The Auburn Cord Duesenberg (ACD) Festival, in its 59th year, once again welcomes car enthusiasts from around the world to Auburn, Indiana in a celebration of the history of the automobile. Formerly the headquarters of the manufacturing plant for this trio of classics, this small Hoosier town is now home to a world class museum and hosts one of the most popular classic car events in the country. This year, the ACD Festival pays tribute to the Duesenberg. Many special events are planned to showcase this one-of-a-kind, iconic classic, including the annual Labor Day parade through downtown Auburn and the Duesenberg Thunder Run, where more than 75 Duesys are expected to be on the show field, with many of them racing down the runway at the Goshen Municipal Airport.
It all began with two brothers, Fred and Augie Duesenberg, who started their own company, the Duesenberg Automobile & Motors Company, Inc., in 1914. Recognized as being some of the best cars of the time, from both a performance and luxury standpoint, they had all the components for a successful company. There's certainly no doubt they knew how to design an engine, because the Duesenberg was the first American car to win the famous Grand Prix at Le Mans, France, in 1921, as well as winning the Indy 500 in 1922, 1924, and 1925. Regardless of how talented they were at building cars, though, they didn't have the business background necessary to make their company financially viable. So, in 1926, they sold their company to Errett Lobban (E.L.) Cord, a savvy businessman, who wanted to capitalize on their engineering skills and brand name to build the biggest, most expensive, and most powerful luxury cars in the world. His vision was to compete with European luxury cars, such as Hispano-Suiza, Isotta Fraschini, Mercedes-Benz, and Rolls-Royce. And, for a time, Cord was successful. As a result of Fred and Augie Duesenberg's contributions, the Duesenberg brand grew in stature, with Model J being one of the most sought-after luxury cars in the United States and Europe.
In 1935, the Duesenberg Special, a speed car was built on a Supercharged Model J chassis, with a standard wheelbase, a modified front axle, and a non-standard high rear axle ratio. The engine was highly tuned by Augie Duesenberg. In October 1935, the car set a one hour record of 153.97 mph and a twenty-four hour record of 135.57 mph at a circuit on the Bonneville Salt Flats. The 24-hour record would hold until 1961. This car, which is scheduled to make an appearance at the 2015 Thunder Run, was renamed "Mormon Meteor" after the Duesenberg engine was replaced with a Curtiss Conqueror aircraft engine.
Unfortunately, the Duesenberg ceased production in 1937, with the collapse of E.L. Cords corporations. Today, Duesensenbergs are highly coveted automobiles, and many Model Js command prices well over $1 million. As a matter of fact, in 2011, a pristine Duesenberg Model J sold for more than $10 million. Obviously, this Duesenberg was a real Doozy.
Here are some of the Duesenbergs at Eckhart Park and at the ACD Automobile Museum.