Car lovers come from all over the world to pilgrimage to Auburn, the “Home of the Classics,” in Northeast Indiana. This well-known gearhead city has deep roots in the automobile industry as the original home of the Auburn Automobile Company who produced the famous Auburns, Cords and Duesenbergs in the 1920’s and 30’s. The love of classic cars continues today with four museums that pay homage to antique and collector vehicles as well as an all-star lineup of events to show them off.
The start to any trip to Auburn should first and foremost be the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum. The museum is located in the original art deco show room and offices of the Auburn Automobile Company and it is a national historic landmark. I can spend hours alone just in the main show room on the first floor so plan to spend several hours in the museum. I highly recommend taking advantage of the docents who are there to answer questions and help tell the amazing story of how the company proceeded to develop and build some of the most prestigious cars in the world.
Some of my favorite highlights are the Duesenbergs, which were each custom built to it’s original owner’s specifications. The Duesenberg brothers were actively involved in the racing industry, having built race cars that competed in the Grand Prix in France and the Indianapolis 500. You’ll find the racing gallery to be quite fascinating as the cars were used extensively in racing competitions around the world. The collection also includes a gallery that showcases the importance of Indiana in the automobile industry with cars built around the state and many that were manufactured in Auburn, including the Imp. The museum is impressive and a testament to the beautiful cars that were built by this legendary company.
This museum is located in another of the original Auburn Automobile Company’s buildings and sit just behind the other museum.The National Auto and Truck Museum sits just behind the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum and is another Auburn must-do. The museum is located in another one of the original buildings of the Auburn Automobile Company. This building was constructed by E.L. Cord to assemble the L-29 Cord and the lower level was used by designers for development of experimental vehicles. Enjoy two floors of amazing one of a kind vehicles, prototypes and classic cars and trucks. The pride and joy of the collection is the General Motors Futurliner #10, which was used by the company to tour the country and promote the technology of the future. This gem is valued between $4M – $5M today and still makes occasional appearances across the country at shows and parades.
During your visit, make sure you check out the extensive collection of collector toy and model cars and a breathtaking collection of pedal cars. There is also the largest collection of antique gas pumps in the state of Indiana. Plan to spend several hours in this museum as well and feel free to ask questions as each vehicle has a unique story to tell.
The Kruse Automobile and Carriage Museum sits just off of I-69 just one stop south of Auburn’s main exit. This museum features the collections of Carl Casper, a famous Hollywood movie car designer, and it showcases many of the cars you know including K.I.T.T. from Knight Rider, the van from the A-Team, one of Fonzi’s motorcycles as well as two Batmobiles and plenty more. Casper also designed legendary custom hot rods and several are on display.
The museum also holds Casper’s extensive carriage collection that includes an early Wells Fargo stagecoach as well as royal carriages. I was captivated by the collection and it definitely gives you an appreciation for modern travel. Make sure you head to the back of the museum for the Northeast Indiana Racing Museum gallery that features an ever-changing display of race cars and memorabilia that includes vehicles from the area as well as the Indianapolis 500. It’s a fascinating display of how cars have evolved over the years and the love of racing that shines through.
The Early Ford V-8 Foundation Museum is the newest automobile museum to settle in Auburn. The national group selected Auburn due to it’s central location and it’s currently undergoing an expansion that will triple it’s exhibit space. The museum features early Ford v-8’s from the 30’s to the 50’s. The building will also boast a replication of the famous Ford Rotunda that will greet visitors as they approach the building. The museum is open during construction but plans are to hold it’s grand opening celebrations in 2019.
When driving through Auburn you will notice that classic cars are commonplace on the streets on any given day. There are plenty of ways to show off your classic car in the City of Auburn. The Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum hosts monthly “Cars and Coffee” events in their Education and Exhibit Plaza during warmer months. The Chamber of Commerce hosts a monthly cruise-in on the square surrounding the county’s historic courthouse and the local Shifters Club hosts annual events including the Kavalcade of Kool and cruise-ins for charity. Details can be found on the events calendar of the DeKalb County Visitor’s Bureau or by calling their office for upcoming events 260-927-1499.
Finally, Auburn is also home to the RM Auction Park which hosts two large annual car auctions (Auburn Spring and Auburn Fall). The Auburn Fall coincides with the Annual Auburn Cord Duesenberg Classic Car Show and Festival which together attracts thousands of area and international visitors during Labor Day Weekend. The weekend features parades, galas, car shows, concerts and plenty of activities to satisfy any car lover.
Any car enthusiast will be satisfied greatly with a visit to the area. When planning your trip, you may want to considering rounding out your itinerary with plenty of additional stops. The area has a total of 9 museums, three wineries, antique and boutique shopping as well as Sechler’s Pickle Factory that offers free tours Monday through Thursday each week seasonally so it has plenty to keep you occupied for several days of fun. If planning your visit during the Labor Day Weekend, it’s advised to book hotel rooms well in advance as many rooms sell out early. For additional details on the area, check with the DeKalb County Visitors Bureau.