Gone Autos Podcast #6 transcript

Josh Malks, Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg author/driver/expert
Todd Ruel
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(00:01) Josh Malks: And that’s one of the ongoing mythologies about cars. “You know, the company went out of business.” Well, the Auburn Automobile Company did not go out of business. It just stopped making cars.

[Music Opens]

(00:09) Todd Ruel: You’re listening to a Gone Autos Podcast. There’s a magic incantation in the classic car hobby. Speak three mystical words together in the right order and many car fans go slackjawed. My guest is here to talk about those words and the amazing man who gave them their power. Author Josh Malks utters the word “Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg” next on the Gone Autos Podcast.

[Music Ends]

(00:35) Ruel: There are a few American car companies that are deeply intertwined in American myth and legend. Henry Ford develops assembly line production to make the Model T, a car for the common man. Preston Tucker, an automotive David, tries to take on the Goliaths in Detroit with the revolutionary 1948 Tucker Torpedo. And then, there’s Auburn-Cord Duesenberg, the company that E. L. Cord owned, controlled, and used to build lust objects, the finest, most technically advanced cars of their day.

Joining me on the Gone Autos Podcast today is a guy who has studied the company for more years than it was in business. Josh Malks is an A-C-D expert. He has written many books and articles that are considered the final words on the subject of Auburn-Cord Duesenberg.

Josh, welcome to the podcast.

(01:21) Malks: Thank you, Todd. It’s nice to be here.

(01:23) Ruel: Now, there are a lot of bigger automobile names, like Studebaker & Packard, that lived longer and had more famous models, yet they still went out of business. Why do car fans today who have no direct connection with Auburns, Cords, or Duesenbergs still remember and honor them?

(01:41) Malks: Well, probably because they were unique even in their day. When the Cord 810 came out, for example, in 1936, it’s said that visitors to the show stood on the bumpers of competing cars to get a look at the Cords over the crowds. The Duesenberg, of course, was the most powerful car ever built in America certainly at that time, and arguably, by today’s inflation standards, still the most expensive ever built in the country, and the Auburn Speedster captures the imagination of everyone. And note the fact that there were numerous duplicates made of it in the 60’s and 70’s, in fiberglass. So, they’re very, very special cars, and people still think of them that way.

(02:22) Ruel: Right. OK. So, the Auburn Automobile Company didn’t start with E. L. Cord. When did it start, and what kinds of cars did it make?

(02:31) Malks: Well, this might be a good time just to mention one point that I think is important in understanding the company and its convoluted corporate structure. The only company that made cars was the Auburn Automobile Company. It was located in Auburn, Indiana, and it started making cars in 1903. Duesenberg Incorporated was a company that was founded by Fred & Augie Duesenberg to well-known racing people at that time which was bankrupt in the late 1920’s, was purchased by E. L. Cord, and then its stock folded into the Auburn Automobile Company.

E.L. Cord himself was a young man who was a very skilled salesperson and who eventually became the General Manager of Auburn. We don't know the precise terms of his compensation, but four years later, when the company was now making a huge profit, he became its president. It was from Auburn that E. L. Cord built all the rest of his enterprises. The Cord Corporation, which he founded in 1929, was a holding company for all those enterprises. In brief though, Todd, there never was such an entity as Auburn-Cord- Duesenberg. It was the Auburn Automobile Company building cars and the Cord Corporation as a holding company for all of E. L. Cord’s financial dealings.

(03:50) Ruel: OK. So that was the corporate structure…

(03:52) Malks: Right.

(03:53) Ruel: …of E. L. Cord’s efforts.

(03:54) Malks: Right.

(03:55) Ruel: However, from what little I know, the Auburn Automobile Company was one of those car companies that started up in the early 1900’s long before E. L. Cord ever came along. Was it a regional car company? What kind of a car company was it? What kind of cars do they make?

(04:09) Malks: Well, they made very sedate, boring cars. They were just like many other carmakers, many of whom so by the wayside long before Auburn – Gardner and Elkhart and Star, Durant, all kinds of cars that came and went relatively quickly. Auburn plodded along making cars, and it survived only until 1924 by the fact that the company was taken over in the early 1920’s by a group of bankers from Chicago who thought it showed promise. But by 1924, they realized there really was no promise, and they cast around for some way to have it survived, and that was when E. L. Cord came on the scene.

