Auburn Cars / Auburn Car Museum

Auburn cars, well recognized excellently engineered automobiles, falls into that category of American automakers who didn’t make it through the Great Depression of the 1930′s. As we’ve mentioned in several other articles, the Great Depression presented an entirely new marketing reality and several of the independents had a big challenge and that included the people who built Auburn cars. The larger automakers were able to take advantage of scale and more easily absorb losses. The smaller independents while putting out a quality product had more financial difficulties.

1904 auburn automobile

1904 Auburn

Buggy Makers Become Automakers

The Auburn car was founded back in 1900 by brothers Frank and Morris Eckhart in Auburn Indiana. The first vehicle was more experimental than anything else. Like some of their peers, the brothers had been carriage and buggy builders and had worked for Studebaker. At the turn of the century it wasn’t a great leap to go from carriages to cars. In fact, their first vehicle, built in prior to 1903 was so simple it was a chain drive vehicle with a one cylinder engine costing about $800. There are no solid records available as to how many, if any, of these one cylinder cars sold. Possibly none. When 1903 came around, the Eckhart brothers decided to get more focused on car building. This was the point that they would actually turn it into a business.

The 1904 Auburn was a fancy looking automobile. In fact, during 1904 there were a host of good looking autos such as the Winton, the Knox Touring car and the Buick Touring model. There were several others.  There were a slew of eastern automakers producing cars. At this point the cost of getting into the business wasn’t too prohibitive. That of course would change. The 1904 Auburn still had that chain drive and one cylinder engine but this time the car had pneumatic tires. A two cylinder engine was introduced in 1905 and eventually a four cylinder engine was employed in 1909. By 1909 the brothers had also taken over a few other local auto builders. Things were looking up.

1932 Auburn Speedster

1932 Auburn Speedster

Another Pre World War One Auburn of note was the 1916 Model 6-38 Touring Car. This particular car was a four door, seven passenger model with a six cylinder Continental L-Head engine. Auburn engines came a long way since 1904. Like many cars today, the 1916 model came with a 20 gallon fuel tank. The car sold for about $1,375.

The Chicago Investors

The chewing gum king, William Wrigley, and a group of investors including Ralph Bard of Chicago, took over the Auburn nameplate in 1919. The Eckhart brothers were having severe financial problems and decided to sell out. World War One had a negative impact on several automakers. For one thing, materials were in short supply. Wrigley and the Chicago group was in a position to infuse a lot of needed cash into the company. The biggest problem however was that a severe recession hit after World War I, not long after the Chicago investors took over, and the car company was again struggling.

Auburn’s Final Years

When Auburn began struggling in the mid 1920′s, the company took onboard a new leader from a strictly sales background. Automobile salesman Errett Lobban Cord was hired to run the company but actually took it over from the Chicago investors via a leveraged buyout. Cord completed the buyout in 1925. Although Cord knew how to market the Auburn nameplate and partnered with the Dusenberg brand, the Great Depression that began about five years after Cord’s buyout simply made his automobiles too expensive for many. In addition to the Depression, Cord also found himself in trouble with the SEC regarding alleged stock manipulations. As a result of all these troubles production of the Auburn automobile came to a halt in 1937. It never returned.

Two additional photo articles you’ll be interested in are the 1931 Ford Model A Roadster and the 1929 Oakland Motors Sedan.

cord 810

The Cord 810

The second Auburn automobile shown in this article is the 1932 8-100 Speedster Coupe Convertible. The car has the sleek look that Errett Cord was noted for. The engines for these models were eight cylinder with about 100 HP and a top speed of about 100 MPH. There’s no question that the Auburn Speedster was a great looking car with excellent engineering and a lot of power. The Auburn Eights were known for luxury, size and performance. The price of the 1932 models were around $1,000 or a bit higher. This was actually a very low price for the engineering and power that came with it. The price obviously reflected the very tough economic times of the Depression and didn’t really help the financial position of Auburn. Auburn needed to sell cars for more than the price they could get. The Depression ended up taking out both Auburn and Dusenberg. Cord’s SEC troubles likely added to the company’s difficulties.

According to old factory records, it appears that about 6,000 Auburn Eights were produced in 1932.

There’s a great museum located in Auburn Indiana you don’t want to miss. The Auburn Cord Dusenberg Automobile Museum showcases the three old brands and has terrific exhibits. The museum is in the company’s massive old administrative and showroom facility. The address is 1600 South Wayne Street in Auburn.

