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Auburn, Indiana Automotive Museums Display Classic Vehicles

AUBURN, Ind. — Detroit wasn’t always the only “Motor City”. During the first half of the 20th century, hundreds of automobile brands were produced in dozens of cities and towns in America’s industrial heartland.

Although Auburn, Indiana no longer produces automobiles, the city’s automotive history is, one might say, a veritable Duesy. And the city still celebrates – in large part – its heritage as one of the leading producers of luxury motor vehicles in the 1920s and 1930s.

Just a three-hour drive from Columbus in northeast Indiana, Auburn is now home to three world-class automotive museums.

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You don’t have to be a vintage car enthusiast to be completely dazzled by the collections on display at Auburn. And the buildings in which the museums are located are almost as fascinating as the vehicles they contain.

Classic vehicles are lined up along the showcase in the Auburn Museum's exhibit hall.

Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automotive Museum

The Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum (www.automobilemuseum.org) is dedicated, as its name suggests, to the Auburn, Cord and Duesenberg models produced in Auburn by the Auburn Automobile Company.

The museum is located in the original automobile showroom within what was the company’s global headquarters.

The headquarters was completed in 1930 in the art deco style, a style which also inspired the design of the streamlined, motorized beauties the company sold to discerning automobile buyers.

The building, itself a National Historic Landmark, has been restored to its deco luster and would be worth visiting even if it weren’t for the dozens of classic automobiles – some one-of-a-kind – that are displayed on the hall floor. exhibition, just as they would have been. when the building was new.

Now the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum, this art deco beauty was once the headquarters of the Auburn Automobile Company

In addition to the exhibition hall, visitors to the museum will find a variety of other exhibits on all three levels of the headquarters building, including the office of the president of the EL Cord company.

Cord, an automotive visionary, took over Auburn Automobile in 1926 and purchased Duesenberg a year later. During Cord’s tenure, Auburn produced some of the most iconic automobiles of the 1920s and 1930s.

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Other exhibits include the Early Auburns Gallery, featuring cars built by the company from 1903 until Cord’s rise; and a display of other early cars built at other Indiana plants.

Hundreds of classic vehicles like this 1931 GMC owned by a local Shell Oil distributor are on display at the National Auto & Truck Museum.

National Auto and Truck Museum

The National Auto & Truck Museum (www.natmus.org) is located directly behind the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum, in the former Auburn Automobile Company service and experiment buildings.

The structures, as when they were built, are more utilitarian than the ornate headquarters building, but they are the perfect place to display the museum’s eclectic collection.

An art deco chandelier is one of many quirky ornaments decorating the former Auburn Automobile headquarters.

Among the hundreds of vehicles is a large collection of trucks and engines built by International Harvester and Navistar; classic 1950s cars; muscle cars from the 1960s and 1970s, a real 1948 roadside restaurant moved inside the museum, and many prototypes and one-of-a-kind vehicles.

Also in the larger museum is the collection of the National Automotive & Truck Model & Toy Museum, with hundreds of toys and model cars, including a large display of vintage pedal cars.

Even the hood ornaments are works of art at the Auburn Museum.

Ford V-8 Foundation

The Early Ford V-8 Foundation built its national museum (www.fordv8foundation.org) in Auburn because of the other automotive museums already located there, said museum executive director Joshua Conrad.

The museum is dedicated to Ford vehicles from 1932 to 1953, which also reflect much of the art deco aesthetic of the era.

The centerpiece of the museum is a newly opened wing, including a section resembling a smaller version of the Ford Rotunda pavilion at the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago. The original roundhouse was later moved to Ford headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan, where it served as the company’s reception center until it burned down in 1962.

A 1936 Ford Deluxe Convertible Sedan shines in the Ford Museum as it would have done in the showroom.

Today, the original Ford Rotunda marquee welcomes museum visitors. The interior of the new building replicates an upscale 1936 Ford dealership showroom and displays representatives of every Ford model for sale that year.

Visitors can even take a self-guided walk for a 1936 showroom experience, learning about features that were important to various buyers of the era and which vehicle would appeal to each buyer.

A father and son in a classic Ford campaign eyeing a 1953 beauty at the Ford Museum.

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Each vehicle, which looks as new as the day it left the factory, shines with an almost heavenly glow. The surfaces are so reflective that, without care, every photo a visitor takes of a vehicle could become an accidental selfie.

The museum includes several other exhibits and galleries, including a large collection of early Ford tractors.

Visitors who want even more vintage car experiences can schedule a visit to coincide with one of Auburn’s many automotive-focused events, such as the Third Thursday cruises held in Palace Square. DeKalb County Court.

This rainbow of classic Fords is one of many exhibits at the Ford Museum.

And the annual Auburn Cord Duesenberg Festival (www.acdfestival.org), held over Labor Day weekend, draws thousands of visitors from around the world to a wide variety of vintage automotive events, including parades, swap meetings, cruises and a large and renowned classic automobile auction.

For information on other things to see and do in Auburn and DeKalb County, visit www.visitdekalb.org.

Steve Stephens is a freelance travel writer and photographer. Email him at [email protected]

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