Frank and Morris Eckhart
established the Auburn Automobile Company in Auburn Indiana. The
Eckhart brothers worked at their father's wagon company, the Eckhart
Carriage Co., prior to their inheriting the business. Frank and
Morris' true interest were with the new horseless carriages being
built by other carriage companies. With the desire to build their
own automobile, they established the Auburn Automobile Company in
initial offering was a single cylinder chain drive runabout. It was
priced at $800. The car did not sell well. It was too expensive to
produce and ended up being priced well above the offerings from
other manufacturers. In 1903 the Eckharts reintroduced their car
with many needed changes. Still a one-cylinder car, they would later
offer a two and a four-cylinder model and in 1912 offered a
six-cylinder model. The Auburn car company was selling cars, but it
was not the success it needed to be.
The company was heading towards receivership, soon to be purchased
by a group of Chicago businessmen. The group included William
Wrigley of Chewing Gum and Baseball fame. Wrigley and his investors
wanted to get into the new and growing automobile business. In 1919,
the Chicago group purchased the Auburn Automobile Company from the
Eckhart's. Their first new model was the Auburn Beauty Six. It
offered many improvements and a streamlined, fender-less body that
received a lot of praise. The company made progress, but continued
to battle for a position in the growing automobile market.
The 1921-1922 Recession had a negative impact on the Auburn car
company, as it did with many American industries. By 1924 Auburn was
building only six cars a day. The cars were not selling; there were
hundreds of new unsold cars sitting behind the factory. The company
needed help again.
Auburn Automobile recruited Erret Lobban Cord to save the company.
Mr. Cord, a young man less than thirty-years old, had already earned
himself a reputation as an energetic brilliant businessman and
salesman. He had started as a salesman with the Moon Automobile
Company in Chicago, Illinois at the age of twenty-four. His style
and determination led him to become General Manager and Director at
Moon in less than five years. By 1924 Cord had made and lost several
fortunes. Again, he was sitting on a pile of cash and was looking to
buy a small car company. The new owners of the Auburn car company
were looking to sell.
Originally Auburn Automobile offered to let E.L. Cord run their
Company. Mr. Cord countered their offer. He ask for little or no
salary, 20% of the profits along with total decision making powers
and the guarantee to be able to purchase the company once he
returned it to profitable status. The Chicago Investors reluctantly
agreed to Cords offer.
immediately started making changes. He began by selling off the
600-700 unsold Auburn cars. The cars were plain and not very
exciting. He had the cars repainted bright two tone color
combinations and plated many of the trim parts in nickel. Once all
of the cars were reworked, he had them all moved to the town square.
He then invited dealers to view the cars along with offering them
huge discounts. Within months Cord had sold off the entire old stock
and associated parts. Under Cords management Auburn Automobile was
now offering exciting powerful cars that were more inline with Cords
personal taste and style.
By mid 1926 the Company was profitable. Cord, now thirty two-years
old, purchased the company. Under his new leadership young exciting
designers like Alen Leamy and Gordon Buehrig were being employed.
That same year, Cord partnered with the Duesenberg Company. The
Duesenberg brothers were building racing cars and winning races at
that time. Duesenberg was to be used as the platform for Cord's new
line of performance oriented luxury cars and his new front wheel
drive L-29 Cord (the industry's first front wheel drive automobile).
Auburn, Cords and Duesenbergs (ACD) came to be known for their
advance engineering, performance and beautiful styling. The Rich and
Famous owned these cars around the world. They were a symbol for
success. Despite all of their attributes E.L. Cords automobiles were
just too expensive and could not overcome the Great Depression. It
would have a devastating affect on Mr. Cord's car companies. The
Depression and the fact that Cord had started neglecting his car
business, caused profits to start falling by 1932. At that time,
Cord was one of the richest men in the world. The ACD Cars are what
he is best known for, but Cord owned a transportation empire. He
owned airlines, ship lines, ship building companies, aircraft
companies, foundries and communication companies. He would later
make more fortunes in real estate, mining and oil refining.
The Auburn Automobile Company would continue to bleed red ink.
Auburn production stopped after the 1936 models and Cords were built
into 1937. On August 7th
1937, the Auburn Automobile Company closed its doors. A Great era of
building Classic Cars had come to an end.
In 1938 the Company was sold to a financier by the name of Dallas
Winslow. Mr. Winslow purchased the rights to the names, Auburn, Cord
and Duesenberg along with all of the remaining parts and the
beautiful Art Deco Administration building. (The administration
building, on South Wayne Street in Auburn, Indiana, is now the
Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum). The company was renamed the
Auburn Cord Duesenberg Company, from this building Dallas Winslow offered parts replacement and
service for ACD cars and later restoration services for the now
orphaned cars. The company
continued to operate in this manner until a schoolteacher and Cord Restorer by the name of
Glenn Pray bought the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Company from Mr.
Winslow in 1960. Glenn Pray moved everything to Broken Arrow,
Oklahoma. Glenn Pray later went on to build Second
Auburns and Cords out of his Factory in Broken Arrow from 1966
through 1981. Glenn still offers parts and restoration service. You
can contact Glenn through our "Favorite
Web Links" page or use the contact information found on our
"Second Generation Auburns" page.
What happened to the "Auburn Automobile Company" name? As it turned
out, neither Dallas Winslow nor Glenn Pray ever used the original
company name. At some point in time, a restoration shop in Auburn,
Indiana incorporated under the name "Auburn Automobile Company". The
restoration shop closed after many years of operation. In August
1995 another restoration shop incorporated using the again available
name. This shop closed in 1997. In June of 2001 Jack Randinelli
purchased the 100+year old name, "Auburn Automobile Company", and he
became the new President and CEO. Jack says he has no plans to start
building cars again; he just "enjoys being President of his own Car
last updated: December-2007