Sep 29

Auto Works of Art

In the “good old days automobiles were works of art, lovingly handcrafted from start to finish. Beautiful enough to win awards around the world.

What happened? Technology dictated that all cars should be aerodynamic.

Result: According to Priscilla, today every car looks alike!

Auburn PlaqueAuburn Building

Art Deco Auburn ShowroomAuburn Showroom The place to see original auto works of art is hidden away in north Indiana, with only a sign on the road to indicate its existence!  We were headed to the border of Indiana and Michigan when Bill (who was supposed to be keeping his eyes on the road!) spotted a sign advertising an Automobile Museum a few miles ahead.  Priscilla checked it out on the iPad, read about the museum, and before she knew it, they were headed to the original Auburn Automobile Plant and Show Room.  This was not exactly what Priscilla had in mind, as the overnight stop was about 40 minutes away.  She envisioned enjoying a glass of wine, watching the sun going down and relaxing!  Oh well … not everything turns out exactly the way you plan it!   Little did she know she was in for the surprise of her life!

We found RV parking opposite the Museum and walked across the street to the entrance to the Auburn, Cord, Duesenberg Automobile Museum.

The registration area looked pretty much like most Museum registration desks and the ladies were very accommodating, but neither one of us was prepared for what we saw as we entered the exhibit space.  We found ourselves in another era!  We had come to see the cars but were immediately struck by the building itself!  It had been the National Headquarters of the Auburn Automobile Company from 1930 – 1937, designed in art deco style by architect A.M. Strauss of Fort Wayne, Indiana.  You enter the original showroom on the ground floor, decorated with mosaic floors, ornate ceilings and beautiful candelabra.  What a background for these amazing machines!    The site is designated a National Historic Landmark – and with good reason. The exhibit covers three floors and holds over 120 cars ranging from 1894 to 1999.


Everywhere we turned, we saw another masterpiece!  A museum volunteer shared his knowledge of the history of many of the cars and we took advantage of his suggestion to have our photo taken in a Model A Touring car!  Hokey?  Yes!  But this was the only car we were allowed to touch!

We learned that the Museum’s mission is to primarily focus on collecting and exhibiting Auburns, Cords and Duesenberg cars from the classic era (1925 – 1937).  They also collect other cars produced by the Auburn Company as well as other Full Classics and cars built in Indiana.  Their collection contains automobiles owned by the Museum as well as those on loan from private collectors and other museums, and they continue to aggressively seek out and purchase automobiles that fit their mission.


According to the museum website, The museum has the greatest and most extensive collection of Auburn, Cord, and Duesenberg automobiles in the world, and features the largest exhibit of Duesenberg automobiles on public display in the world!”

Design Studio at Auburn AutoAnd it’s not just about the cars.  In 1930 the building housed the design studios, engineering and sales departments as well as executive offices. This is where it all happened – where each car was envisioned, designed, created … and sold! In 1937 the Auburn Automobile Company filed bankruptcy and was bought by a Dallas businessman who used the facility to rebuild engines and later do restorations of the Auburn, Cord and Duesenberg cars. After his death in 1960 the building was leased out to various businesses including a garment warehouse, motorcycle repair shop and fiberglass camper factory.

Falling into disrepair, the building was saved in 1974 by local citizens who formed the Non-Profit Auburn Automotive Heritage Inc.  Due to hard physical work and some major fundraising, the building was restored to its original glory and opened to the public within six months.  As a testament to their efforts, the museum was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1978, and designated a National Historic Landmark in 2005.  Nothing has been overlooked! Check out the photos of the restroom facilities which reflect the style of the day!  Further renovation took place in 2000 to provide improved banquet and meeting facilities, an educational center and new gallery space.  Today plans are in place to restore the building next door to display more of the vintage car collection.

Taking a Ride

We hope the pictures will do the building justice but the website says it best.  The original two-story U-shaped building is glazed art brick and tinted limestone on the outside and art deco grandeur on the inside, which included 66,000 square feet of floor space. Fourteen large plate glass windows with two-foot high gold letters elegantly proclaiming “Auburn,” “Cord,” and “Duesenberg” enclose the display room of over 12,000 square feet. Twenty-two light fixtures and 72 sconces flood the display room at night with light.

It’s breathtaking … and a fitting venue for these amazing auto works of art!

Click Here for Photos of the Auburn Detour from the interstate

Enjoy my car Blog at:  www.GoToCarGuy.com

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1 comment

  1. Mike

    What a story! That’s really amazing the shape some of those cars are in. I always enjoy reading where you two are headed.

    Have Fun!

    Mike O’Sullivan

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