There are seven main galleries displaying the museum’s automobile collection.  Each gallery reflects a different piece of the story the museum tells. In addition to these galleries, there are restored Auburn Automobile Company offices along with technology, art, and design exhibits.

Digital Gallery Guide  Family Gallery Guide

LUSTER: Realism and Hyperrealism in Contemporary Automobile and Motorcycle Painting

LUSTER: Realism and Hyperrealism in Contemporary Automobile and Motorcycle Painting, is a traveling museum exhibition comprised of over 55 paintings by nearly 15 of today’s realists and hyperrealists who specialize in automobiles and motorcycles as their primary subject of choice.  LUSTER will be on exhibit at the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum from June 1, 2022 – January 15, 2023.  This exhibit has been generously supported by The Community Foundation of DeKalb County and the DeKalb County Visitors Bureau.

Throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, cars and motorcycles have not only been ubiquitous on the nation’s streets and highways, but also in film, top forty hits, and in painting. With the emergence of photo-realism in the 1960’s, motor vehicles assumed a special place of distinction as subject matter in the iconography of American art.

Exhibiting artists include (in alphabetical order): A.D. Cook (Las Vegas, NV), Randy Ford (Eastampton, NJ), Allan Gorman (West Orange, NJ), Marc G. Jones (Loveland, CO), Cheryl Kelley (Northern California), Richard Lewis (Los Angeles, CA), Lory Lockwood (New Orleans, LA), Robert Petillo (Hardyston, NJ), Kris Preslan (Lake Oswego, OR), Joseph Santos (Buena Park, CA), Ken Scaglia (Weston, CT), John E. Schaeffer (La Grange, TX), Guenevere “Moto Painter” Schwien (Portland, OR), and Harold Zabady (Camp Hill, PA).  Their work exemplifies the very best of automotive painting being done today, and builds on that of the first wave of photo-realists in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s, which included the likes of  Harold Cleworth, Don Eddy, Richard Estes, and Ralph Goings.

LUSTER encompasses a broad range of cars and motorcycles from vintage vehicles from the 1940’s and before to more recent classics.  During the post-World War II boom years, cheap gas and the advent of the Interstate Highway System in 1956 propelled automotive design and sales.  In the 1950s, the industry reached new heights by offering consumers increased horsepower for thrust and speed, and more artfully, integrated design which was dramatized in the 1960’s with features such as tail fins.  LUSTER features paintings of passenger automobiles from those boom years and since, plus a range of motorcycles and racing vehicles.

Like the shiny automobiles and motorcycles portrayed by the exhibit’s artists, its paintings can be characterized by the luster that permeates their imagery. Chrome ornamentation and trim together with enameled bodywork, glass, and interior fabrication to meet the needs of purpose-built vehicles of all sorts: these are the surfaces which recent realists and hyperrealists have exploited to generate true, virtuosic masterpieces.  

Serving as Curator for LUSTER Realism and Hyperrealism in Contemporary Automobile and Motorcycle Painting is David J. Wagner, who earned his Ph.D. in American Studies and served as a museum director for 20 years.

For tour venue locations and dates, and a complete catalogue of exhibition contents, visit: www.davidjwagnerllc.com/Luster_Exhibition.html.  

For further information, contact:


(414) 221-6878; davidjwagnerllc@yahoo.com; davidjwagnerllc.com

Member: American Alliance of Museums; International Council of Museums

Evolution of American Car Mascots and Hood Ornaments: Selections from the Jon Zoler Collection

The Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum is honored to exhibit these hood ornaments and car mascots from the Zoler Collection.

The exhibit features 150 specifically curated American car mascots and hood ornaments from 1911 to 1957 and will be displayed throughout the museum’s Company Showroom. Popularized in the 1920s and 30s, hood ornaments were seen by auto manufacturers as a means to bring marque uniqueness that highlighted and communicated the brand’s image. They served both an aesthetic and functional purpose. Marques include Auburn, Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Cord, Duesenberg, LaSalle, Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Studebaker and others, as well as 16 accessory mascots.

