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October 6, 2009

Not the Cannonball, Day 2

Filed under: Cars,Not the Cannonball — chuck goolsbee @ 7:46 pm

Today we drove from Buffalo NY, to Elkhart, IN. The weather is crappy all day.

The drive is simple, but the highlight is a side trip to Auburn, Indiana.

What’s in Auburn with a side trip? The Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum!

Above: Filling up on Regular, both Dad & the Cruise Missile.
Above: Filling up on Regular, both Dad & the Cruise Missile.

We leave Buffalo after breakfast at the hotel, and fill up the car at a Sunoco station, then
head to a pharmacy so Dad can buy sunscreen… not that he’ll need it today!

Not long after the clouds roll in and it showers on and off through Ohio.

We roll through Ohio as fast as we can, which is never fast enough. Ohio is probably the most over-patrolled state in the USA. 65 MPH maximum, and the Valentine is brapping, beeping, and screaming Lidar warnings all day the way through. When we approach the far end of Ohio we leave the toll-collecting superslab and jump on US 20. From here we enter Indiana, and head south to Auburn and the ACD Museum.

Rather than blather on, I’ll just post some photos and let you soak them in…

Above: 1931 Cord.
Above: 1931 Cord.
Above: The hub of a Duesenburg (sorry about the blur - working in VERY low light!)
Above: The hub of a Duesenburg (sorry about the blur - working in VERY low light!)
Above: A view of the main showroom.
Above: A view of the main showroom.
Above: Dad admiring a rotating Cord on display.
Above: Dad admiring a rotating Cord on display.
Above: An L-head 6 Cutaway engine. I could look at stuff like this all day long.
Above: An L-head 6 Cutaway engine. I could look at stuff like this all day long.
Above: Detail of a gorgeous Cord Sports Coupe.
Above: Detail of a gorgeous Cord Sports Coupe.
Above: Dad & a Duesenberg.
Above: Dad & a Duesenberg.
Above: Auburn Beauty Six.
Above: Auburn Beauty Six.
Above: A 16 Cylinder Bugatti Aero engine.
Above: A 16 Cylinder Bugatti Aero engine.
Above: A 16 Cylinder Duesenberg Aero engine.
Above: A 16 Cylinder Duesenberg Aero engine.

I have many more images which I’ll share in future Car Photo of the Day posts.

The museum itself suddenly became the focus of my awe as I walked into the Men’s washroom on the 3rd floor:

Above: Like stepping into the past.
Above: Like stepping into the past.

An older gentleman entered the washroom as I was leaving and I remarked to him that being in there was a trip into the past. He agreed. Upon exiting I began to see the building itself for the first time. Here was a time capsule of Art Deco Era Industrial America. This very building was the headquarters of a commercial enterprise, and the front third comprised its flagship showroom, the back two thirds it’s offices, design studios, and original workshops prior to larger ones being built on the land behind it. So as my dad took the elevator back down to head for the exit, I took the stairwell and grabbed some building-centric photos for you:

The front stairwell of the ACD Museum. Hey car spotters, can you name the machine at the top? Hint: NOT ACD.
The front stairwell of the ACD Museum. Hey car spotters, can you name the machine at the top? Hint: NOT ACD.
Elegant Art Deco light fixtures.
Elegant Art Deco light fixtures.

The exterior.
The exterior.

The exterior is rather plain, in that typical and practical “Tornado Alley” Midwestern style. We’ve seen a million office buildings, grade schools, and post offices that appear identical, but the small details indicate the treasures within.

We’re both really happy that we detoured south to Auburn (perhaps the southern apogee of our cross-country northern-tier route) to see this amazing Museum. I’ve always felt that the cars produced in this small town were truly the finest automobiles ever produced in the United States of America. They had more style, more technical innovation, and far more presence than anything ever produced in Detroit. Ford & GM may have beaten everyone, but it was only due to price and volume. Not quality and style. Auburns, Cords, and Duesenbergs were like the Jaguars, Mercedes-Benz, and Ferrari of US Automakers of pre-war America. They just could not survive the Great Depression.

The weather worsened while we were inside, with high winds and driving rain. It saps our will to drive much more so we find a place to stay as we make our way back to the Interstate… so we’re here in Elkhart, Indiana. Tomorrow we traverse the rest of the northern heartland: Indiana, Illinois (Chicago), Wisconsin, Minnesota. We’re hoping to go as far as Fargo… we’ll see.

Here is where we diverge completely from the route of the 1999 Cannonball Classic. The event a decade ago finished in Los Angeles, California. This time we’re angling for the top left corner pocket, Seattle. In another odd sort of parallel though, this day weather-wise was similarly stormy in 1999! Read on for the summary of the same day from the 1999 event…


Tuesday, Sept. 28th, Detroit, MI to St. Louis, MO.

We start by heading over to Federal Mogul, one of our sponsor’s headquarters in Detroit for a charity photo op, ad hoc car show, and breakfast in the employee cafeteria. It is nice to see (almost) all the cars in one spot. The light is good and flat for my primitive digital camera, so I try and get as many shots of the cars as I can. Here are a small sample:

911 and a Big Ass Lincoln

Caddy & Fairlady Z

Falcon & Challenger

TransAm & Ferrari

I have more pics, and as soon as I get back home I’ll put them up here, along with info about make, model, year & drivers.

