In digging out my old photo album for a picture of my ’68 Mustang, I came across my very first Curbside Classics. On Saturday morning of Labor Day weekend, 1972, my Mom was reading the paper and saw that there would be a classic car parade in Auburn, IN (about 30 miles north of our home in Fort Wayne) later that morning. We hopped into the car and drove up. How about this Model J Duesenberg town car. A Curbside Classic, literally.
Every year, the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg club has its national meet in Auburn Indiana, home of the former corporate headquarters. There is a parade, then cars park around the town square for viewing.
The Duesenberg Model J featured a 420 cubic inch Lycoming-built double overhead cam straight 8 rated at 265 b.h.p. A contemporary Ford Model A was rated at 40. The chassis cost close to $10,000 F.O.B Indianapolis, then the custom body would add an additional $5,000 to the cost of the car, at a minimum. This is why nobody’s Aunt Lucy or Uncle Fred ever owned one of these. But Clark Gable and Gary Cooper did. This dual cowl phaeton would have looked better with the top down.
Have you ever heard the bellow of one of these huge Duesenberg straight 8s? It is quite a sound. This car is the SJ (Supercharged Model J) that bumped horsepower up to about 320. These cars were reputed to be good for over 100 m.p.h in second gear, and boasted 0-60 times in the 8 second range. Pretty respectable for a car from the early 1930s that weighed between five and six thousand pounds.
This red SJ roadster is vivid in my memory. Before the parade, the driver stopped to chat with some friends. When it was time to go, he hit the throttle, popped the clutch and did a burnout halfway down the block. I will never forget the sight of his wife chewing him out the whole way and beyond. Who knows: I may have personally witnessed the last time anyone ever had the guts to do a burnout in a Duesenberg SJ. Hard to imagine, but these cars were only about forty years old then. Like something from around 1970 today. Or about the age of these photos. Yikes.
If this were a genuine Auburn 851 boattail speedster, it would be supercharged as well, identifiable by the exposed side pipes. Not everyone popped for the wide whites in 1972. This may actually be a replica from the late 1960s or early 1970s. These were manufactured in low volumes with Ford power for several years. As a thirteen year old kid at the time, I could not spot the differences.
Although this looks like a 1936-37 coffin nosed Cord 810, I believe it is actually a 1960s vintage Cord 8/10. The 8/10 was a front drive car with Corvair power and a composite body. The name came from the fact that the car was approximately 8/10 the size of the original.
These photos mark the beginning of about a twenty year run of my annual trek to Auburn, IN over labor day weekend. I believe that the A-C-D club still has its meet there, but I have not been there in quite some time. There is also a very nice museum housed in the old factory showroom and headquarters building that features many cars of all kinds, not just A-C-D brands.
You all know that I have a thing for cars built in Indiana. While the Studebakers are the most widely known, the Auburn, the Cord and especially the Duesenberg were not only great Indiana cars, but would stand up against anything built anywhere. And let me tell you, a Duesey can lay an impressive patch of rubber on the pavement.