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The Drive Home IV: Day Eight – Now and Fully

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At the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum. Photography by author unless otherwise noted.

After a recent drought of classic car culture, today the Drive Home IV team drank from the firehose with a visit to the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum and the National Automotive and Truck Museum of the United States in Auburn, Indiana. A last-minute addition to our route, the Hoosiers nonetheless gave us a warm welcome to these back-to-back facilities brimming with automotive passion.

While the two museums are literally right next door to each other, they offer complementary collections that are not limited by their descriptions. Additionally, there is always something special to seeing classic cars presented in the spaces where they were originally conceived, manufactured and marketed. Every office, window and beam in these two museums oozes with history, and the complex is rightly considered a national historic landmark.

Visiting these sites is best done over several days. A photographer could spend at least one full day in the grand Art Deco salon that was the Cord factory showroom. The showroom’s magic is just as potent now as it was then; I left there convinced I need to buy a ’36 Cord 810 Sedan.

Cord 810 sedan

1936 Cord 810 Sedan still has appeal on the showroom floor.

To understand the merits of a Cord, you need look no further than a prescient quote from 1931 by the famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright that accompanies his L-29 at the ACD Museum: “I became a Cord owner because I believe the principle of the front drive to be logical and scientific, therefore, inevitable for all cars. The proportion and lines of the Cord come nearer to expressing the beauty of both science and logic than any car I have ever seen.” Heady praise, indeed.

Cord L-29

Frank Lloyd Wright’s L-29 Cord in Taliesin Orange

Like the Lane Motor Museum in Nashville and the Pontiac-Oakland Museum in Pontiac, Illinois, in years past, the Drive Home crew loves to get into the behind-the-scenes areas and basements of these great institutions. The NATMUS basement is no different as it also houses (International) Harvester heaven, a collection of Fort Wayne’s finest which caused Hagerty’s own “travelette” Tabetha Hammer to swoon.

Ford Escort

The car of the future lives ignominiously in the basement of the ACD Museum.

The volunteer docents at the NATMUS are passionate and well-informed, and we’re disappointed that we did not arrive the night before to be able to see their youth mentoring program, where high school students undertake automotive projects in the museum’s shop. There’s also a field out back of the museum where kids as young as 13 are allowed to climb into a semi tractor and drive around a short dirt course. The incredulous looks on our faces were answered by a staff member who laughingly admitted, “We don’t park our cars down there.”

Dodge Charger

NATMUS’s original Dukes jump car had 700 pounds of cement in the trunk for improved flight characteristics

NATMUS also has the experimental Wankel rotary-powered 1965 Mustang and the restored 1939 GM Futurliner bus; unexpected additions to an already great display of obscure cars and trucks.  The more opulent ACD Museum really represents a larger monument to America’s industrial ingenuity and greatness in the era between the World Wars by elegantly showcasing some of the finest motorcars ever created.

After such a short but sweet initial visit to Auburn, we’ve all penciled in our calendars the city-wide ACD Festival which takes place each Labor Day and makes this charming Midwestern city a mecca for American automotive classics and the car community.

You might be asking why a promotion from one entity, America’s Car Museum in Tacoma, would be visiting another legendary car museum in the heartland. “In my mind, this is not a competition,” said America’s Automotive Trust Vice Chairman David Madeira between draws on his cigar while piloting the Drive Home’s 1957 Ford Ranchero. “It’s a collaboration. As institutions, collectors, and industry providers, we need to come together with our common interests in the face of change to preserve and promote America’s love affair with the automobile.”

Center to right: AAT’s David Madeira, ACDM Curator Sam Grate and ACDM CEO Brandon J. Anderson.

As we draw closer to our final destination in Detroit with a final parade down Woodward Avenue this Saturday morning, we again are taking up the debate of whether to wash the cars or not before putting them on display at the North American International Auto Show in Cobo Center. Past years have utilized both approaches, but it has always been the Drive Home crew’s overall opinion that the cars should remain dirty, and that they have more of a story to tell through their hard-earned adventures.

Chevrolet Camaro RS

A little precipitation didn’t keep this Camaro RS from joining the fun in Auburn.



Early Auburn came out to play in the snow for the Drive Home IV.

In this last winter date for the venerable auto show before it moves to the relative balm of June, we feel it’s more important than ever that the cars celebrate the whole of their past lives, and not just the seasonal and sunny six-month existence that most cars now enjoy.

The latest weather report for Detroit has a 50-percent chance for snow on Saturday morning when the cars and the general public will gather at 9 a.m. at Lincoln of Troy for the final procession, but David Madeira and the Drive Home crew take it all in stride. “I’ll tell you a secret: I want it to snow,” admits Madeira. “It’s an adventure. Bring it on. We’re here to enjoy our old cars, now and fully.”

For additional coverage of The Drive Home IV, click here.