Down the Road

Roads and life and how roads are like life

A visit to the National Auto and Truck Museum


As long as I’ve been online — and that’s 25 years now — whenever a virtual community thrives, it eventually wants to meet in person. The community at Curbside Classic, the old-car blog for which I write, is no exception. I had to miss last year’s inaugural meetup, but I didn’t want to miss this year’s meetup since it was set right here in Indiana.

Auburn, Indiana, was the site of the Auburn Automobile Company, which made high-luxury automobiles under the Auburn, Cord, and Duesenberg names from the early 1900s through the Great Depression. Today, the Auburn factory and office buildings are museums. The factory houses the National Auto & Truck Museum, while the offices are home to the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg Museum. This post is about the former; I’ll write up the latter soon.

The 810 and 812 Cords were radical automobiles for their day, featuring front-wheel drive and an independent front suspension. This 1937 Cord 812 is painted in Indiana State Police livery because it was used in the fleet, although I’m not clear on what it meant to be a “safety car.”

1937 Cord 812 Supercharged Sedan

Auburn, Cord, and Duesenberg were luxury makes. This 1929 Auburn Model 8-90 was not targeted at the Ford Model A demographic.

1929 Auburn Model 8-90

Here’s this car’s radiator cap and hood ornament.

Radiator cap

The museum had a handful of the namesake cars right up front, where the lighting was terrible. I shot RAW all day, though, and that let me to bring several washed-out photos to life, such as this one of a 1936 Auburn 654.

1936 Auburn 654

I never found the card teling what year this Auburn 851 is.

Auburn 851

That didn’t stop me from taking this detail shot. Here, the room’s lighting worked in my favor: the source was behind me.

Air inlet

I’m a sucker for dark-blue cars, like this 1931 Auburn 898A sedan.

1931 Auburn 898A sedan

The rest of the museum is filled with cars made ostensibly in the spirit of Auburn, Cord, and Duesenberg. As a native of South Bend, I was drawn to this 1965 Studebaker Wagonaire, despite it having been built in Canada after the South Bend plant closed. That thing in the back is a refrigerator, showing the Wagonaire’s retractable roof.

1965 Studebaker Wagonaire

One of my favorite cars of all time is the step-down Hudson. Here’s a 1951 example. The difficult lighting continued in this part of the museum.

1951 Hudson

I’m always happy to come upon an Avanti, especially when it’s from the Studebaker years. This one was built in 1963.

1963 Studebaker Avanti

I’m not sure how a 1959 Buick LeSabre captures the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg spirit, but it was good to see this basic black Buick nevertheless.

1959 Buick LeSabre

This Kaiser was wedged into this spot, making it hard to photograph. It’s an unusual Kaiser, in that it was built in 1962 — seven years after the last Kaiser automobile was built in the United States. Apparently, automobile production continued in Argentina. This car was built for Henry J. Kaiser himself.

1962 Kaiser Manhattan

The basement of the museum was filled a huge selection of International Harvester trucks, which were built in nearby Fort Wayne. I didn’t photograph any of them, but I did photograph this 1968 Ford LTD. My mother’s mother’s mother had one in dark blue. I rode in it a couple times.

1968 Ford LTD

Several other cars dotted this basement. I was completely smitten by this 1948 Pontiac Silver Streak.

1948 Pontiac Silver Streak

My girlfriend fell in love with this 1951 Nash Healey — the first one built. She would look good in it. I’m confident I could never afford it.

1951 Nash Healey

I barely scratched the surface of this museum with my photographs. It was such a large collection it was hard to take it all in! This means I must return another day.


Toy rocking chair
Yashica Lynx 14e, Kodak T-Max 400

Captured: Toy cars


Toy cars

I used to put together plastic model cars when I was a kid. I had probably a couple dozen of them on a shelf in my room. But the models always required some level of detail painting to look really good, and I had neither the steady hand nor the patience to do a good job of it. Also, I never found a paint that came anywhere close to looking like chrome. While I enjoyed putting the models together, when I realized I was never going to make them look fully realistic I gave up the hobby.

