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Just what would a modern Auburn, Cord, or Duesenberg look like?

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Duesenberg design by Darwin Hawthorne.

Anybody with two crayons to rub together can draw a sleek long car and call it a modern-day Duesenberg, but ask a retired car designer – somebody who spent decades immersed in the business and the art of imagining brand-new cars – and you’ll get something that probably wouldn’t be too far off the mark were that company still cranking out uber-luxury cars these days.

And that’s just what the League of Retired Automotive Designers asked of its members last year: to imagine what a mid-2010s Auburn, Cord, or Duesenberg would look like. The league was founded in 1997, and its members regularly assign themselves such tasks to keep their imaginations and skills sharp.


Cord design by Paul Down.

“These designers believe their work can be as innovative, exciting and even more meaningful than the designs they created during their younger years,” according to a league handout. “The group’s purpose is to design for the fun of it. It is not a competitive design exercise. There are no commercial goals, nor is it the group’s intention to compete with established automotive design studios. The participating designers do so because of their love of car design.”

Previous league design exercises focused on Studebaker, Ferraris of the future and Ford nameplates no longer in use.


Cord Sportsman design by David McIntosh.

Among the 23 designers who participated in the Auburn, Cord and Duesenberg exercise were David McIntosh, assistant chief designer for GM Design from 1964 to 2003; Richard Beck, designer for Ford Motor Company from 1968 to 2007; Paul Down, retired industrial design professor from the University of Notre Dame; and Darwin Hawthorne, auto design executive for Ford Motor Company from 1964 to 2002.

Those four will participate in an upcoming panel discussion to wrap up the league’s display at the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum, which opened in August. Sam Grate, the collections manager for the museum, will host the discussion.

The discussion will take place April 20 in the museum’s Gallery of Classics. For more information, visit