After some of the employees "judged" our cars (as usual our "babe magnet" drew the women like flies to shit. Damn, why didn’t we get this car when I was single!?) We took off as we had a long way to go to our scheduled lunch stop in Indiana, and a short time to get there. Martin Swig, in the Cunningham, roared out and several of us followed his lead. Many stayed behind for the festivities and to bask in the media coverage, and probably came to regret losing the time.


Above: Martin Swig leads the charge out of Detroit!

We hopped on the freeway (today was our largest "freeway day") and headed toward Ann Arbor and then south to Fort Wayne and Indianapolis then on to Greencastle for lunch. It was a long haul and dad and I blew by all but the Super Bird (who traded leads with us most of the day).

Below: Passing the Cunningham and the Porsche 911 near Ann Arbor.

 

 

 

 

We flew as fast as we could, thankfully missing the cops, but as like yesterday, raising the alarm as we passed through. The Indiana State Patrol pulled over a few folks from what I heard later.

We arrived in Greencastle, Indiana for our one scheduled lunch of the week, and found a large segment of the town waiting for us! Some local media were there to video our arrival, plus many folks out with
cameras. We were 30 minutes late (of the scheduled time) and we were the 1st car to arrive! The boys in the Super Bird, (Wes McNay and Franz Lorist… a couple of well-preserved relics from the 70’s driving a well-preserved relic from the 70’s! I hope Wes doesn’t take any offense at that, since I mean it in the best possible way!) and the Wolf’s in their Ferrari pulled in shortly after us. The folks at the Walden Inn did a fantastic job of making us feel welcome and feeding us an excellent lunch! We were thirsty, tired, and hungry… but left refreshed and happy. We hated to eat and run, but time was wasting and we still had a long way to go to get to St. Louis and we knew there was a cold front with rain and thundershowers moving our way. We hoped to be able to skirt to the south of it, but needed to get moving if that was going to happen.

Above: Wes McNay’s Super Bird passes us somewhere in Indiana.

We hit I-70 and start hauling ass west. The top is down and it is hot, but we can see dark clouds on the western horizon. I pick up a rabbit in the form of a woman in a Buick doing 95+mph. I hang back behind her about a half mile going a little slower and keep going like that until our detector picks up a trooper’s instant-on tagging her. Thank you! At the speeds I am traveling (80/90mph… I don’t like to go much faster on Interstates) all sorts of people try using me as a rabbit, but our brake lights are small, and the "dancing elephants" as my dad calls the big scary trucks, always force them off my tail as I can out accelerate them all. Going flat-out fast in this car is more scary than fun (it is a decapitation waiting to happen!), But the car is a ton of fun to accelerate… like passing people, or waiting in the slipstream of an 18 wheeler as he slowly pulls around another elephant and then sling-shotting away by going from 55 to 95 in about 1.2 seconds. Wheee! As I am finishing my shift at the wheel somewhere in the middle of Illinois, it is clear we are going to get wet. We start trying to out-race the rain squall headed our way as dad & I decide that we’d rather try and shave the corner of the storm than stop, put up the top, and really get caught in it. I fly along and we get hit by two short squalls, including one that pelts my forehead with a baseball sized raindrop, but we manage to get through to the sunshine again. Later, as we approach St. Louis, the wall of dark clouds offers no escape route, so we surrender and raise the roof.


Above: Me and dad with the top up, approaching the storm.

Right as we enter St. Louis the clouds open up and the downpour begins. The car of course leaks like the sieve it is, but we manage to make the hotel just as the rain stops. We are the first car there, but the SuperBird boys pull up about 5 minutes later. After we pull around back to our designated parking area, Wes McNay pulls some beer out of the Super Bird’s cooler… it’s Miller Time!

Below: Miller Time! Thanks Wes!

 

 

 

 

Dinner was a strange affair… I’ll have to tell you about it tomorrow, since I need some sleep!

Roadkill Update: 1 deer, 12 raccoons (must be stupid raccoons east of the Mississippi!), 1 skunk, 1 Opossum, 4 indistinguishable piles of flesh guts and fur/feathers, and a water pump from a Saab 96 V-4.

Today’s Americana: Signs advertising "Foot High Pies!" in Illinois.

-Goodnight!

–chuck

4 Comments

  1. Thanks for the pictures.

    The little car is a Crosley Super Sport.

    Comment by drooartz — October 7, 2009 @ 5:19 am

  2. Fantastic! Thanks for the udpates…

    Comment by martin_watson — October 7, 2009 @ 8:16 am

  3. …and thank you for the updates, too. 🙂

    Comment by martin_watson — October 7, 2009 @ 8:16 am

  4. Heresy.

    In Chuck’s *single* photo of an Auburn Speedster, I was reminded that my ‘rent’s ’35 was one of the first MAJOR bits of aforementioned-heresy I commited.

    Dad, Mom, and I all agreed the chrome headlight housings looked funny on the car; we painted the bodies the same color as the car and MAN:

    -Did it piss the puristas off (GOOD THING), and;
    -It looked *sooo* much sleeker and longer.

    The originals (on all ’35-’36 Speedsters) got their rear corners *speared* from improperly closing the hood, which lookie-loos did ALL the time!

    Dad filled the backs of the headlight housings with lead (to resist the hood corners piercing the housings), then we just prepped’em for paint.

    Comment by vrooomie — October 7, 2009 @ 8:42 am

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