(04:47) Ruel: OK. OK. So, you’re leading us up to around 1924 and 1925.

(04:51) Malks: Right.

(04:52) Ruel: It’s the middle of the Roaring 20’s. People are prospering. There’s all sorts of wild financial speculation going on, like we had in the 1980’s. And in the mid-2000’s, for instance, with the real estate bubble.

(05:01) Malks: Right.

(05:02) Ruel: When everybody seems to be making money, why is the Auburn Automobile Company failing?

(05:07) Malks: Because the larger companies - and the larger companies, as almost everybody else then - had more money to innovate, and they brought in new kinds of technologies that Auburn was simply incapable of doing. So, the 1923 Auburn looked like the 1922 Auburn, which looked like the 1921 Auburn. So, the following that they had of people who liked solid, reliable, dull cars was diminishing as the 20’s roared. And if something had not happened, it’s probable the company would have gone out of business before the end of the 20’s.

(05:36) Ruel: OK. So, I think what’s interesting to note here is that the Volkswagen Beetle’s pitch, in other words, same car every year, predictable in styling and in engineering, it doesn’t work for Auburn 30 or 40 years prior. So, they’re failing, and a gentleman named Errett Lobban Cord comes on to the scene. Who was he? How did he cross paths with the Auburn Automobile Company?

(06:00) Malks: Well he was a young man at that time. Uh, he was only in his late 20’s, and he was a salesman for the Moon Motor Car. And one day important in automobile history is he happened to sell at Moon to a fellow named Ralph Bard. And Ralph Bard is one of the group of financiers that owned the Auburn Automobile Company. And apparently a salesmanship with such, that Bard went back to his colleagues and said, “Hey, I think I found the guy that can get us out of this mess.”

(06:26) Ruel: OK. So, what happened next?

(06:28) Malks: What happened next is they made a deal with E. L. Cord. And as I said before, it’s not quite certain what the deal was, but apparently it was a minimal salary and a lot of stock. And by 1928, after some very, very hands-on salesmanship, the company was now prospering significantly. There’s a myth that Cord found 700 unsold Auburns on the lots of the factory and they had been painted in bright colors and sold them wholesale to dealers. That may well be sure, though we haven’t found any documented evidence of it, but it does sound like the guy. He visited every Auburn dealer in the country to get them to stay with the company, saying great things are coming. He showed them drawings of the new cars that were gonna be coming out. And he did hold this thing together to the point that where when the new cars did start coming out, Auburn’s sales rocketed. And by 1928, as I said, when E. L. Cord became President, Auburn was on an upward trajectory.

(07:22) Ruel: Well that sounds like a lot of hustle, Josh. If he took over the company in 1924-25 and new models came out three years later, what was he doing during those three years? Was he doing just what you said? And how long does that work? I mean were there new cars coming out?

(07:35) Malks: Oh yes, new cars came out within a year of his taking over.

(07:39) Ruel: OK.

(07:40) Malks: That is, but he had to go around to the dealers and get them to hang in there one more year because otherwise they would have deserted even before the new cars came out, not knowing something new was coming down the pike. So the new cars started coming out about a year after Cord came on the scene. He got new companies beyond the ones that had been making bodies for Auburn before, because the Auburn was sort of an assembled car, the bodies were made by one company and the chassis by another company and so on. And he got some new companies to do some of these things to invigorate the line. So as I said, by 1928, and this was after three years of new kinds of cars, the company was heading for good things. And by 1931, for example, I know I’m getting a little bit ahead of you, Auburn sold the thirteenth most cars in the country, way ahead of Hudson, Cadillac and lots of other well-known cars.

(08:24) Ruel: Which is very interesting considering that they were two years into a depression…

(08:29) Malks: That’s correct.

(08:30) Ruel: …At that time.

(08:31) Malks: That’s correct.

(08:31) Ruel: So, you just mentioned the famous stunt that Cord seemed to have pulled off by slapping some two-tone paint on some boring Auburns.

(08:38) Malks: Right.

(08:39) Ruel: And selling them all. Yet, you say there’s no documentation to that. But aren’t most legends founded on some kernel or nugget of truth? What do you think is the nugget of truth here?