Today, very few automakers offer hood accessories, but for early motorists, they served as practical and decorative works of art. From 1905 to the early 1930s motorists relied on MotoMeters, a thermometer device mounted on the top of the radiator to monitor engine coolant temperature. Car manufacturers took the opportunity to market their brands and created mascots associated with certain makes and models. These mascots would accompany MotoMeters on the caps of car radiators until car body designs changed, placing the radiator under the hood. Mascots remained a fashionable accessory on top of the hood, but auto designers added chrome-plated strips and called them hood ornaments for a more modern look. Today the terms “car mascot” and “hood ornament” are used interchangeably. 

Designs reflected the style of the time period. In the 1910s through the early 1920s, mascot figures were realistically depicted. With a desire for a more modern look, mascots became highly stylized under the influence of the Art Deco movement. Designers commonly used themes of women or goddesses, mythological men, and creatures; swift, graceful, or powerful animals and abstract streamlined shapes like rockets. In the 1960s hood ornaments started to be seen as safety hazards in collisions and were left out of designs in the effort to streamline car body styles. As you look at the evolution of these car mascots and hood ornaments consider how each one conveys the individual interests and passions of car owners.

Duesenberg: The Evolution of America’s Finest Motorcar

The Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum presents a new exhibit titled Duesenberg: The Evolution of America’s Finest Motorcar. The exhibit is showcased in the Art Deco Showroom of the Museum.

This exhibit includes a uniquely curated selection of eight Duesenberg vehicles and two engines that have never been seen together before. The exhibit comprehensively tells the story of the Duesenberg passenger vehicle and its evolution in all forms including the Model A, experimental Model X’s and Y, finally leading to the debut of the coveted Model J.

The Duesenberg automobiles are amongst the most prestigious, technologically advanced, and stylish of the Classic Era. The Duesenberg Model A, introduced in 1920, was America’s first production straight-eight-cylinder engine car and the first American vehicle produced with four-wheel hydraulic brakes. In 1926, Errett Lobban Cord acquired controlling interest in the Duesenberg Automobile and Motors Company and issued a single challenge, to build the most powerful and extravagant passenger car to date. The result of that challenge was the Duesenberg Model J, a grandiose automobile unlike any other, which utilized some of the most talented and brilliant minds of the era.

However, there was a transitional period where all aspects of the Duesenberg were reviewed, revised, upgraded, and made completely new. Those Duesenbergs, now known as the Model X and the Model Y, were the transitional models where everything from the engine to the frame were engineered and modified.

The eight vehicles on display include the first ever Duesenberg sold to the public and known as the “Castle Duesenberg,” Augie Duesenberg’s 1926 Model A, 1926 Model A operable show chassis, 1927 Model Y, 1927 Model X Sedan, Dual-Cowl Phaeton, Speedster, and 1929 Model J Convertible Coupe.  A Duesenberg Model A engine and Model J engine are also on display to showcase the engineering prowess of the Duesenberg brothers.

The museum appreciates its supporters and vehicle loaners including Bob Becker, Buck Kamphausen, Eric Killorin, Perry Pintzow, Josh Voss, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, and the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago.

John Dillinger, Hoosier Hoodlum |    Special Exhibit

On October 14, 1933, part of Dillinger’s gang, let by bandits Walter Dietrich and Harry Copeland, robbed the Auburn Police Department, stealing bullet-proof vests, ammunition, and amongst other weapons, a Thompson submachine gun.

