Things to Do in Fort Wayne and Beyond

Auburn festival gets motors running

ACD event honors city's contribution to industry

The Auburn Cord Duesenberg Festival kicks off Aug. 27.

Chris Hupe

Whatzup Features Writer

Published August 24, 2022

The Auburn Cord Duesenberg Festival is one of the year’s most anticipated events, bringing car aficionados to Auburn from around the world to celebrate the prominence the city once held in the American auto industry. 

This year’s festival, Aug. 27-Sept. 4, will be chock full of events surrounding this history, especially that of the Auburn, Cord, and Duesenberg automobiles. 

Company’s rise to fame

Whether you have lived in northeast Indiana all your life or you’re a transplant, you’d be forgiven if you weren’t keenly aware of the history of the innovative cars that inspired the festival but stopped being produced 85 years ago. 

The Auburn Automobile Company produced high-end cars in the early 1900s, but its history dates to 1874 when Charles Eckhart founded the Eckhart Carriage Company in Auburn. The company was eventually sold, and the new owners employed Erret Cord to manage the operation. 

The new company partnered with the Indianapolis-based Duesenberg Corporation, famous for its racing cars, and used it as the launching platform for a line of luxury vehicles, most notably one of the first front-wheel drive cars, the Cord L-29. Unfortunately, after the stock market crash of 1929, the vehicles were too expensive for most. Though it managed to survive a few more years, it was dissolved in 1937.

Enthusiasts keep memory alive

According to executive director Leslie Peel in an interview with Whatzup, the ACD Festival began as a reunion of the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Club. Those reunions turned into a desire to see something more done to preserve those members’ passion for the beloved cars, and the idea of a museum was born. 

To help fund the museum, an auction was created. 

“The auction is separate now, but that’s how they began to get all these people through the town,” Peel said of the Auburn Auction, which will be Sept. 1-3. “This is where these cars were born, and where the museum is located now was actually the administration building for the Auburn Automobile Company back then.” 

Neverending events

Billed as The World’s Greatest Classic Car Show, the ACD Festival is in its 66th year, bringing tens of thousands of people to Auburn. 

Peel said the festival is one of the greatest concentrations of cars anywhere in the U.S., bringing with it a demand for activities, and the festival does not disappoint. 

Getting right down to business, the Cheers to the Festival Fundraiser kicks this off at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 27. “Country casual” attire is encouraged as you attend the auction with a chance to bid on a reserved parking space for the Downtown Cruise-In, a reserved table in the middle of all of the action during the prime events later in the week, as well as for the downtown concerts. 

Things begin to pick up Sunday, with a focus on the NATM Garage Cruise offering an opportunity to visit the garages and shops of local automotive enthusiasts and business owners. The experience has opportunities to gain rare glimpses behind-the-scenes of these shops and get a look at their current automotive projects and spaces. 

On Friday, Sept. 2, the Downtown Cruise-In is one of the most popular events of the festival, as vehicle owners show off their cars to an envious crowd. 

From 6-11 p.m. the free Cruise-In Concert at the courthouse square will feature the music of local favorites Hubie Ashcraft and Whoa, Man!

At 1 p.m. on Saturday, the Parade of Classics allows the originators of the event, the ACD Club, the chance to drive their classic cars through Auburn to the Courthouse Square, where they are available for viewing by the general public. This year’s parade features the “Year of the Cord L-29,” celebrating the car that became the crown jewel of the Auburn Automobile Company.

But that’s not the end. 

Later in the evening, those who still have the energy will see the Fort Wayne Driving Club make a big entrance during the Fast & Fabulous finale event, sporting their mixture of exotic cars, muscle cars, classics, and foreign luxury cars, adding a bit of the present to this history-themed festival. Some of the vehicles you may see include McLarens, Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Aston Martins, Corvettes, Vipers, Mustangs, and Camaros. 

There’s a reason Auburn is known as the Home of the Classics, and after attending the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Festival, you will no doubt understand why. Though small in size, the city played a large part in the history of the automobile, and that it needs to be celebrated. 

“It’s just grown into this huge thing,” Peel said. “We see many generations coming back each and every year. It’s tradition, which we love, and there’s a ton of stuff to do.”

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