(08:48) Malks: I think the nugget of truth is that there were a lot of cars laying around and he did sell them, and probably the paint jobs were part of it. But the myth gives the impression that merely slapping two-tone paint on an Auburn made it saleable. I think that a lot of that was hands-on salesmanship by E. L. Cord to the dealers. “Hey look, if you take these cars now, next year I’m gonna give you some preference in those great new cars that are coming out.” Whatever he did, he didn’t actually get them sold. All I’m saying is that the myth is simplistic. I do not doubt that there is a kernel of truth in it.

(09:15) Ruel: Gotchya. OK. So, as I understand it, the controlling interests of the Auburn Automobile Company and who invited Cord to run the company made him an offer, and he made them a counteroffer, a stunning counteroffer. What was that?

(09:31) Malks: Essentially, that’s what it was. We believe that he said to them, and they no doubt offered him some kind of a salary as compensation “if you will manage our company”. And he said, “I really don't want to manage it, but I want to own it. So here’s the deal, in lieu of salary, lots of stock. If I fail of course, then I’ve got nothing. But if I succeed, then I’ve got the company.” And they were just as happy to be rid of the fool thing and get their money back out of it, and so they made the deal.

(09:53) Ruel: And how long did that take? When did the transaction finally occur?

(09:58) Malks: 1924 was when Cord came on board. By 1928, he had full control over the company.

(10:04) Ruel: Gotchya. OK. Now, he takes over in the mid to late 20’s.

(10:07) Malks: Right.

(10:08) Ruel: What kinds of cars did E. L. Cord want to build?

(10:11) Malks: He always said, “If you can't be the biggest, you need to be the best.” And by 1928, Auburn was flush with cash. It was producing a huge surplus. And what he did was, he went shopping. He bought Duesenberg Incorporated, because he intended to build the biggest and best car in the United States. He created the Auburn Speedster, which the car is still known for today even though this was an earlier iteration, and he created the country’s first front-wheel drive car, the Cord L-29. All these things happened in 1929.

(10:43) Ruel: Got ya: OK. So, Auburn-Cord Duesenberg is still famous, even though the company only built five or six different models over its life.

(10:50) Malks: Sure.

(10:51) Ruel: What were those models, and what made them special?

(10:54) Malks: Well they really built more than that, Todd. It’s just that those are the models that everybody knows about. The Auburn Automobile Company continued to build the Auburn Automobile until 1936 and then made a full line of cars – Sedans, Coupes, the famous Speedster, and so on – and all those cars were built right until 1936. In ’31 and ‘32, they offered a V12, but it was a car that provided very good transportation for people in the Oldsmobile and Buick shopping category.

(11:25) Ruel: It’s like the midsize.

(11:26) Malks: Yeah. At the same time, from 1929 to 1932, they produced the Cord L-29, which was, as I said, America’s first front-wheel drive car. It was a high-priced car, so it’s more than the Cadillac, but it was something special also. It won multiple beauty prices, because of the fact that the front-wheel drive permitted it to stand 5 to 8 inches lower than any other car of the day. And, of course, they were simultaneously producing in Indianapolis, under the Duesenberg nameplate, the Duesenberg Model J, which was the most expensive, most powerful car built in the country. So, there’s all kinds of things going on all under this rubric of “if you can't be the biggest, you gotta be the best.”

(12:02) Ruel: And tell me a little bit about the legendary Cord 810/812.

(12:05) Malks: OK. The Cord 810 and 812, my lifelong love and passion. The germ of the car was created in 1933 when Gordon Buehrig, who was the stylist who eventually completed the job when worked for Auburn years later, was working for General Motors. And Harley Earl, who’s well known as the head of GM’s Art and Colour Section, the stylist people, used to periodically hold contests among his stylists, uh, which was a way of generating interesting ideas that he might not have come up within the course of everyday styling of ordinary cars. And it took them to get into four teams, and Buehrig led one of the teams, and his team came in last among the judges who were officials of GM. But among his fellow stylists, his idea came in first. And the idea was a sketch that eventually turned into something quite different.

