Eye Candy: National Auto & Truck Museum of the United States

NATMUS collection includes this 1971 Dodge Challenger Indy pace car convertible | Photos by Larry Edsall
NATMUS collection includes this 1971 Dodge Challenger Indy pace car convertible | Photos by Larry Edsall

If you bought an Auburn automobile in the mid-1930s, none other than record-setting racer Ab Jenkins would sign a plaque verifying just how fast your car had gone when it was tested by the factory —all Auburn 810-812 models were guaranteed to exceed 100 miles per hour.

That testing was conducted out of the Auburn Service Building, a structure tucked behind the headquarters of the Auburn Automobile Company in northeastern Indiana. The main Auburn building came to house not only its namesake automaker but also the Cord and Duesenberg brands, and the magnificent art deco structure now houses the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum, widely acclaimed to be one of the finest car museums on the planet.

But when you visit the ACD Museum, you also should take time to see what’s on display in the former Auburn Service Building and the L29/Experimental Building and the Eckhart Building, structures which together form NATMUS, the National Auto & Truck Museum of the United States.

For one thing, NATMUS just added one of the restored GM Futurliners to its collection. For another, even the buildings ooze history.

In addition to the Service Building’s heritage, the L29/Experimental Building’s high, monitor-windowed, lattice-arch roof has a 70-foot clear span above the main floor (see gallery above) and is itself something of a time capsule.

Its basement (see gallery below) was where designers Gordon Beuhrig, Alan Leamy, Herb Snow, Fred Duesenberg and other engineers and craftsmen turned two-dimensional drawings into prototype vehicles. And it is where the first 100 812 Cords were hand built.

The Eckhart Building is where Charles Eckhart made buggies before his sons, Frank and Morris, used the structure to build their first Auburn motorcars.

The NATMUS collection is split between cars and trucks. But it is the trucks, and the setting, that make the collection special. While the ACD museum is all bright and shining and the vehicles are immaculate, the NATMUS is more industrial and gritty, and the patina shows on many of its vehicles, some of which are rusty hulks in need of restoration.

But in so many ways that provides the charm and even the beauty of the place. After all, trucks are about work, and many of those in the NATMUS show the wear and tear of years of travail.

For more information and details such as museum hours and admission fees, visit the museum’s website.

Photos by Larry Edsall

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