(Photos from the public domain)

British Land Rover

The British Jeep

The Land Rover was introduced during the post World War Two years as the British answer to America’s famous Willys Jeep. In fact, the British Land Rover adopted most of it’s traits directly from the Jeep. Just like the Jeep, the Land-Rover was built for tough work. It was a vehicle that was built to do the tasks other vehicles could not. The design of the first Land Rover was the work of Maurice Wilks. Wilks had high praise for the Willys Jeep and in fact owned one.

1965 land rover

1965 Land Rover

After the end of World War II, a good number of Jeeps had been left behind in Britain.  Interestingly enough, while the Willys Jeep was created as a military vehicle, Wilks looked at the possibilities of it being incorporated into farming and more. Along with being a director with British Rover, Wilks also owned a farm. The very ruggedness of the vehicle made it applicable to farm work.

While the Willys Jeep was the first of such a vehicle, it actually was the British who carried the concept even further. The first British Land Rover model (see specs below) was very similar to the Jeep. If you didn’t see the nameplate of the first Land Rover model you may have easily mistaken it for a Willys Jeep.

The early Land-Rover was a four wheel drive “go anywhere” vehicle. Series I through III were produced from 1948 to 1980. It took a few years for Britain to begin producing civilian cars in any number because of the steel shortage right at the end of the war. There was a prototype made in 1947 that never went into production. This prototype actually had the drivers seat and steering wheel in the center. The prototype of this sort never made it into production.

land rover safari model

Land Rover fitted out for a safari

The vehicle shown in this article is a 1965 Land Rover Series II model.  As you can see from the photos, this 1965 Land-Rover has been highly customized. The rear half has essentially been redesigned for possible safari expeditions. Seats in the rear are along the truck side and face one another. The modifications made to this particular model are excellent.

The People Friendly Later Land Rovers

Later models of the British Land Rover Series II came with a variety of options. The Series II pretty much represented the classic Land Rover. Two or four wheel drive and gasoline or diesel engines. In 1970, Land-Rover introduced the more rider friendly Range Rover which had a variety of creature comforts not found in the earlier Land-Rovers. The Range Rover meant to be a more luxurious vehicle. Ruggedness and comfort was the aim and the Range Rover was essentially like many of today’s SUV’s.

land rover safari model

1965 Land Rover rear interior bench seats

The attributes of the Land-Rover was it’s all terrain capability, ruggedness  and rust proof body. Another positive was the wide choice of options, sizes and types. Negatives would include it’s hard ride and Spartan appearance. This of course was addressed with the production of the Range Rover. The early Land-Rovers were also considered somewhat slow with a speed of about 60 MPH.

Two additional photo articles you’ll be interested in are the Willys MB Military Vehicle and the 1946 Ford Woody Wagon.

Specifications of the First Land Rover as Compared to the 1940′s Military Jeep

Here’s a comparison of specs between the first Land Rover in 1948 and the Willys Jeep. It’s amazing how close most of the specs are.

The Willys Jeep wheelbase was 80 inches, width 62 inches, length 133 inches, track 48 inches, engine 4 cylinder 2.1 liter and weight of  2,315 lbs.

The 1948 British Land Rover wheelbase was 80 inches, width 60 inches, length 132 inches, track 50 inches, engine 4 cylinder 1.6 liter and weight of 2,520 lbs.

The comparison between the two vehicles was about as close as you can get.

1965 land rover interior

Land Rover front seat interior

The 1965 Land Rover Series II

The 1965 Land Rover Series II shown in this article has a wheelbase of 88 inches with a 4 cylinder engine putting out 77 HP at 4,000 RPM. Options were available for a six cylinder engine. The 88 inch wheelbase is referred to as the short model. Models were available with a much longer 109 inch wheelbase. The shorter 88 inch model in it’s “lightweight” version was used extensively by the British military and some models were produced which could be taken apart quickly by the military quickly for air shipment overseas. It’s estimated that some twenty countries in addition to Great Britain have employed the Land Rover in their military inventory.

Beyond a doubt, the British Land Rover in it’s many versions and wheelbase lengths is considered one of the very best off road vehicles that were ever built. Just as with the Jeep brand, Land Rover has now moved into the luxury vehicle market without totally abandoning their off road heritage. In many ways they never compromised the basic early design. Also, just as with the Jeep, the Land Rover luxury vehicles can be in the expensive range.

Used Classic Land Rovers, especially the series I and II are in demand for collectors searching for good vehicles to restore. Parts are not difficult to locate and there are plenty of interesting modifications to undertake based upon the vehicles simple and compact design.

(Photos from author’s private collection)