Buehrig had worked for Duesenberg before he went to General Motors, and now, Duesenberg essentially hired him back because they wanted to build a smaller car than the Model J. The Model J didn’t sell very well. They sold fewer than 500 over its eight-year lifespan, and so they were looking for a smaller car similar to what Cadillac did with LaSalle, for example, as something that would sell better to an upper-middle class or lower-upper class kind of a consumer rather than the very, very few that could afford the Duesenberg J. And so, he was looking for an interesting body for this car, and he called Gordon Buehrig, ‘cause he knew he was kind of imaginative, and Buehrig showed him the sketch. And on the basis of the sketch, Buehrig was hired to turn the sketch into what later became called a “baby Duesenberg.” And it looked much like the sketch, but it also looked like what would later become the 810 Cord. That was Step One.

(13:49) Ruel: It must have been a complete sensation when it was released. Did the company have the money to build this car? I mean, my limited knowledge of A-C-D is that it was plagued with financial problems in the mid-1930’s, and this car barely limped over to finish line production-wise. What’s the story about how it was made?

(14:08) Malks: Well what happened there was that when one prototype of the baby Duesenberg was produced, the head of Duesenberg, who by now had moved around within the corporate structure to Auburn, realized it was more important to save Auburn than to save Duesenberg. So he brought Buehrig and the body to Auburn where the assignment was to create a front-wheel drive car again, with the name Cord again, but to base it on this body, and it was this body that you speak of as being so startling, because it was and it still is. My own Cord stops traffic today just like it did 75 years ago. But in any case, the problem was they had the engineers, they had the ability, they did a startling job of creating the mechanics and the body for this car, but the problem, as you said, was money. And there was no way to go with this, because the corporation was not about to lend them any more money since Auburn had lost $3.5 million the previous year, which today sounds like petty cash corporate-wise but then was a large sum of money.

And what happened was that their stamping company, which was Central Manufacturing Company in Connersville, Indiana, which actually built the Cord, was able to land the contract with Montgomery Ward for steel kitchen cabinets. And the money from the kitchen cabinets became the money that floated the new Cord.

(15:23) Ruel: I see. So, without that contract, that car might never have been built?

(15:27) Malks: That is absolutely correct.

(15:29) Ruel: Wow! Amazing.

(15:30) Malks: [Laughs]

(15:31) Ruel: So, saved by a mundane catalogue company ultimately.

(15:35) Malks: Absolutely.

(15:36) Ruel: So, I’m grossly simplifying here and jumping over a lot of subjects because we could talk about this for hours. But Cord sold his car company in 1937. He had only owned it for fewer than 10 years. Why did he sell?

(15:50) Malks: Well, a little more complicated than that. Cord had sold his own Auburn stock in 1932. He didn’t think Auburn had a chance of survival. And he was a very good businessman, he knew what was going to happen. But his company was the Cord Corporation, which was a holding company for, by that time, 156 companies.

And let me just give you a quick rundown so you get some sense of who this guy was in the 1930’s. One of the companies was, of course, the Auburn Automobile Company which has started the whole thing, but another one was New York Ship Building, which was a major producer of warships in World War II and got a Navy contract just a few days after Cord took control of it. Another one was American Airways. In the mid-30’s, one quarter of all the passenger traffic in the United States was carried on Cord’s airplanes. American Airways, of course, later became American Airlines. There were numerous other companies, large and small. Checker Cab, for example, belonged to the Cord Corporation. So did Parmalee, which ran cabs in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles.

The important part of this is that E. L. Cord was a very wealthy and very powerful man. He appeared, and this was when he was around 40 years old, on the cover of Time Magazine twice in the 1930’s. The only other people that ever accomplished that was Franklin Roosevelt and Adolf Hitler.

(17:07) Ruel: [Laughs] That’s amazing! So he burned really bright when he was on probably in the late 20’s, very early 30’s.

(17:16) Malks: That’s correct. And in ‘37, by that time, he was being hounded by the SEC for, because Auburn stock went through these wild gyrations, and, and he really got tired of the whole darn thing. So essentially, he sold the Cord Corporation to a few of his colleagues and some outside financiers, and they changed the name, and it’s gone on to other kinds of things. But, he left Chicago to move to Los Angeles with about $2.6 million in cash, which is no small change in those days. So when you see things in magazines that say when the Cord Corporation collapsed, or E. L. Cord went bankrupt, and so on. None of that is true. The fact is, he decided he didn’t want to do that anymore. So he went out to Los Angeles, bought lots and lots of real estate, and remained a wealthy man ‘til the day he died he died in the 70’s.

