For Auburn, Cord and Duesenberg fans, the annual Auburn Cord Duesenberg Club Reunion in Auburn, Ind., is about as much fun as one can have around cars. Although the values of these cars are high in the sky, the owners are actually down-home collectors who simply enjoy the company of others with similar automotive tastes. They are also happy to share their cars with the world.
The 2008 event marked the 56th time the club has gathered on Labor Day weekend, this year from Aug. 29-30, and did so in members’ favorite meeting place of Auburn, Ind. The city is home of the former Auburn Cord Duesenberg factory showroom — now the famous ACD Automobile Museum. The area also features many former homes of Cord Corp. executives, all making Auburn the perfect setting for a meeting of ACD cars.
Officially, the theme to this year’s event was the Auburn Salon models of 1933-’34. However, if there was an underlying theme to the 2008 Auburn Cord Duesenberg Club Reunion, it would be driving. Perhaps no one drove farther than Ric Simpson, who, after picking up his 1936 Cord 810 phaeton from his restorer’s shop in the Pacific Northwest, immediately drove it to Pebble Beach, Calif., for the concours. After Pebble Beach, Simpson reset his GPS system, pointed his coffin-nose east and drove to Auburn, Ind., for the national meet.
Another car frequently seen driving around Auburn throughout the weekend was Ray Bowersox’s Duesenberg Model J with LeBaron barrelside dual-cowl phaeton coachwork. Bowersox’s Duesenberg has been getting its legs stretched since it was nearly new and in the hands of Phil Berg, a manager to Hollywood stars. Historians will recall the Berg-Bowersox Duesenberg was the car pitted against the Mercedes S owned by Zeppo Marx in the famous Muroc Dry Lake race of 1932, in which a $25,000 wager was placed on the outcome. Berg collected his winnings after Eddie Miller walked all over the Marx Mercedes with the Duesenberg, and he did so in front of such stars as Gary Cooper, Clark Gable, Mae West and E.L. Cord, all of whom were Duesenberg owners. Without a trace of salt from that day, Bowersox’s Duesenberg looked as good as the day as it was built and sounded strong enough for another race.
Jerry Daugherty’s Auburn speedster was an equally strong-sounding Cord Corp. product heard barking around Auburn during Labor Day weekend. Daugherty bought his car in the early 1980s and has driven it to many Auburn events in an unrestored state, having fun all the while. When Daugherty tore the car apart for a restoration some years back, it became clear the car had some race history in its past, too. Although Daugherty didn’t know a lot about the car’s past, he did discover several mechanical modifications were completed by a previous machinist owner who competed with the car on a small race track. When Daugherty restored the car, he left the modifications in place as a nod to the car’s history.
Since the ACD Club began, collector Al Ferrara has brought an amazing car from his collection every year to the annual ACD Reunion. This year, it was his Derham Tourster (J-412) with a cream body and green fenders.
With their racy looks, the featured Auburn Salons attracted their own attention Labor Day weekend. Salon models are uncommon, but you would never have known that from the dozen or more Salon models cruising around Auburn. Salons were available as eight- and 12-cylinder cars in 1933 and 1934. The most identifiable features to separate Salons from Custom and Standard Auburns are the Salon’s more sweeping front fenders, shorter grille shell that stops at the splash apron below it and front bumpers without the U-shaped dip in the center, as found on other Auburns. Making such comparisons between Auburn Salon models and Custom and Standard models was easy thanks to the number of cars in attendance, particularly those from the collection of Bill Parfet, who brought five Salons. Parfet’s Salon collection included varying body styles, and all but one unrestored Brougham wore matching silver-and-blue paint schemes.
Although Salons were the feature car, the ACD car taking home the Harold T. Ames Award for best of show was Joseph Cassini III’s supercharged Duesenberg Model J Murphy Beverly sedan. The dark blue Beverly was penned by famous designer Gordon Buehrig, but it takes more than an artful pen to win such an award at Auburn. Cassini’s win was a testament the quality of restoration undertaken on the Beverly sedan, in addition to its inherent beauty.
To see all of the beautifully restored and nice original Auburns, Cords and Duesenbergs in person at next year’s ACD Club Reunion in Auburn, or to become a member of the organization, log onto to www.acdclub.org, or write to: Vinvent and Barbara Pietracatella, 536 McClean Ave., Staten Island, NY 10305-3644.