right-rear bumper is a bright, light-blue ’32 Auburn Speedster. Look to the left and there’s a two-tone green ’23 Duesenberg Model A sport touring and a bright but this time darker shade of blue ’27 Duesenberg Model X “boat” roadster, parked just ahead of a cream-and-orange ’36 Auburn cabriolet.
And the sensory overload continues as you round the corner to see more of these large and glorious cars from the golden age of the American automobile. You can see for yourself in the gallery immediately below.
But wait! There’s more. Much more. Climb the beautiful metal-railed, marble-stepped stairway to the building’s second and third floors (see gallery below) where you can visit the original design studio where Gordon Buehrig and his staff worked and the office where E.L. Cord ran a business that expanded to include not only Auburn and his namesake Cord but Duesenberg as well.
What used to be the Auburn domestic sales department now contains a gallery of non-ACD cars built in Auburn, Indiana, marques such as McIntyre, Kiblinger, Imp and Zimmerman.
The old accounting office now features technology and especially the development of the ACD engines, including the Duesenberg-built Bugatti and Duesenberg’s massive V16 aircraft powerplant.
The purchasing department has been taken over by a display of 1903-1924 Auburns, the blueprint room tells the story of the original Eckhart Carriage Company (Auburn’s predecessor), and the old main drafting studio showcases cars built in other Indiana cities and communities.
The former woodworking and experimental engineering shop now houses a display of racing and speed-record cars, and what used to be an open rooftop courtyard has an array of classic vehicles from a variety of luxury-car producers.
And when you get back downstairs, don’t forget to visit the old experimental engineering and design department to see a gallery of special-interest automobiles, including gangster John Dillinger’s 1933 Essex and an impressive row of 1950s and ’60s sports cars that are almost as brightly colored as the Auburns, Cords and Duesenbergs in the main showroom.
The ACD is widely considered one of the best automobile museums in the country, and the cars on display when you visit may be different from those we saw recently.
“We’re always moving the cars around and telling different stories,” said Kendra Klink, the museum’s chief operating officer. “We’ve just redone several galleries. The Race and Record Cars opened last Labor Day (2014) and the Hall of Engineering display was new this May (2015).”
Each month, starting in 2015, the museum has staged a special “If This Car Could Talk” presentation to share the full story of one of its vehicles, and the program has been so successful it will continue at least through 2016, Klink said.
Other special events are “white glove” days when, for an admission premium, visitors are issued a pair of white gloves and allowed to touch cars that otherwise are hands off.
For details on hours, admission prices and other details, see the museum’s website.
Photos by Larry Edsall