ACD Club Reunion is Classic car spotting at its best
By Angelo Van Bogart
With apologies to the ritzy concourses on the left and right coasts, there’s no better place to chase Classics than the Midwest in fall. Specifically, Auburn, Indiana, over Labor Day Weekend, which lives up to its moniker “Home of the Classics.” There and then, hundreds of Auburn, Cord and Duesenberg automobiles return to the site around the Auburn Automobile Co.’s administrative building, now the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum.
Auburn may not have the smell of ocean air, but it lacks the air of pretension found at the hoitiest and toitiest of concours where khakis, blazers and straw hats set the tone of fashion. In Auburn, fashion is left to the glamorous ACD cars and their skirted fenders, Art Deco grilles and innovative and gleaming engines. And while Auburn lacks the multi-million-dollar ocean-side views, it boasts a historic town square where Auburns, Cords and Duesenbergs have been parked since they for new, seeing as the administration building is just down the road. For the last 60 years, club members have returned to the Auburn town square each year as part of the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Club Reunion, and it’s a sight that cannot be replicated with more history anywhere in the world.
The 2015 Auburn Cord Duesenberg Club Reunion featured the Duesenberg, and dozens of owners dusted off their Model As and Model Js for the event, which is more than a car show — it’s an experience that doesn’t require a tie and a jacket.
Club members and their cars began to gather in Auburn the week of Sept. 1 for a kickoff luncheon at the museum, followed by luncheons, tech sessions and seminars, dinner socials, even a swap meet filled with rare Auburn, Cord and Duesenberg parts. Each night, owners leisurely gathered with their cars around the famous Auburn Hotel, where gangsters are said to have slept during the Great Depression. Surely its brick walls could tell stories of criminals on the lam, but they’d certainly be overshadowed by the tales of the Auburn, Cord and Duesenberg owners who have gathered there for the last six decades.
The club gathering has become such a draw to the city that Auburn began its own Auburn Cord Duesenberg Festival, which complements the club activities. The ACD Festival adds family activities and an all-make car show to the week of events, the highlight for car enthusiasts being the Parade of Classics. ACD Club members first gather in Eckhart Park for judging and camaraderie, then form the Parade of Classics as they drive toward the main square. It may have rained on the Parade of Classics this year, but Auburn is so down home, owners scoffed at the thought of a few water spots on their priceless machines and trudged on in the name of tradition.
Auburn has always been about go and less about show, and owners went one step farther to prove that in 2015 with the first Duesenberg Thunder Run & Vintage Fly-In on Sept. 6. The event paired Duesenbergs with vintage planes at the Goshen Municipal Airport in nearby Goshen Ind. Duesenbergs were built for speed, and on a sunny Sunday, 18 owners tested the 88 mph in second gear advertised by Duesenberg Inc. Two-by-two, Duesenbergs raced each other (and sometimes aircraft) by roaring down 6,000 feet of runway. Perhaps none roared louder than Harry Yeaggy’s Duesenberg Special, that famous bright yellow supercharged car built in 1936 to break land speed records, which is exactly what Ab Jenkins did with the car at the Bonneville salt flats. It stole the show at the Thunder Run, and also the hearts of ACD Club judges who awarded it Best of Show this year.
To get up close and personal to some of the greatest cars ever built, and the largest number of them gathered in one place, clear your 2016 calendar during Labor Day Weekend. You have a date in Auburn.