The prized piece in the display is the very same Thompson submachine gun. Returned to the Auburn Police Department from the FBI in 2014, police officials decided the best place for public display is at the Museum. Auburn Chief of Police Martin McCoy says,  “The Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum is where this piece of history belongs and we are very happy it is now on display for others to see and enjoy”. The museum has recently added a 1933 Ford V-8 that once belonged to Indiana sheriff Lillian Holley, who was stationed at the Crown Point jail during John Dillinger's short stay at the facility in 1934. Shortly after being booked into the Crown Point jail John Dillinger orchestrated an escape with the aid of a wooden gun. After making his escape, Dillinger stole the Ford and made it north to Chicago before being captured by federal agents.

Displayed alongside the submachine gun and 1933 Ford V-8 are period artifacts including a drum barrel, police hat, and a Detroit Free Press newspaper chronicling the theft. The display touches upon the biography of Dillinger, the getaway cars Dillinger used, and the storied history of the submachine gun. Visitors can get their mug shot taken in front of a height chart backdrop while holding a mug shot placard.

Original Company Showroom

Step back in time and enjoy the display of Auburns, Cords and Duesenbergs of the classic era (1925 – 1937) in their magnificent Art Deco Company Showroom!  Walk across the terrazzo floor, lit by Art Deco chandeliers and sconces that highlight the elegance, beauty, and depth of this impressive space, just as it did in 1930.  Browse among these classic cars, rich in history, technological innovation, luxury and beauty, a combination that defined the Auburn Automobile Company.

During the Auburn Automobile Company’s heyday, this Showroom was filled with the latest Auburns, Cords, and Duesenbergs along with several other products sold by the Cord Corporation, Auburn Automobile Company’s parent organization.

As you browse through the original Art Deco Showroom, you will experience the golden age of motoring in the 1930s.  Dealers from the United States, its territories, and 99 countries could visit this showroom to select products to sell in their local regions all over the world.  

Hall of Excellence and Innovation

This gallery is committed to the WOW factor! It includes spectacular automobiles from Full Classics™ (1928 through 1948) to comparisons, contrasts, and evolutions of the automotive world including those built by the Auburn Automobile Company and Duesenberg, Inc., their contemporaries, and their competition.  

The term Full Classic™ is specific to a group of automobiles representing the highest quality of construction, design, and performance.  Both domestic and foreign makes are listed under this prestigious designation created by the Classic Car Club of America.

From Eckhart Carriage Company

See the beginning of horseless transportation by the Auburn Automobile Company at the turn of the Century.

Auburn, Indiana Automobiles

Gallery sponsored by Steel Dynamics, Inc.

No fewer than 11 different brands of motorcars were produced in Auburn, Indiana.  Even on the local scene, Auburn Automobile Company had formidable competition. These were some of the first horseless carriages.   

This gallery space, once the home of the Auburn Automobile Company sales department, places you in the early part of the 20th century. It includes photo murals that depict scenes from the city of Auburn and its local automobile factories.

Hall of Technology

Gallery sponsored by Raisbeck Engineering

Gain a fuller understanding of how the Auburn Automobile Company and Duesenberg, Inc. were responsible for many patented innovations that are still on the cars driven today including hydraulic brakes, X-frame chassis construction, front wheel drive, and retractable headlights. Physical and digital interactive exhibits teach how automobile components work.  Learn about the technologies and engineering personalities that brought these forward-thinking ideas to consumers in the 1920s and 1930s.

In the 1930s, this area of the building was home to Auburn Automobile Company’s accounting department.

Conference Room

Located in the executive hallway, the corporate conference room is where sales meetings, dealer and distributor conferences, departmental meetings, and general meetings were held.

Office of the President E. L. Cord


From Cord’s office, he made his important business decisions concerning the Auburn Automobile Company, Duesenberg, Inc. and his far reaching transportation conglomerate called Cord Corporation.

From his office window in the northeast corner of the third floor, Cord could oversee the nearby automobile plant, located on 23 acres.

Advertising Department

The advertising campaigns used to promote Auburns, Cords and Duesenbergs were as fantastic as the automobiles themselves. The company was one of the first to sell a lifestyle with its automobiles.