These nicely painted model cars are among thousands of model and toy cars on display at the National Auto & Truck Museum in Auburn, Indiana. I visited a couple weeks ago at the annual meetup of Curbside Classic, the old-car blog to which I contribute. We also toured the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg Automobile Museum next door, which displayed an overwhelming array of gorgeous automobiles. I’m sure I’ll share more photos and stories in the days to come.

Recommended reading


Every Saturday I share the posts from my feed reader that I liked the most.

Writing for 52 Rolls, Peter DeGraaf loaded some Fujifilm Velvia 50 into a 1950s Olympus rangefinder and got some wonderfully colorful results. Read Olympus Chrome Six – Here and There

I am always super impressed with the images Mike Connealy gets with his 135mm Mamiya lens on his Pentax Spotmatic. Just check out the photos he got of some Flamenco dancers. Read Flamenco in the Plaza Vieja

Octogenarian blogger David Lacy tells a sad tale from his 14th year, in which he slid down a rock pile and eroded more than the seat of his pants. Read Climbing Fool’s Hill; and Coming Back Down Again

In yet another sign that film is catching on again, John Smith’s local camera store has started stocking more film. Read It warms my heart

Erik Parker is a Lutheran minister. He reflects on the hoopla surrounding the iPhone 6 and why he wants to avoid hoopla as a way of attracting people to the church. Read iPhone 6 and Why Churches Should Stop Trying to Get People to Come

I was a #selfie pioneer


I took my first selfie in 1981. It was a time barren of instant photo sharing, but I pressed on with my crappy Instamatic anyway just to see what would happen. I learned immediately that the flashcube would leave me seeing spots for twenty minutes. It took another two weeks to finish the roll and another week to wait for the film to be developed to learn that the flash would also wash out my face. And of course my simple camera couldn’t focus that close. Such was the state of the selfie art.


Thanks to my short memory, I tried again a couple years later and got the same result. Now I want to go back in time and try to talk my young self out of those glasses and that hairstyle — and thank my mom for painting my room. Those mustard-yellow walls were oppressive.


I even tried to be artistic with my selfies. I failed.


I finally learned to hold the camera as far from my face as I could. I still temporarily blinded myself, but at least my face wasn’t as washed out. And I had grown out of my awkward years at last!


That was the end of my selfie explorations…until I got a smartphone 26 years later. Then the game was on, because everybody on Facebook needs to see the look-my-hair-is-sort-of-long-and-by-the-way-I’m-running-on-three-hours-of-sleep selfie!


And my online friends were trembling in anticipation to see the OMFG-what-a-terrible-day selfie.


And of course there’s the does-this-shirt-go-with-these-pants? selfie. (The consensus? Yes, but c’mon, dude, be more adventurous with your wardrobe.)


And then there’s the classic hey-everyone-don’t-I-rock-this-suit? selfie. When I posted this to Facebook, the joint just blew up. “OMG!” everybody said. OMG, indeed.


But most of my selfies are private, showing my life’s inner workings. Today, for the first time, I’m going to share some of these intimate moments with the whole Internet. Here’s the hey-girlfriend-I-picked-up-the-rental-minivan-for-our-trip selfie.


Then there’s the sorry-this-is-out-of-focus-but-here-I-am-wearing-the-shirt-you-got-me-for-my-birthday selfie.


And how can I forget the hey-Mom-I’m-home-sick-but-my-Doctor-Who-shirt-makes-me-feel-better selfie?


But my favorite selfie happened totally by mistake. It’s actually a video selfie! My iPhone’s camera was set to front-camera video mode when I wanted it on back-camera photo mode. I was not amused.

I took a still of this, converted it to black and white, and made it my Facebook profile photo. “You look badass!” was the first comment. Score!! Because isn’t ego inflation what the modern selfie is all about? And to think I was among the first.



Canon PowerShot S95


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