(17:59) Ruel: There are stories that the old aristocratic money didn’t like the way Errett Cord outsmarted them and actually played their game in the financial markets better than they did. Is there any truth to the fact that the old money guys manipulated him out of the markets or tried to drive him out of business?

(18:19) Malks: Um-mm…I don't think so, and I’ll tell you why. He did come up against the old money guys in one specific scenario that I know of, in that case, he won. He had sold his Century Airlines, which by now was renamed American Airways, to a group of people headed by Averell Harriman, who was a descendant of the Harriman money, which was old money, and was rewarded with stock. And he used the stock essentially as a basis for a proxy fight in which he wound up taking over the company that he had sold a year earlier. And the fight was front page news in the Wall Street Journal constantly and with major full-page ads by both sides stating why stockholders should go their way, and the bottom line was that Cord won. There was not a battle between him and old money. I don't think people then cared how old the money was when they were dealing with it. But the one case that I know of where there was a battle between Errett Cord and old money, Cord won.

(19:13) Ruel: Josh, you’ve very convincingly spoken about E. L. Cord as a wily and a really smart businessman. Did he like cars?

(19:22) Malks: I think he did. He was involved then in car racing in his early days, and he had a hand, personally, in the design of the L-29 Cord, but I don't think he really thought of anything in the long run as anything more than whether it made money or it didn’t. And he didn’t think cars were gonna make money for him anymore. He thought that airplanes were the next coming thing. But while he liked cars, he wasn’t the car crazy. And so, what he did with these car companies was relate to how well they were doing financially, not whether he liked the look of the automobile. He did own and drive a Cord for many years after that, well into the 1950’s.

(19:59) Ruel: Really interesting. I think we could talk just for hours about Cord himself. But I wanna ask you one big question here and that is, the story of Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg is like American mythology. Are there any misconceptions about Cord and his company? Ah, is there any part of the story that needs to be rewritten?

(20:16) Malks: Ah, I don't think so. I guess maybe I’m looking at it from my perspective which I thought I had rewritten it several times already. But the important part to remember, I think, for people who are listening, is that the Cord Corporation, which controlled all these car-making companies, did not go out of business. And even the Auburn Automobile Company did not go out of business. It just stopped making cars. Auburn continued to make sheet metal products, dishwashers, and refrigerators, kitchen cabinets, and so on into the postwar era. What Auburn did during World War II is particularly interesting. Everybody associates the famous Jeep, of course, with both Willys and Ford, because both of them made product to government specifications. What most people don't know is that nearly all of the bodies for those Jeeps were made by the Auburn Automobile Company.

(21:06) Ruel: I thought that jeeps were made by Ford and Willys.

(21:08) Malks: They were. The chassis were made by both of them.

(21:10) Ruel: Oh…

(21:12) Malks: The bodies were made by Auburn. And all of the trailers, you know, sometimes you see picture in the movies of a Jeep bouncing along, with a trailer bouncing along behind it, all those trailers were made by the Auburn Automobile Company. By now, it had renamed itself Auburn Central and then American Central in a fit of patriotism, but it was still the same old Auburn Automobile Company. They didn’t go out of business until the 1950’s.

(21:32) Ruel: That’s fascinating. And it kind of mirrors the truth about other orphan car brands. Studebaker diversified and became the Studebaker Worthington Company.

(21:41) Malks: Right. Right.

(21:42) Ruel: And just stopped building cars.

(21:43) Malks: Mm-hm.

(21:44) Ruel: Graham-Paige…

(21:45) Malks: What is that?

(21:45) Ruel: Uh, which owns Madison Square Garden.

(21:46) Malks: Yup.

(21:47) Ruel: Same thing. They just diversified, bought other companies, and just stopped making cars.

(21:52) Malks: Exactly. And that’s one of the ongoing mythologies about cars. “You know, the company went out of business.” Well, they didn’t go out of business. They just stopped making cars.

(21:59) Ruel: And I guess to a person who likes to listen to stories, that’s a better or more romantic ending than: They diversified. The End.

(22:05) Malks: [Laughs]

(22:06) Ruel: Yeah. [Laughs]. So…

(22:07) Malks: Sure, because you can see, sunsets and riding off into and so on ironically.

(22:11) Ruel: Right. Right. Right.

(22:12) Malks: [Laughs]

(22:12) Ruel: Well listen, I want to ask you to put your pundit hat on here.

