Rusty Firebird Canon AE-1 Program, 50mm f/1.8 Canon FD Agfa Vista 200 (at EI 100) 2018
I’m still grooving on this Pontiac Firebird I saw at that recent car show. The owner came up while I was photographing his car and expressed some embarrassment over his car’s condition. I assured him that this was my favorite car of the show, and I liked it precisely because it isn’t a pampered trailer queen.
The fellow drives his Firebird daily to a construction job he holds.
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.”
Auburn, Cord, and Duesenberg were luxury makes. This 1929 Auburn Model 8-90 was not targeted at the Ford Model A demographic.
Here’s this car’s radiator cap and hood ornament.
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.
I never found the card teling what year this Auburn 851 is.
That didn’t stop me from taking this detail shot. Here, the room’s lighting worked in my favor: the source was behind me.
I’m a sucker for dark-blue cars, like this 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.
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.
I’m always happy to come upon an Avanti, especially when it’s from the Studebaker years. This one was built in 1963.
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.
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.
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.
Several other cars dotted this basement. I was completely smitten by this 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.
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.
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.