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 1900.
Their 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.
Cord 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 Generation 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 Company".
(text source: Auburn Speedsters)
Much of the material on this website is copyrighted. Original articles appearing herein are subject to copyright. Please don't copy stuff from the site without asking; it may belong to someone! Any trademarks appearing on this site are the sole property of the registered owners. No endorsement by trademark owners is to be construed. The products, brand names, characters, related slogans and indicia are or may by claimed as trademarks of their respective owners. Every effort has been made whenever possible to credit the sources. The use of such material falls under the Fair Use provisions of intellectual property laws.