(22:14) Malks: OK.

(22:15) Ruel: I want to ask you, are there any lessons about Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg that we can adapt or retrofit to modern times?

(22:21) Malks: To…to modern car companies?

(22:23) Ruel: Or to modern times. I mean if E. L. Cord was an incredible savvy businessman, what are some of the lessons about the way Cord ran his company that we can apply to say technology companies or the existing economic climate or anything like that. Again, just your opinion.

(22:39) Malks: Well, again, two things – one is if you can't be the biggest, be the best and not everybody could be the biggest. And Apple is a perfect example of that. They were never the biggest. There were times when people wondered if Apple is going to survive the year. And they’re still not the biggest except for, you know, market niches that they have with iPhones and iPads. They’re certainly not the biggest computer company nor certainly not the biggest technology company, but they sure as heck are the best on what they do, which is why their name is on everyone’s lips. And that’s why the names of Auburn and Cord and Duesenberg were on everybody’s lips then. They were far from the biggest, but they were probably the best.

(23:11) Ruel: I think it’s fascinating, as I was writing out the questions I was gonna to ask you for this podcast, I found many striking similarities between Cord and Steve Jobs. They both had a passion for building great products.

(23:22) Malks: Um-hm.

(23:22) Ruel: And even though they both have sort of different emotional make-up, I think their goal in building the best product was the same.

(23:31) Malks: Yup.

(23:32) Ruel: And that turned out to be a successful way to run a business, I think. So, very interesting there.

(23:37) Malks: And I think both of them tended to ignore the naysaying of what they regard as lesser people who said, “Oh you can't do that.” Or “Oh that’s not gonna work,” and they did it because they thought it was going to work. And most of the time, it did for both of them.

(23:49) Ruel: And Josh, you know, personally, I just think it takes balls of steel to do that over a period of years. Jobs did it for 20 or 30 years, well his entire life.

(23:57) Malks: Yeah.

(23:59) Ruel: And for Cord to have done that as well, he must have had the tailwind of financial success at his back already, proving him correct…

(24:05) Malks: Um-hm.

(24:06) Ruel: …you know, the entire time.

(24:08) Malks: In Time Magazine, there was a battle for who was going to get the airmail contract from the US government, and they’ve got a map showing the various airline routes, and the little lines on the map were identified by a legend on the bottom, and one says General Motors, and one says TWA, and one says Cord.

(24:25) Ruel: [Laughs]

(24:26) Malks: You know, you don't think of that way as Cord versus General Motors, but that was essentially the way he thought. I don't think this man saw anything as too big for him to tackle. And he did, and much of the time, he succeeded.

(24:36) Ruel: Ah! And a fascinating story of a guy who just wasn’t intimidated.

(24:40) Malks: That’s right.

(24:41) Ruel: Well I’ve read a lot of accounts that talk about Cord as kind of a Spock-like character. He did not prize or value sentimentality. So I guess he wasn’t nostalgic about his own cars years later.

(24:52) Malks: He probably wasn’t, and yet there was Cord in his garage until about 1950. I think that any negative feelings he had about the Cord itself for the fact that it didn’t succeed, and that was not a positive for him, I think. But he was a wonderful family man. His grandson is a close friend of mine. Cord lived at the Waldorf-Astoria when he was in New York, and his grandson remembers sitting on the bed with him watching TV and munching on watermelon, which is a sight that I can't really get into my head about E. L. Cord, but his grandkid tells me that was the case.

(25:22) Ruel: [Laughs] It’s hard to even picture that photograph in your mind, you know.

(25:25) Malks: Right.

(25:26) Ruel: [Laughs] Well listen…

(25:27) Malks: [Laughs]

(25:28) Ruel: Josh, personal question. Why are you fascinated and obsessed to the company that stopped making automobiles 75 years ago?

(25:35) Malks: Well, the fascination started when I was 12. I was running from school one day and it was a bright sunny day in The Bronx where I lived when I was a kid, and I passed a used car lot. And on it was this strange-looking automobile, and man, it just hit me right between the eyes. I asked the attendant what it was. And he said, “It’s a Cord.” And to my eternal shame, I asked, “Is that a German car?” He said, “No, it’s American.” And I collected magazine articles about that car for the next six years. And on my 18th birthday, I bought my first Cord. And I have owned five of them since and always the same models. I guess I’m in a rut, but almost everyone that owns and loves Cords can tell you the first time they saw one, the day of the week, the weather, the place…

(26:17) Ruel: [Laughs]

(26:18) Malks: …the time, which model car. And I don't know if any other car has that kind of an impact on people, but it was just stunning, and it’s never gone away. I still will sometimes stand on the garage or out my driveway and just stare at the car for an hour or so. Maybe a little bit of lunacy mixed in now, but it certainly is a passion.

