Auburn was a brand name of United States automobiles from 1900 through 1937. It grew out of the Eckhart Carriage Company, founded in Auburn, Indiana, in 1875 by Charles Eckhart (1841-1915). Eckhart's sons, Frank and Morris, began making automobiles on an experimental basis before entering the business in earnest, absorbing two other local carmakers and moving into a larger plant in 1909. The enterprise was modestly successful until materials shortages during World War I forced the plant to close.
In 1919, the Eckhart brothers sold out to a group of Chicago investors headed by Ralph Austin Bard. The new owners revived the business but failed to realize the profits that they hoped for. In 1924, they approached Errett Lobban Cord (1894-1974), a highly successful automobile salesman, with an offer to run the company. Cord countered with an offer to take over completely in what amounted to a leveraged buyout. The Chicago group accepted.
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Cord aggressively marketed the company's unsold inventory and completed his buyout before the end of 1925. In 1926, he partnered with Duesenberg Corporation, famous for its racing cars, and used it as the launching platform for a line of high-priced luxury vehicles. He also put his own name on a front-wheel-drive car, the L-29 Cord.
Auburn Automobile Historical Marker, Auburn, IN Employing imaginative designers such as Alan Leamy and Gordon Buehrig. Cord built cars that became famous for their advanced engineering as well as their striking appearance, e.g., the 1928 Auburn Boattail Speedster, the Model J Duesenbergs, the 1935/37 Auburn Speedsters and the 810/812 Cords.
The company's art deco headquarters in Auburn now houses the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg Museum. It was made a National Historic Landmark in 2005.