(26:37) Ruel: I think everybody has these kinds of passions. For me, it’s the Nash Metropolitan, and I have similar stories. I think there are some common characteristics to people who fall in love early with a particular kind of car.

(26:45) Malks: Mm-hm.

(26:47) Ruel: Now, Josh, you’ve written several books about Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg.

(26:50) Malks: Yeah.

(26:51) Ruel: And most of them are available through the Gone Autos Bookstore. The most thorough one is called Cord Complete. Tell us a little bit about that book and where A-C-D fans can buy it.

(27:01) Malks: Well, Cord Complete began with a previous book. I did a book called Cord: The Timeless Classic, which I thought was everything there was to say about the Cord. And of course, you know, no sooner that it hit print than I discovered all things, I had either left out or forgotten or gotten wrong or something else. So I began planning some sort of a second edition, but with time, it tended to grow into something much larger. So, Cord Complete is a 10-inch by 14-inch horizontal book, which means that it opens out as 28 inches wide. It’s a leather cover with gold embossing. It’s got beautiful stock, gorgeous page layout, beautiful photographs, 64 pages, I think, of color in it, sold originally for $159 and sold rather briskly. There weren’t very many of them made. But the publisher apparently is tired of keeping the last few in his warehouse, so they’re on sale now on the publisher’s website. It’s www.cordcomplete.com, one word, and I think they’re selling now for 79 bucks apiece, and it is about as good a $79 deal and a car book as you’re ever going to see. The full thing weighs 9 lbs.

(28:06) Ruel: [Laughs]

(28:07) Malks: [Laughs]

(28:07) Ruel: And you know what, I have been reading The Packard Story by Beverly Rae Kimes, which was also published back in 1978 as a souvenir edition. In other words, red leather-bound, inside a slipcover, meant to be a special thing, even when it was published. And it sounds like your book is similar to that. So…

(28:25) Malks: Yeah. And I might add it has a slipcover too. [Laughs]

(28:27) Ruel: Yes. [Laughs] OK. OK. Perfect. OK. What would a book like be without a slipcover.

(28:31) Malks: Absolutely.

(28:32) Ruel: So listen, last question here.

(28:34) Malks: Sure.

(28:35) Ruel: If you were going to be buried in an A-C-D model, which one will be your car-cophagus?

(28:38) Malks: It would be a Cord, Model 810, Westchester Sedan.

(28:41) Ruel: [Laughs]

(28:43) Malks: The Westchester was the original car that Gordon Buehrig and his team designed. And most Cord lovers, even those who have convertibles because they are more flashy, they will sometimes sidle up to me, whisper in my ear and say, “I can't say it publicly, but the 810 Westchester is the best-looking Cord.”

(29:00) Ruel: [Laughs] I think anything with the hardtop roofline which helps define the shape of the car…

(29:04) Malks: Yup. Mm-hm…

(29:05) Ruel: …also has to be considered. Convertibles are not the most desired lust objects of the particular car line, I think.

(29:11) Malks: I am pleased that you say that.

(29:13) Ruel: Yes. The story of Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg doesn’t end with E. L. Cord’s involvement in 1937. There’s an amazing afterlife to A-C-D, but that’s a story for another podcast, another time.

Josh Malks, A-C-D completist, author, and guru, thanks for joining us on the Gone Autos Podcast.

(29:31) Malks: My pleasure, Todd.

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Thanks for listening. You can find this podcast and other tools for living the orphan car life at goneautos.com. That’s G-O-N-E-A-U-T-O-S dot com. You can also subscribe to our podcast channel on iTunes. If you do, please take a second to write us a review. You reviews are like steel kitchen cabinets for the soul. If you need more tools for living the orphan car life, check out the Gone Autos bookstore and the T-shirt store.

This podcast is copyright 2012 by Ruel the World Media, Inc.

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